Heat Waves; Extreme Heat

Hi, Leaders! It’s Adaptation Time!

I treated myself to two days of conferencing last week in my own city at the Chicago Forum on Global Cities, which focused on climate and other global challenges. Co-hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Financial Times, the event featured luminaries from 30 countries.  

The FT’s beautiful salmon-colored newsprint caught my eye both days, first with its special city supplement proclaiming in its cover article: “This would mean that, by the second half of the present century, some big cities could be as much as 10C hotter than their surrounding hinterlands….Many large cities are situated in low-lying coastal areas, leaving them badly exposed to the dangers of flooding that come with rising sea levels and storm surges.” And next with its front page showing an alarming image of central Paris under water. 

Despite the respected business publication’s stark climate prognosis, none of the panelists addressed climate adaptation and none responded to a question posed to the closing full plenary: “Climate Change and Global Cities,” https://www.chicagoforum.org/agenda/closing-lunch-climate-change-and-global-cities: “What role do cities play in increasing adaptive capacity to withstand climate change stresses and shocks?” However, when pressed by the FT moderator, the EU’s former commissioner for climate action only noted, “In Dakha Bangladesh, all they care about is adaptation, not mitigation.”

Tubingen, Germany, Mayor Boris Palmer, an erudite crowd-pleaser, proclaimed:  “It cannot be about adaptation, it must be about mitigation.”  He wisely noted that his success reflects never tiring of explaining the virtue of climate action at a level his audience understands. 

So here goes, an explanation geared to the panelists on the Global Threats to the Global City, https://www.chicagoforum.org/agenda/plenary-global-threats-global-city  (which did not mention climate change once in 75 minutes).

Abu Dhabi: https://www.ead.ae/Documents/RESEARCHERS/Climate%20change%20impacts%20-%20Eng.pdf Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi

The potential exposure of the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi, in particular, to the impact of sea level rises is quite significant, given its current socioeconomic conditions in coastal areas.  In addition to the effects of such rises on social and economic structures, the vulnerability of coastal ecosystems is also of particular concern.

Chicago https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/state-reports/climate/Illinois%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

In the 2011 winter, Chicago incurred over $1.8 billion in losses and 36 deaths when a blizzard dumped two feet of snow on the city. In 2012, Illinois had the second-highest mortality (32 deaths) due to heat nationwide.  

London: http://climatelondon.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/CCRA-London.pdf

Twenty-nine percent of bus stations and 26 percent of underground stations are at risk of flooding, along with 14 percent of schools and 27 percent of police stations. The number of days per year when overheating could occur is projected to rise from 18 to between 22-51 days by the 2020s (central estimate is 33 days).

Singapore: https://www.nccs.gov.sg/climate-change-and-singapore/national-circumstances/impact-climate-change-singapore

From 1972 to 2014, the annual mean temperature increased from 26.6°C to 27.7°C. The mean sea level in the Straits of Singapore also has increased at the rate of 1.2mm-to-1.7mm per year in the period 1975 to 2009. 

Rainfall has intensified in recent years. Singapore's Second National Climate Change Study found a general uptrend in annual average rainfall from 2192mm in 1980 to 2727mm in 2014.

Washington, DC https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/state-reports/climate/district_of_columbia_fact_sheet.pdf

In 2012, damages from Hurricane Sandy required over $3 million in FEMA public assistance grants to rebuild and recover in the District of Columbia. The previous year, D.C. suffered damages from Hurricane Irene that required over $2.4 million in FEMA public assistance grants to rebuild and recover.

From Abu Dabhi to Washington, cities have shown a sincere desire to address climate change by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.  That’s more important than ever, and it must be accompanied by a sincere desire to learn about and employ climate adaptation. Why? Because every $1 invested in adaptation avoids $4 in future losses.

Tubingen Mayor Palmer, as a member of the Germany Green Party (which puts climate change at the center of all policy considerations, including environmental policy and safety and social aspects), has the splendid chance to again demonstrate leadership by turning his refusal to embrace climate adaptation into an opportunity to embrace it and all collateral benefits for his constituents.  

China's Role in Adaptation?

