Warren Buffett is known for his sage advice. One of his lesser known quotes is his Noah rule: “predicting rain doesn’t count, building arks does.”
Buffett mentions his “Noah rule” only once. It was in Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report for 2001. That was one of Berkshire Hathaway’s worst years. Buffett admitted that he had foreseen certain risks, but had not acted to mitigate them.
He said that he hadn’t converted “thought into action” and, as such, violated his Noah rule.
In the business of climate change adaptation and resilience, there are a number of new data technology companies, each claiming to provide better and more accurate analysis than the other. But, underlying their claims is a flaw in reasoning.
It goes something like this: “We are reasonable experts in prediction and modeling. You are reasonable recipients of our wonderful data and analytics. Because we are reasonable and you are reasonable, you will, of course, take all appropriate actions based upon our predictions and, the world will be a safer place. Amen. By the way, have a nice life and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Do things actually work like that? Even Warren Buffet did not always take appropriate action to mitigate the investment risks when his analysts provided warnings. What evidence is there that individuals, businesses and governments who are being provided with “high quality” climate data and analytics are taking appropriate actions to mitigate their risks?
Might the recipients need more than just the “bad news” to help them become more resilient? Might they also need some instructions in “ark building” (aka “resilience”)?
In the Bible, God gave Noah specific instructions on how to build an ark. God said:“make yourself an ark out of cedar, constructing compartments in it, and cover it inside and out with tar. Make the ark like this: 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. Make a roof for the ark and finish the walls to within one cubit from the top. Place the entrance in the side of the ark, and build a lower, a middle, and an upper deck.” Genesis 6:8-22.
To achieve greater resilience to climate change, more is going to be needed than better “rain” prediction (or heat prediction or flooding prediction). As Buffet’s “Noah rule” requires, we must convert “thoughts into actions.”
And, that is the really hard part. Getting into the minds of homeowners, businesses and governments that they need to take action immediately is very difficult. This is true even in coastal areas where tides are visibly rising and there are fewer climate deniers.
Real resilience will only occur when the new data and analytics are merged with education and messaging on the risks and appropriate guidance on “ark building.”
First, all the Noahs out there need to hear a message of hope. They need to know that “arks” will help them adapt to climate change, sea-level rise and the like, and will have a positive return on investment.
In the context of climate change, modern “ark building” includes mitigation investments such as:
- more wind resistant roofs and storm shutters
- elevating living floors and electrical equipment
- flood barriers and higher sea walls
- elevating roadways and installing better storm water systems to keep streets dry.
One of the biggest challenges is to get more Noahs and their families to buy flood insurance. If there was flood insurance back in Noah’s day, God would probably have added it to the list of things for Noah to buy.
Unlike data and analytics tech companies that provide only the “bad news,” Coastal Risk helps its clients predict risks, and then helps them minimize risks as well, accelerating resilience and improving the bottom line.
With Coastal Risk’s building-level risk modeling, clients can match the risks facing them with remedies. Help Desk service is available at www.floodscores.com.
Warren Buffet also has a saying: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
In the world of climate change, however, this saying could easily be reversed. When the king tides come in and stay, which is already happening in many parts of the world, it’s the ones who were not prepared for high tides who will be swimming “naked.”
Albert Slap is the President of Coastal Risk, a resilience-accelerating tech company in Boca Raton, FL, which excels at helping its customers build the new generation of climate change “arks.” For further information or sales, contact Coastal Risk at firstname.lastname@example.org; 844-732-7473; www.floodscores.com.
“The Invading Sea” is part of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.