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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Australia is burning: is this a portent of what is to come?

As our hearts go out to the people of Australia, as they battle with unprecedented and devastating fires across the country, with lives lost, as well as homes and a billion of their unique marsupial and other wildlife species being burnt to death, I have to ask the question:

Is this one of the first of many such events that we are going to witness over the next decades?  Is this going to be the face of the effects of climate change in the future?  Are we going to witness even more harrowing events and deaths across the world?

AustralianBushfire

koala

Photographs from Australia during the fires in recent weeks

wombat after fire

Animals that survive the fires, like this wombat pictured in New South Wales, will struggle to find food and shelter

How much more dreadful is it going to become globally, as we see multiple fires, floods, hurricanes, monsoons, high temperatures, coastal erosion and mass loss of species? Ecologists are already saying that they fear two rare species (found only on Kangaroo Island, to the south of Australia), may have been wiped out in the recent fires.  These include a small mouse-like marsupial, called a dunnart, and glossy black cockatoos. See:

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/empowering-the-planet/australia-wildfires-entire-species-may-have-been-wiped-out-by-inferno-conservationists-say/ar-BBYDoQk?ocid=spartandhp

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The endangered marsupial: Kangaroo Island Dunnart

See also: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/04/ecologists-warn-silent-death-australia-bushfires-endangered-species-extinction

An article in Nature, by an Australian ecologist Michael Clarke, describes the aftermath of such terrible fires.  He says,

“It is deathly silent when you go into a forest after a fire. Apart from the ‘undertakers’ — the carrion eaters like currawongs, ravens and shrike-thrushes — picking off the dead bodies, there’s nothing much left in the forest. It’s a chilling experience.

For survivors, it’s a perilous existence in the months that follow. Any animal that manages to make it through the fire uninjured faces three major challenges. One is finding shelter from climatic extremes — places they can hide from bad weather, like a hollow tree or a hole in the ground. The second is the risk of starvation. And third, they’ve got to avoid predators like feral cats and foxes. They’re exposed; there’s nowhere to hide in a barren landscape.

Even if an animal makes it to an unburnt patch, the density of organisms trying to eke out a living will be way beyond the area’s carrying capacity. After fires in 2007, one unburnt patch I visited in the Mallee [a region in the far north of Victoria] was literally crawling with birds, all chasing one another, trying to work out who owned the last little bit of turf. It was clearly insufficient to sustain them all.

Animals like koalas that live above ground in small, isolated populations and that have a limited capacity to flee or discover unburnt patches of forest are in all sorts of trouble. During past fires, we’ve seen some really surprising creative behaviours, like lyrebirds and wallabies going down wombat burrows to escape fire. But a large majority of animals are simply incinerated. Even really big, fast-flying birds like falcons and crimson rosellas can succumb to fire.

Some animals are more resilient to fire than others. The best adapted are those that can get underground. Termite colonies happily hum along underneath these all-consuming fires. Burrow-dwelling lizards are similar.”

See: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00043-2

michaelClarke

Professor Michael Clarke



 

Australia is not alone in facing wildfires. In 2018, a similar thing happened in California.  The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever recorded in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha), the largest area of burned acreage recorded in a fire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), as of December 21. Through to the end of August 2018, Cal Fire alone spent $432 million on operations. As of May 2019, insurance claims related to this fire season had reached $12 billion, most related to the Camp Fire, in Butte County (see Wikipedia). And wildfires happened in Europe too.

In India, from June to September 2019, the country received the highest amount of monsoonal rain in the past 25 years. According to the India Meteorological Department, those rains are not expected to retreat until at least October 10th, which would be the latest withdrawal of the monsoon in the country’s recorded history.

indian monsoon floods

2019 monsoon flooding in India

According to Wikepedia, climate change in China is having major effects on the economy, society and the environment. The energy structure and human activities caused global warming and climate change, and China suffered from negative effects of global warming in agriculture, forestry and water resources.

Beijing-Smog

Photograph taken in Beijing, China, where smog pollution reaches 24 times the WHO recommended safe level and children are kept from attending school as a result.

I have chosen to mention these three countries – Australia, India and China – because they were exempted from the UN Kyoto Protocol agreement, because at that time, they pleaded that they were only just beginning to industrialise and needed to be given a chance to compete with industrialised countries. This chance was given and, now, they have become amongst the highest polluting countries in the world, with China in the lead, despite its intentions to tackle climate change.  Ironic, isn’t it?

