Standing in front of 16 representatives from different organizations around Cleveland, Shivani Shukla, presented the tool she built from the ground up all summer. The Climate Risk to Business Tool (CRBT) helps businesses understand losses in terms of higher insurance premium, higher energy and power costs, and productive days lost. The output would be a cumulative dollar amount to reflect these increasing climate-induced vulnerabilities.

Shukla, who is a second year Masters in Public Policy candidate at the Harris School of Public Policy concentrating on environmental and energy policy, brought the CRBT to life through her experience as a Climate Corps fellow this summer.

Climate Corps is a program of the Environmental Defense Fund, which cultivates the next generation of sustainability professionals united to advance climate solutions. The program trains and matches graduate students with companies, public institutions, and cities in the United States, China and India to help them meet their sustainability and climate goals. Fellows get the opportunity to gain real world experience and after completing the program have access to professional development resources to help launch their career. To date, the program has placed more than 1,200 fellows at more than 500 organizations and identified $1.6 billion in potential energy savings for participating organizations.

After a competitive application process, Shukla joined a cohort of more than 100 fellows in the United States and matched with a small team in the Department of Sustainability at Cuyahoga County in Ohio. Her primary project focused on developing a climate risk quantification tool, the CRBT, targeted at businesses and the region. Her days were spent strategizing around data, performing literature reviews, and engaging with partners and groups.

“It started from a blank Google Doc to develop the CRBT,” Shukla reflected on how far she had come, “Now partners are seeking out to work on this with us. It seems to be going in a good trajectory.”

Her experience was not without challenges. “Since I was the only person working on this within the team, I was essentially on my own. Anything I produced was to the best of my knowledge.” Encouragement and support came from team members, Mark Henning (Research Associate, Energy Policy Institute, CSU), Ebie Holst (Director of Clusters & Innovation, Cleveland Water Alliance), and other Climate Corps fellows working on similar projects.

On the more technical side, Shukla ran into a data accessibility issue. Much of the data used in the CRBT, which she is working to make a public resource, is behind massive paywalls. She ended up having to present a budget to the county finance team explaining the importance of having access to the data.

“I developed a set of skills that are adjacent to what I am learning in graduate school, such as practical applications and anything I learned with data at Harris,” Shukla reflected.

Even after the presentation, her project isn’t complete. Shukla will be doubling up on coursework and working on the CRBT for at least another six months, all while continuing in her role as EPIC’s communications intern.

Overall, Shukla found that, “This experience certainly solidified my intent to work in the environmental, energy, and climate sphere. Policymaking was always going to be my ideal job after graduate school, and this was a big push in a good way.”