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December 18, 2017

Report: Philly’s climate vulnerability could hurt its Amazon HQ2 chances

Though several predictors have ranked Philadelphia’s chances of scoring Amazon’s second headquarters fairly high, a new standard of ranking from Huffington Post puts the city in the bottom half of candidates.

The parameter? Vulnerability to climate change.

Using FEMA data stretching back to 1992 (the year of Hurricane Andrew), Huffington Post charted the top 25 Amazon HQ2 contenders according to each city's vulnerability to extreme climate and weather events. This includes severe storms, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, snow, and fires.

Though Philadelphia places at least third best in Moody’s overall ranking of potential HQ2 cities, for example, it lands at No. 17 in Huffington Post’s Climate Vulnerability Ranking.

Charlotte, which Moody’s ranks at No. 15, took the first place slot in climate vulnerability. The only two cities to rank in the Top 10 for Moody’s and in climate vulnerability were Portland and Pittsburgh. Atlanta, which repeatedly has been named as the true frontrunner for HQ2, had a climate vulnerability ranking just slightly worse than Philly, at No. 18.

“This suggests that economic and business criteria probably do not help us to understand a city’s vulnerability to climate change,” the HuffPo authors, University of Washington professors Nives Dolsak and Aseem Prakash, write in the report.

“It is not clear how much importance Amazon should attach to climate vulnerability rankings. That is, how much should it weigh climate vulnerability in relation to economic indicators?”

Though not explicitly stated as a guideline for Amazon proposals, authors note the online giant's public touting of environmental practices, including rooftop solar systems, supporting Clean Power Plan, and committing to 100 percent renewable energy at its solar and wind farms.

Amazon plans to reveal its pick for the second headquarters in 2018.