It’s easy to criticise with hindsight but I believe the UNFCCC should have had the confidence to stand firm over the Kyoto Protocol.  Because of this, many countries (including the USA – another high polluter) did not ratify it.

I came across an interesting graph a few months ago, which shows that carbon emissions have continued to climb, despite UN efforts and agreements: Rio, Kyoto and Paris and beyond.  The dates of these initiatives is marked on an ever-upwardly climbing graph of global carbon emissions.

cemissionsgraph

As I’ve watched the events of this summer unfolding, I’ve found myself wondering whether the Earth system has now breached a tipping point, an irreversible shift in the stability of the planetary system.

There may now be so much heat trapped in the system that we may have already triggered a domino effect that could unleash a cascade of abrupt changes that will continue to play out in the years and decades to come.

Rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it.

 

However, I believe that global warming and climate change will have multiple effects across the world; some of it will be related to food scarcity but the other effects will be more random: fires, floods, hurricanes, heat stroke, coastal erosion and the loss of islands, as well as land in low-lying countries. And, of course, the disappearance of many iconic species of wildlife. And, as a Biologist and an animal lover, I feel enormous grief over this devastating loss – and I know that I am not the only one.

Unless huge co-operative efforts are made to limit the burning of fossil fuels, the future looks bleak for all of us, including some of the wonderful and unique species with whom we share this planet. If we are seeing these effects with just 1 degree of global warming, what will it be like at 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees or even higher?  Three degrees and above are predicted if carbon emissions do not start to fall in the very near future.



 


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224 UK academics support school climate strike

224 academics have written a letter to The Guardian in support of the children’s proposed non-attendance at school on Friday 15th February 2015.  This is in response to a growing movement across the world by teenagers and children to draw attention of their governments to the need for emergency actions against climate change.  Greta Thunberg from Sweden was the first to take such action (see an earlier blog).

Here is the letter in its entirety (of which I am one of the signatories):

“School climate strike children’s brave stand has our support

We are inspired that our children, spurred on by the noble actions of Greta Thunberg and other striking students, are making their voices heard, say 224 academics.

We, the undersigned academics, stand in solidarity with the children going on school climate strike on 15 February, and with all those taking a stand for the future of the planet.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.” Human planetary abuse is, in a very real sense, child neglect.

As many of us and other fellow academics have indicated previously in this newspaper (Letters, 27 October 2018), the scientific evidence of climate change is clear. For example, the summer of 2018 has been confirmed by the Meteorological Office as the hottest on record for England. The heatwave adversely affected crops across Europe, with wheat and potato harvests reduced by one quarter, which in turn impacted upon food prices. Australia is similarly experiencing “hottest on record” weather events. As citizens across the globe will know and testify, many comparably disturbing examples could be given. We cannot nurture our children without Nature.

It is with these tragic and desperate events in mind that we offer our full support to the students – some of whom may well aspire to be the academics of the future – who bravely plan to strike on 15 February to demand that the UK government takes climate action. They have every right to be angry about the future that we shall bequeath to them, if proportionate and urgent action is not taken. We are inspired that our children, spurred on by the noble actions of Greta Thunberg and many other striking students all around the world, are making their voices heard.

Alison Green
, PhD (Psychology), National Director (UK) ScientistsWarning.org
Sir Tim Smit Co-Founder, Eden Project & Exec Chair Eden Project International