This infographic in Fast Company got me thinking:  Is China the answer to African resilience? final version use africa

Anyone worried about climate change would be agog at what this map says:  That Africa (including, it looks like, even the African Sahel, based on the arrow) will be China’s breadbasket!  But other maps of Africa, suggest this might be a fantasy ND-GAIN’s data (as well as that of e.g. Maplecroft) suggest that Africa is vulnerable, including and especially in its food sector.

map

But what if African economic development changed these risk maps?  Then, could we see the sort of hope illustrated in that fantastic Fast Company arrow?

GAIN identifies two types of countries vulnerable to climate change – those ready for investment (due to their economic, social and governance perspectives) and those that are not.  My audience often asks me, how will those countries unready for adaptation investments become less vulnerable?  China, seemingly, is providing that answer.

The Economist reported on the Centre for China & Globalization and National Bureau of Statistics numbers, which showed that China’s direct investment flows are edging toward a slight majority of outflows this year, with around $130B in outflows and about $120B in inflows projected, and Africa is one recipient of that outbound investment. The story we know well is that state-owned enterprises are searching for resources in Africa.  And mining is a part of this story.   But private Chinese firms also are pioneering in the African marketplace, as Peter Orzag explains in Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that China will extend over $12B in aid to Africa in future years.

Earlier this month, as China’s leader wrapped up a premier tour of strong handshakes and lavish gift-giving around the Pacific following on APEC, I grew hopeful that China turns from a BRIC into a brick-builder that helps African countries and other emerging economies continue to build the foundation of their resiliency.

Cocoa Climate Crisis

IFC
IFC

The International Cocoa organization has reported a 75,000-ton cocoa shortfall for this growing season and that figure is expected to reach the million-ton mark by 2020 unless swift action is taken. While Eastern Europe and Brazil, the biggest cocoa consumers, have registered a surge in chocolate consumption in recent years, extreme weather events have hurt cocoa yields.

Image from IFC

The world’s top producers of cocoa—Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (59% of the global cocoa supply chain) and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon (23% together) – are also those hardest hit by drought and flooding yet least prepared to respond to them.

According to ND-GAIN, an index indicating countries’ vulnerability to climate change and readiness to adapt to it, Cote d’Ivoire ranks 154 on a relative scale of 1 to 178 (with 1 being the most resilient); Ghana ranks 102; and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon rank 99, 140, and 130, respectively.

As a result of cocoa’s unfortunate turn, many cocoa companies, traders and chocolate manufacturers have begun joint projects aiming to boost cocoa yields through sustainability in the supply chain.  Projects have engaged multicorporation collaboration, civil society actors and standards bodies and have generated investments from stakeholder governments. Although some projects have proven fruitful, effective coordination and scalability are still lacking, which provides much opportunity for further collaboration between private and public sectors in the next decade.

Besides climate woes and low adaptive ability, cocoa’s poor performance reflects a supply chain plagued by economic and social issues. Compromised bargaining power of smallholders, income instability and dismal working conditions are prompting many young cocoa farmers to quit in search of livelihoods elsewhere. Other issues include poor or lack of infrastructure (roads, health facilities, schools, and electricity) and a paucity of farmer training capacity. Both would provide public and private sector partnerships with opportunities for positive intervention. Several reports emphasize that yield increase alone will neither alleviate smallholders’ sufferings nor secure supply chains. Thus, the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report called for a holistic approach to solving the cocoa crisis, one going “beyond productivity.”

In the last several years, consumer awareness of these issues surrounding cocoa production has expanded. Major chocolate manufacturers such as Cadbury, based in the United Kingdom, and Mars have committed to certified cocoa production standards that improve cocoa farmers’ security. These standards are specified by internationally recognized standard bodies such as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and the Rainforest Alliance. Worldwide, companies and stakeholder nations are shifting toward more sustainable cocoa and have engaged a variety of sectors in multilateral programs.

With climate change accelerating, other key commodities popping up on the risk radar include vanilla, palm oil and coffee, among others.  Keurig Green Mountain, Coca Cola, Heinz, Chipotle and other major food companies have all warned that climate change threatens businesses. Clearly, much room remains for progress, but this also provides ample opportunity for multilateral cooperation in building a more sustainable future for people, planet and profit.

