VITAL SPEECHES OF THE DAY206
A SEAT AT THE TABLE If climate change could be solved by getting exactly the right people together around a table, who would those people be?
risks when so many have yet to fully develop? At the San Francisco Fed we have taken a very direct approach. We are working intentionally and delib- erately with our communities, other public institutions, and the private sector to catalog the risks and how they are playing out in the 12th Dis- trict, the nation, and across the globe. These data collection efforts are multi- faceted and include formal surveys, lis- tening sessions, and targeted meetings with CEOs to better understand how climate risk affects decision making and resiliency planning.
We are also convening the best aca- demic thinking on these topics, hosting conferences and sponsoring a virtual seminar series on climate econom- ics that features a range of research on the issues we are facing. Finally, consistent with our history, we have assembled a team to study how these issues are likely to impact the Federal Reserve’s mandates in the future. This team allows us to leverage our strength
as students of the economy to prepare for the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead.
The Transition We Choose
Future occurrences, especially when uncertain, are easy to push off. But doing so leaves a mark.
I saw this myself. As a teenager growing up in Missouri, I witnessed factory after factory move away, or simply shutter. Each one of them left people behind. Some of those people—too many to count—never recovered. I saw the same thing in Syracuse, where I got my PhD. Car- rier air conditioning closed, and the community struggled. Drive any- where in America and you can see vestiges of a similar story.
Now, it’s tempting to blame glo- balization. And so many do. But the real miss was a lack of acknowledge- ment. Acknowledgement that, while the economy would be better off in the
end, the end is a long way off and the transition would not benefit everyone equally. In fact, there could be collat- eral damage.
So, what do we learn from this? The key lesson is that transitions mat- ter. And how they play out is our choice. On the cusp of an economic transformation that will likely be even more far-reaching, we have an oppor- tunity to do things differently.
Our future is uncertain: no one really knows the severity and scale of climate change, where and who will be most affected, or the nature, extent, and duration of our response to the risks. But one thing is certain—the economic ground is shifting. And we have a window of opportunity to pre- pare; to choose the degree of hardship we will endure.
Economic transitions are inevitable, but the degree of pain they inflict is not. In the end, preparation gives us agency. It is our duty to use it.