Professor Kevin Anderson, Joint chair of Energy and Climate Change at Manchester and Uppsala Universities
Professor Tony Watts OBE
Molly Scott Cato MEP, Professor of Green Economics, University of Roehampton
Chris Rapley CBE, Professor of Climate Science, UCL
Professor T. R. Birkhead, FRS Department of Animal & Plant Sciences,
University of Sheffield
Professor Joy Carter Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester
Professor Danny Dorling, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford (UK)
Professor Diane Reay, University of Cambridge
Professor Guy Claxton, King’s College London
Professor Rosalind Gill, UK
Professor Jem Bendell, PhD, University of Cumbria
Professor Marilyn Strathern, DBE Cambridge University
Dr Anne Alexander, University of Cambridge
Dr Miklós Antal, Research Fellow, University of Leeds
Francisco Ascui (PhD, MBA, MSc), Centre for Business and Climate Change, University of Edinburgh
Dr Hugues Azérad, Fellow and College Lecturer,Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge
Dr Keith Baker, co-founder, Energy Poverty Research initiative, Scotland
Stephen J. Ball, distinguished service Professor of Sociology of Education, University College London
Dr Meg-John Barker, Psychology in Social Sciences, The Open University
Rocio Perez Barrales, School of Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth
Emeritus Professor Michael Bassey
Professor Margaret Bates
, University of Northampton
Manu Bazzano, Lecturer, University of Roehampton
Professor David Beerling, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield
Peter Belton, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, University of East Anglia
Dr Teresa Belton visiting fellow, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia
Dr Nicholas Beuret, University of Essex
Dr Simon Boxley, Centre for Climate Change Education & Communication, University of Winchester
Dr Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion
Beth Breeze, Director, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent
Delny Britton Ph.D. (env. Sci.), Stroud, Gloucestershire
Dr Onel Brooks, Senior Lecturer in Psychotherapy, Counselling and Counselling Psychology
Annemarieke de Bruin, Researcher, Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York
Erik Buitenhuis Ph.D., Ocean Biogeochemist
Dr Catherine Burke, Reader in History of Education and Childhood, University of Cambridge
Professor Erica Burman, Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester
Dr Jonathan Busch, Research & Teaching Fellow, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds
Dr Rose Capdevila, School of Psychology, The Open University
Dr Stuart Capstick, Research Fellow, Cardiff University
Professor Andrew Challinor, Faculty of Environment, University of Leeds
Professor Alec Charles, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, UoW
Paul Chatterton, Professor of Urban Futures,School of Geography, University of Leeds
Christopher Clarke, Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics, University of Southampton
Isabel Clarke, consultant Clinical Psychologist, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust
Professor Linda Clarke, Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), Westminster Business School, University of Westminster
Richard Clarke, Visiting Scholar, University of Westminster
Dr Christopher D. Coath, University of Bristol
Frank Coffield, Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL Institute of Education, London University
Dr Philip Connell, University of Cambridge
Andrew Cooper, Professor of Social Work, Tavistock Centre and UEL
Dr Mick Cooper, Counselling Psychologist
Dr Alice Courvoisier, Ph.D.(Mathematics), lecturer, York University
Nick Cowern, Emeritus Professor, Newcastle University
Ed Craig, Executive Director Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, University of Edinburgh
Gareth Dale, Politics/History, Brunel University
Professor Colin Davis University of Bristol
Dr Lucy Delap, Reader in Modern British and Gender History, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
Dr Peter Dwyer, UCU Branch Executive, Ruskin College, Oxford
Dr Alison Dyke, Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York
Richard Eke Ph.D., Associate Lecturer in Education
Professor Barbara Evans CEng MCIWEM, Co-Director, Centre for Global Development, University of Leeds
Dr Nick Evans, Junior Research Fellow, Clare College, University of Cambridge
Dr Keri Facer, Professor of Educational and Social Futures, University of Bristol
Dr Andrew L. Fanning, Marie Curie Research Fellow, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds
Suman Fernando, Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities, London Metropolitan University; retired Consultant Psychiatrist
Michael Fielding Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL Institute of Education, London
Dr Keith Flett, London Socialist Historians Group, University of London
Alistair Ford, Research Associate (Cities and Climate Change), Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Dr Katy Fox-Hodess, University of Sheffield
Professor Lynn Froggett FAcSS
Dr Christophe Gagne, Senior Language Teaching Officer in French, MML, University of Cambridge
Charlie J. Gardner, PhD Lecturer, Conservation Biology
Dr Simon Gibbs university Reader in Educational Psychology
Ian Gibson Professor and former MP and chair, Select Committee on Science and Technology
Simona Giordano, University of Manchester
