Daily Archives: March 20, 2014

‘The Long Hedge’ – New Book Helps Companies Prepare For Climate Change

Victor Lipman Contributor

For several years now I’ve felt that climate change is one of the main long-term risks facing business. At one point I even considered writing a book that would help companies prepare – involving the growing field of “climate resilience.” Now I’m glad I didn’t, as Jason West, an associate professor of finance at Griffith Business School in Brisbane, Australia, has – and it’s a better book than I would have written.

The Long Hedge: Preserving Organizational Value through Climate Change Adaptation (Greenleaf Publishing) is a thorough, detailed look at the organizational risks climate change and extreme weather pose (e.g. to supply chains, infrastructure, agricultural operations, etc.) and the steps companies can take to evaluate risks and prepare.

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IPCC climate report – your questions answered

The UN body is to announce the findings of its fifth assessment report on the state of climate science in Stockholm

Rajendra Pachauri is the chairman of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

What is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?

Set up in 1988, the IPCC is a UN body that evaluates the state of climate science. It produces major assessments every five-seven years. The last report, published in Paris in 2007, said that scientists were 90% certain that humans were responsible for global warming. The panel was awarded the Nobel peace prize in the same year, shared jointly with former US vice–president, Al Gore.

What is being published on Friday?

The summary of the first part of the so-called fifth assessment report (AR5), which focuses on the scientific evidence behind climate change and the human role in it. The IPCC has been meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss the final wording of the summary of Working Group One (WG1), which assesses the physical science, such as concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, temperature rises and climate models. It has been written the world’s top climate scientists – 209 lead authors and 50 editors from 39 countries – and will be presented to governments and the public at 9am on Friday. This summary report will be followed by WG1’s full in-depth report on Monday, 30 September.

What will it say?

Early drafts indicate that scientists have revised upwards the certainty that human activities are driving the warming the world has experienced, from “very likely” or 90% confidence in 2007, to “extremely likely” or 95% confidence now. It will also include new projections for future sea level and temperature rises.

How does the IPCC work?

Scientists have spent the last few years – on a voluntary basis – collating and summarising peer-reviewed climate science. The IPCC does not produce original work itself, but summarises what has already been published in scientific journals. It has a small secretariat of a dozen staff, based in Geneva, Switzerland. The IPCC chairman is Rajendra Pachauri, who was appointed in 2002 and re-elected in 2008.

Do these reports still matter?

Yes. The IPCC’s major assessments are extremely influential and widely read. The science in the reports underpins the crucial UN climate negotiations on political efforts to tackle climate change. But many people, including some of the scientists who put together the reports without pay, say that more targeted and more frequent reports would be more useful.

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Rape in the Fields

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Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas Is A Dreadful Idea For The Climate

By Joe Romm on March 12, 2014 at 10:46 am

The crisis in Ukraine has rekindled arguments that the U.S. should export shale gas, supposedly to diminish the threat posed by Russia’s “energy weapon.” Sadly, few seem to care about diminishing the threat posed by climate change, since it has become increasingly clear that LNG would make things worse.

I explained back in June 2012 why “exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) is bad for the climate.” That analysis predated multiple studies that make clear that “by the time natural gas has a net climate benefit you’ll likely be dead and the climate ruined.”

So we’re in double jeopardy with LNG. First, natural gas is mostly methane, (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So even small leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system can have a large climate impact — enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas.

Sadly, many recent studies find that there are sizable leaks. A February study from Stanford reported that “A review of more than 200 earlier studies confirms that U.S. emissions of methane are considerably higher than official estimates. Leaks from the nation’s natural gas system are an important part of the problem”.

That study of studies found a best estimate for life-cycle natural gas leakage of a whopping 5.4 percent (+/- 1.8 percent). And that means replacing coal plants with gas plants would be worse for the climate for more than 6 decades.

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Study: 2ºC Warming Is Enough To Seriously Hurt Crop Yields

By Ari Phillips on March 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

CREDIT: Shutterstock

As farmers sow this year’s crops, they may be distracted by the fact that by the 2030s — just over 15 years from now — crop yields in temperate and tropical regions will suffer significantly due to climate change.

Published on Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, a paper found that without adaptation, losses in wheat, rice, and maize production can be expected with just 2°C of warming. The study will sharpen the already-alarming findings of the Working Group II section of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, to be published at the end of March. Working Group II focuses on the environmental, economic and social impacts climate change will have and what level of vulnerability different ecological and socio-economic sectors will be subject to.