Cocoa data and facts from the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report.  Blog compiled by Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-GAIN

National Security: A driver for climate adaptation prioritization?

I got involved in the corporate sustainability space through civil conflict. In Vietnam, actually, while investigating innovations in water infrastructure service delivery sparked by a community fight over access to water in Haiphong. That escalated into a major conflict that left two water workers dead before the People’s Committee came to its senses and considered a new way to approach fair water access. That was two decades ago. Yet that question of water and conflict continues to erupt and spill over from small-town skirmishes to all-out wars.  Noted journalist Tom Friedman has written about it in an April 2012 column, The Other Arab Spring, and a May 7, 2013, column, Postcard from Yemen. And I’m hearing rumblings from my Notre Dame colleagues who suggest a rear-view mirror look at Darfur reveals that the conflict that forced people off their land was less about sectarian strife and more about lack of access to water. My colleague Peter Annin has written a book with the provocative title of “Water Wars.”

When I think about water conflict, though, I ask myself if we know more now than we did about the relative vulnerability to water risk. It turns out that we do know a lot more.  For instance, examining countries on a short fuse in water-stressed regions of the world through the ND-GAIN index, it’s apparent that the Sahel and the Horn of Africa both show significant water vulnerability. Indicating that are such barometers as the projected change in precipitation and percent of population with access to improved water supply. Their vulnerability could possibly be having an impact on other  susceptibilities, such as food and health and wellness.

It is plausible that climate change is causing internal and cross-boundary migration that is affecting security around the world. At the recent New York Climate Week, Brigadier General Steven Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project, noted that 70 percent of global militaries consider climate change a threat to security.  He identified regions such as S. Asia Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, Mali and the Middle East as “tinder boxes” for various  reasons that concern flooding and drought, which are triggering competition for resources.

 

The U.S. military is taking a close look at this. A 2011 Defense Department Report,  “Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security,” firmly recommends to “institute water security as  a core element of DOD strategy” since “the availability of water underlies all other elements of human security.”

Percent changes in length of growing period changes to 2050.

 

So what  specifically do you analyze and consider to determine if a war or significant conflict is caused by climate change?   One approach involves looking at countries that are less vulnerable, or that have become less vulnerable over time, than their neighbors or peers and measure the degree of conflict in them.  In Africa, according to ND-GAIN, countries like Tanzania and Zambia have become less vulnerable over time.

The upshot? Investing in adaptation could be one way to mitigate civil conflict.

Post Script October 23. 2013.  Thanks to Josh Foster - a wiki of all things climate adaptation - for sharing the following with me from Science:

QUANTIFYING THE INFLUENCE OF CLIMATE ON HUMAN CONFLICT

A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a striking convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2σ to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.

Science 13 September 2013: Vol. 341 no. 6151 1235367

 

Climate and Society - A Look Back at 2011

Happy Lunar New Year!  It’s 4710 on the lunar calendar and, having reflected on the myriad end-of-year/start-of-year lists in my inbox since December began, Jan. 23 seems a good day to reflect on the most thought-provoking events and items concerning corporate climate adaptation in 2011.  Here are my top three – plus a wish for 2012:

  1. Studies show that one-in-five major civil conflicts since 1950 may be linked to climate extremes associated with El Nino. Those big climate disturbances rooted in the tropical Pacific Ocean remind us to prepare for the collateral dis-benefits possible from shifting conditions.
  2. Japan’s multi-layered tragedy – the worst earthquake there on record followed by a meter-high tsunami and concluding with the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown – prompts us to consider the domino effects of extreme events. It also changes the parameters of corporate extreme-event scenario planning.
  3. Reflecting rising temperatures between 1980 and 2008, farms around the planet produced 3.8 percent less corn and 5.5 percent less wheat than they could have, suggesting that climate change is having an impact faster than we are adapting.