Dr Sara González, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Harvey Goldstein, Professor of Social Statistics, University of Bristol
Professor Dave Goulson FRES,, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex
Dr Dina Glouberman Skyros Institute
Dr Mia Gray, Dept of Geography, University of Cambridge
Sarah Greenfield Clark, MSc (Sustainability), Partnerships Co-ordinator for Extinction
Rebellion
Stephen Hall, University Academic Fellow, Sustainable Cities
Dr Catherine Happer, Lecturer in Sociology
Lukas Hardt, Postgraduate Research Student, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
Prof. Julie Harris, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St. Andrews
Rachael Harris PhD, University of Cambridge
Stephan Harrison, Climate Scientist, Exeter University UK
Dr Stephen Harwood, University of Edinburgh Business School
Dr Karsten Haustein, Postdoctoral Researcher, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Peter Hawkins Ph.D. Professor of Leadership Henley Business School, University of Reading
Dr Clare Heaviside, NERC Independent Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Jason Hickel, Goldsmiths, University of London
Chris Hines MBE, Hon.D.Sc
Dr Stuart Hodkinson
, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Dr Dan Hodson, Research Scientist, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK
Paul Hoggett, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, UWE
Owen Holland, Department of English, UCL
Dr Wendy Hollway, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Open University
Dr Reza Hossain, MBBS, MRCGP, DCH, DRCOG, DFFP, General Practitioner & Population Matters
Richard House, PhD (Env sci) Chartered psychologist, Stroud
Michael Hrebeniak, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge
David Humphreys, Professor of Environmental Policy, Open University
Peter Humphreys Chair, Centre for Personalised Education, visiting lecturer, School of Education, Birmingham City University
Dr Victoria Hurth Faculty of Business, University of Plymouth
Professor Lisa Isherwood, FRSA, Director of the Institute for Theological Partnerships, Professor of Feminist Liberation Theologies, University of Winchester
Chris Jarrold, Professor of Cognitive Development, School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol
Simon Jobson, Professor of Sport & Exercise Physiology, University of Winchester
Professor Aled Jones, PhD MA BA FHEA HonFIA Director of Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University
Steven Jones, PhD (Education), Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester
Professor Stephen Joseph, University of Nottingham
Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Presidential Fellow in Ethnicity and Inequalities, The University of Manchester
Dr Alexandre Kabla, Reader, Engineering Department, University of Cambridge
Dr. J. Kasmire, University of Manchester
Philomena Keane, Educational Psychologist, Keane Minds
Dr Ben Kenward, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Oxford Brookes University
Dr Eleanor Kirk, Research Associate, University of Glasgow
Professor Peter Kornicki FBA, University of Cambridge
Dr Tonya Lander, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford
Mary Laven, Professor of Early Modern History, University of Cambridge
Jane Liddell-King, Cambridge
Peter Lipman, Fellow, Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Del Loewenthal, Emeritus Professor of Psychotherapy and Counselling, University of Roehampton
Gerhard Lohmann-Bond, Chair/Coordinator East Midlands Green Party
Ed Lord RMN, Ph.D. fellow, Swansea University
Rachel Lunnon Ph.D. (mathematical logic), computer programmer, Bristol
Robert Macfarlane, Reader at Cambridge University
Professor Neil Marriott Deputy Vice Chancellor
Professor Pru Marriott, Dean of Business, Law and Sport, Director of the Winchester Business School
Andrew Marsham, DPhil, Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge
Dr John Marsham, PhD (Meteorology)
John Mateer, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Production, Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York
Giulio Mattioli, (PhD) Visiting Research Fellow, Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds
Dr Emma Mawdsley, Geography Department, Cambridge University
Dr Debbie Maxwell Lecturer in Interactive Media, Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York
Susannah Mayhew, Professor of Health Policy, Systems and Reproductive Health
Marjorie Mayo, Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths, University of London.
Dr Duncan McCollin, Senior Lecturer in Ecology, University of Northampton
Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, University College London
Ciarán McInerney, PhD., Research Fellow, University of Leeds
Professor Alastair McIntosh University of Glasgow & Centre for Human Ecology
James Mckay, project leader: ‘The Art of a Sustainable Future’, University of Leeds
Dr Jean McKendree, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York
Laura McMahon, University of Cambridge
Dr Kate McMillan Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King’s College London
Dr Alessandra Mezzadri Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, London
Dr Lucie Middlemiss, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds
Professor Martin Milton, Regents University London
Dr Iris Möller, 
Lecturer in Coastal Processes, Cambridge Coastal Research Unit (CCRU) / Biogeography & Biogeomorphology Research Group, University of Cambridge