The Fourth IPCC Assessment Report, in 2007, found that regions with temperate climates like Europe and North America would hold up to a couple degrees of warming without a discernible effect on crop yields. Some studies even thought the increase in temperatures could boost production. However the new study, which pulled from the largest dataset to date on crop resources — more than double the number available in 2007 — found that crops will be negatively affected by climate change much earlier than expected.

“As more data have become available, we’ve seen a shift in consensus, telling us that the impacts of climate change in temperate regions will happen sooner rather than later,” Professor Andy Challinor, from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Furthermore, the impact of climate change on crops will vary both from year-to-year and from place-to-place –- with the variability becoming greater as the weather becomes increasingly erratic. Climate change means a less predictable harvest, with different countries winning and losing in different years.”

According to the study, starting in the 2030s crop yields will experience an increasingly negative impact with decreases of over 25 percent becoming more common by the second half of the century. Climate change is already of high concern to those working in agriculture as changes in weather, land quality, and water availability reflect across the sector. Food prices for staple crops such as wheat and corn are high this year as global production struggles to keep pace with rising demand. Crop prices are subject to very localized impacts, and the crisis in Ukraine has caused corn and wheat prices to spike as the country is a top-ten exporter of both crops. Climate change will only act to amplify the precarious nature of the industry.

Another recent study found that climate change’s average effect on crop prices by 2050 will be a 20 percent increase, with some prices not changing at all while others rise over 60 percent depending on the region.

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Sea Levels To Rise More Than Expected Due To Warming-Driven Surge In Greenland Ice Loss

By Joe Romm and Jeff Spross on March 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Greenland’s contribution to global sea level has soared in the past two decades. An important new study finds that the massive northeastern part of the ice sheet, previously thought to be stable, has begun shedding ice. If this trend continues — and researchers say “a self-perpetuating feedback process may have been triggered” — actual sea level rise this century will likely be higher than many current models had projected.

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Climate Scientists: We’re Alarmed. Here’s Why You Should Be, Too.

By Joe Romm on March 20, 2014 at 10:30 am

This week, the world’s largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has issued an uncharacteristically blunt call to action on climate change. The must-read new report by the AAAS’s Climate Science Panel, “What We Know” has several simple messages:

We are as certain that humans are responsible for most recent climate change as we are that cigarettes kill:

Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now. Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening….

The science linking human activities to climate change is analogous to the science linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular diseases. Physicians, cardiovascular scientists, public health experts and others all agree smoking causes cancer. And this consensus among the health community has convinced most Americans that the health risks from smoking are real. A similar consensus now exists among climate scientists, a consensus that maintains climate change is happening, and human activity is the cause.

What kind of change is already happening?

Average global temperature has increased by about 1.4˚F over the last 100 years. Sea level is rising, and some types of extreme events — such as heat waves and heavy precipitation events -– are happening more frequently. Recent scientific findings indicate that climate change is likely responsible for the increase in the intensity of many of these events in recent years.

What is the danger of continued inaction?

We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts….

We can think of this as sudden climate brake and steering failure where the problem and its consequences are no longer something we can control. In climate terms, abrupt change means change occurring over periods as short as decades or even years”

Why must we act now?

The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do. Waiting to take action will inevitably increase costs, escalate risk, and foreclose options to address the risk. The CO2 we produce accumulates in Earth’s atmosphere for decades, centuries, and longer. It is not like pollution from smog or wastes in our lakes and rivers, where levels respond quickly to the effects of targeted policies.

When asked on the press call why the AAAS felt the need for providing the public and policymakers yet another climate report, Dr. James McCarthy, Harvard oceanography professor and former AAAS President, said “The public has been misinformed by a colossal disinformation campaign.” Scientists must speak out strongly and often because the subject is too important to leave to the disinformers.

McCarthy also made a point I thought was key:

The risk concept — the risk of inaction — this is something that really hasn’t been emphasized. And if you just think back 20 years or 10 years – what we imagined twenty years ago about loss of Artic sea ice – it was not thought to be anything that would be of concern in this century. Ten years later, roughly 2000, we knew that we were on a trajectory that couldn’t be anticipated. Ten years ago that same era it was not thought that Greenland would be losing ice dramatically in the next few decades, but within a few years we realized that was wrong.”

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See also:    What We Know — AAAS

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