Between 1980 and 2008, climbing global temperatures took millions of tons of wheat off the dinner table, scientists say. Some countries experienced big losses due to weather (red), while in others, wheat production held steady (blue). (Science/AAAS)

My wish for 2012:  That companies boldly embrace the opportunity that climate adaptation sparks – leveraging intellectual property to sell climate-proofed and climate-resistant products.  I’ve mentioned some winners in previous blogs.  Here’s another set:

  • Construction equipment – for clearing debris and rebuilding weather-stricken communities
  • Mold removal – for helping communities cope with basements swamped by overbank flooding or basement backups
  • Power tools – for chopping up felled trees that fall victim to arbor pests that weaken them or intense storms
  • Auxiliary-powered equipment- such as generators and transistor radios for use in power outages during extreme weather

And what are your wishes?

 

HEAT!

I spoke at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coastal Zone Management conference recently and gleaned from the audience of scientists that executives are more likely to engage if they understand climate science.  This blog strives to relay some climate science through charts that I find particularly compelling.

Climate scientists will tell you the hot summer we are experiencing reflects weather, not climate change; but this is what a climate changed environment will feel like. Projections show that, by the end of the century, Chicago will experience more than 70 heatwaves (in the higher emissions scenario) like the one in 1995 that claimed more than 600 lives.The following data are from Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at the Texas Tech University.

Hayhoe et al. 2010. Journal of Great Lakes Research
Such heat waves, should they occur, will have an impact on morbidity, unless we adapt adapt.  Among the  steps that can be taken include decreasing the urban heat island effect, increasing the functionality of cooling centers and improving communications to the public.
In addition to heat-related illness, extreme heat triggers wide-ranging impacts.  One we can quantify:  the increased demand for cooling.  Dr. Hayhoe illuminates the increased demands placed on a Chicago region electric utility in a climate changed environment.

Among other impacts, public health is likely to suffer, even in the developed world. A fascinating document from Climate Health and Change: Framing the Issue (Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline, and Oxford) helps to describe these health impacts.

For instance, climate change will exacerbate current vector-borne disease through increased infection rate, increased geographical coverage, and increased rate of breeding.
Climate change will harm air quality and increase ground-level ozone, particularly in urban areas, leading to an increase in cardiorespiratory disease and cancer.

Young children, the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions are particularly vulnerable.

Executives - engage!

Climate Adaptation: Basic Risk Management

Climate Adaptation: Basic Risk Management

Climate adaptation fits squarely in your corporation’s risk management platform.  Every cent spent to decrease the risk of loss of employee work time, supplier-chain disruption and building livability will be worth it.  That’s why it’s important to consider what climate change adaptation means for the success of your business today and in the future.
For this discussion, let’s just consider the generic adaptation required for companies regardless of the geography of their facility holdings.  Factors that may require adaptation response include Extreme heat in the summer, significant changes to ecosystems, growing flood risks, extreme rain and snow events, and additional stresses on health.  If your company has coastal and western holdings, we’ll discuss another time the risks of sea-level rise, land inundation and severe water shortages on operations.
For context, consider that scientists predict Chicago will experience more than 30 days a year of temperatures above 100O F by the end of the century compared to an average of just one day annually in the last Century. (And note that in 2010, 10 U.S. states had their hottest summer on record and all but seven states posted above-normal temperatures. Summer nighttime heat records were set in 37 states and the June-August global land surface temperature was the warmest on record.)
In addition, the extreme snows this winter, as well as unpredictable wind and rain storms that took lives and ravaged neighborhood infrastructure this summer, contribute to the predictions that we will receive much more precipitation when we do not need it – and less when we do.
So being climate-change ready this summer may be as simple as:
·         Ensuring that your company has a strong telecommuting infrastructure for days employees cannot get to the office.
·         Reminding employees up and down the chain to drink water, seek cooling centers and stay out of the sun on days of extreme heat.
·         Allowing employees to leave the office in advance of a storm that might cut off transportation from work to home (especially crucial for employees caring for elderly or disabled relatives at home or responsible for transporting children to and from school).
It also could entail taking careful stock of any of your holdings within the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 100-year flood plain; ensuring that any toxic materials (deicers and fertilizers, in addition to industrial materials) are stored away from areas that could flood; and considering the probable impacts of a power disruption on your operations – disruptions to plumbing and other easy-to-forget situations as well as to your computers and network, elevators and phones.