Dr Gerry Mooney, Open University in Scotland
Professor Sian Moore Director, Work and Employment Research Unit (WERU) and Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), Greenwich Business School, London
Emeritus Professor Peter Moss, UCL Institute of Education
Richard Murphy, Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, City, University of London
Dr David Nally, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Calum Neill, Associate Professor of Psychoanalysis & Cultural Theory, Edinburgh Napier University
Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations, Department of International Relations, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex
Dr Robbie Nicol, Senior Lecturer in Outdoor Environmental Education, University of Edinburgh
Dany Nobus, Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology, Brunel University London
Eva Novotny, PhD
Jeff Ollerton
, Professor of Biodiversity, University of Northampton
Dr Susie Orbach, The Balint Consultancy
Professor Jayne Osgood, Middlesex University, mother, feminist, activist
Stephanie Palmer, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
Douglas Parker, Professor of Meteorology, University of Leeds
Ian Parker, Emeritus Professor of Management, University of Leicester
Carole Parkes, Professor of Sustainable Business, University of Winchester
Christine Parkinson Ph.D. (Behavioural Science), retired biologist and author (climate change), Birmingham
Dr Volker Patent, CPsychol, Open University
Dr Ian Patterson, Life Fellow, Queens’ College, Cambridge
David Peters Professor Emeritus, Westminster Centre for Resilience, College of Liberal Arts and Science, University of Westminster
Dr Mary Phillips reader in organisation studies, University of Bristol
Professor Ann Phoenix
Professor Jenny Pickerill,
 University of Sheffield
Adela Pickles, Communications Director for Rainforest Trust UK
Professor Jonatan Pinkse, University of Manchester
Professor Wouter Poortinga, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University
Dr Gillian Proctor, Programme Leader in MA Psychotherapy and Counselling, University of Leeds
Professor Sarah A. Radcliffe, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Joe Ravetz, Co-Director, CURE, University of Manchester
Dr Rupert Read, Reader in Philosophy, University of East Anglia, UK
Dr Peter Reason, Emeritus Professor, University of Bath
Dr Helen Richardson, Professor of Gender and Organisation, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University
Annette Rimmer, University of Manchester
Rosemary Rizq, Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, University of Roehampton, London
Pip Roddis, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Paul Routledge, Professor of Contentious Politics and Social Change, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex; Former Chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy
Kate Sapin, Manchester Institute of Education, The University of Manchester
Simon Schaffer, Professor of History of Science, University of Cambridge
Dr Jason Scott-Warren, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London
Professor Farzana Shain, Keele University
Dr Jo Shuttleworth, Lecturer in Counselling Psychology, University of Manchester
Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting and Finance, University of Sheffield
Andrew Simms, Research Associate, University of Sussex & Coordinator, the Rapid Transition Alliance
David Sims, Emeritus Professor of Organisational Behaviour, City, University of London
Helen Spandler, Professor of Mental Health Studies, University of Central Lancashire
Nick Srnicek, Lecturer in Digital Economy, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London
Lauren Stabler, PhD (Sustainability) Researcher at Global Sustainability Institute
Dr Guy Standing, FAcSS Professorial Research Associate, SOAS University of London
Professor Julia K. Steinberger, University of Leeds
Arran Stibbe, Professor of Ecological Linguistics, University of Gloucestershire
Peter Strachan, Professor of Energy Policy, The Robert Gordon University
Simon Szreter, Professor of History and Public Policy, University of Cambridge, and a fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge
Harriet Thew, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
Brian Thorne, Emeritus Professor of Counselling, University of East Anglia
Professor Fred Toates, UK
Steve Tombs, Prof of Criminology, The Open University
Dr Corrado Topi, Ecological Economist, Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York
Martin Upchurch, Professor of International Employment Relations, Middlesex University Business School, Hendon
Simon van der Borgh, Senior Lecturer in film & television production & screenwriter, University of York
Andreas Vossler, Phd (Psychology)
Lianne Waterston, B.Ed, 2041 Climateforce Ambassador, Climate Reality Leader
Professor Andrew Watterson, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling
Dr David Whitebread retired senior member, Homerton College, Cambridge
Ian Willis, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
Dr Rebecca Willis, Independent Researcher
Dr Ruth Wood, Senior Lecturer in Environment and Climate Change, University of Manchester
Michael J Wright, Emeritus Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience, Brunel University, London
Mike Yule, Associate Lecturer, Department of Education, University of Chichester
Dr Andrew Zurcher, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge”

GretaThunberg2

Greta Thunberg speaking at COP24



 


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Wake-up Calls on Climate Change

One of the reviewers of my book described it as a Wake Up Call  and this phrase is being used more and more in relation to climate change, especially as people have experienced extremes of weather in the last two years.

Now, the Guardian has published an article about the things that their readers have described as Wake Up Calls:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/21/the-heatwave-was-a-wake-up-call-readers-on-a-year-of-climate-change-anxiety?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTgxMjIx&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

They include the following:

  1. The 2018 heatwave.
  2. Wildfires in California.
  3. The IPCC report, saying we have 12 years.
  4. The launch of Extinction Rebellion.
  5. Extreme heatwaves harming the poorest people.
  6. The’Beast from the East’.
  7. ‘The changing political landscape prompted me’

 

wildfires


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The cost of wildfires

A recent article in the Financial Times stimulated the following letter, published on 26th February 2018:

Wildfire and other climate costs are rising — fast

If anything, your recent coverage of California’s wildfires (“ The stark message from California raging fires”, editorial, and “ Insurers grapple with increasing wildfire risk”, report, November 19) understate the growing costs and the role of climate change. Fighting wildfires now burns through more than half the US Forest Service budget, up from just 15 per cent in 1990. The main reason is that the fires now consume twice the acreage they did in 1984, according to a study by the University of Idaho and Columbia University, which also found the main cause was higher temperatures and drier conditions due to climate change. These trends are increasing as the frequency of large fires on public lands has grown 500 per cent in the last 40 years and average forest temperatures have risen by 2.5 degrees. California is just one of many states facing higher land management and emergency response costs due to climate change. The human and economic costs of wildfires, hurricanes and other extreme events made more severe by climate change are rising faster than even President Donald Trump’s tweets can deny them. Congress spent $130bn, or one-quarter of the US non-defence discretionary budget, in emergency appropriations for 2017 events alone. Isn’t it about time American citizens and business leaders demanded that Washington address the underlying problem of climate change, to save both lives and money?

Paul Bledsoe

Strategic Advisor,

Progressive Policy Institute, Washington, DC, US

wildfire



 


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Global disaster insurance losses in 2017 double those of 2016

Oliver Ralph, insurance correspondent for the Financial Times reported on this on 20th December 2017.  His main source of information was Swiss Re, a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer. See: www.swissre.com.

According to Ralph’s figures, natural and man made disasters caused $136 billion of insured losses in 2017, more than double the 2016 figure and well above the 19-year average of $58 billion.

Most of the losses have been as a result of hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes in the Caribbean, southern US and Mexico.

Insurers and reinsurers are currently negotiating premiums and many predict widespread increases. However, there are signs that prices are not rising as swiftly as many predicted, apparently because insurance companies are awash with capital. Investors believe that insurance companies will give a higher return than elsewhere.

Image from the Mexico earthquake in 2017


Lloyd’s of London will look to cut costs after a year of expensive natural catastrophes plunged the insurance market into a £2 billion loss, its first in six years.

Lloyd’s reported a pre-tax loss of £2 billion for the year to December 31 (2017), compared with a profit of £2.1 billion in 2016, after it paid out £4.5 billion in compensation to victims of a spate of natural disasters.

During one of the most expensive hurricance seasons on record last year, Hurricane Harvey ripped into Texas in late August, followed swiftly by Irma, which hit the Florida peninsula, and then Maria, which left devastation in its wake in Puerto Rico. There were also devastating wildfires in California, an earthquake in Mexico, monsoon flooding in Bangladesh and a mudslide in Colombia.

Lloyd’s of London is the world’s oldest insurance market, whose history dates back to coffee houses in the City in 1688. It is based in the renowned Lloyd’s building in the heart of the City. It acts as the umbrella organisation for the insurers and brokers who provide commercial cover in areas ranging from shipping and airlines to oil rigs and trains, often choosing to pool the risks they take on by forming syndicates of underwriters.

During the course of its existence, it has survived several near-death experiences, including the impact of a wave of asbestos-related claims during the 1990s and the seizure of the airline market after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. It also fought, and won, a damaging battle with wealthy insurance investors, known as Names, who claimed they were misled over risky deals they bought into in the early 1990s.

As well as the London market, Lloyd’s operates in overseas markets from the US and China to emerging markets such as Africa. It has also got involved in new areas of insurance, including providing cover against cyberattacks.

The world’s insurers are estimated to face a collective bill for last year’s disasters of about $140 billion, according to experts at JLT Re, a unit of Jardine Lloyd Thompson. Lloyd’s paid out £18.3 billion in claims last year, including £4.5 billion in connection with natural disasters, more than double the previous year. The catastrophe-related losses wiped out the effect of a 12.4 per cent increase in gross written premiums to £33.6 billion during the year and a 38 per cent jump in the return that Lloyd’s generated from investing the premiums received, from £1.3 billion to £1.8 billion.

Inga Beale, who took charge of the Lloyd’s market four years ago, described 2017 as an “exceptionally difficult year” for the insurance market and the organisation wil now focus on a cost-cutting and efficiency drive. All of Lloyd’s members had been ordered to process 30 per cent of their insurance quotes and risk-related documentation electronically by the end of September to bring down their expenses.