Global Trends

Climate Crisis

Efforts remain insufficient to change our dangerous current course

The opportunity to prevent global warming rising beyond 2C is diminishing – highlighting the urgent need for faster deployment of low carbon and climate adaptation solutions.

Current efforts remain insufficient to change our course towards dangerous climate change.

A rapidly warming climate and failure to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions underscore the urgent need for greater focus on resiliency measures. Rapid, large-scale investment in effective solutions is needed to prevent global warming from reaching potentially catastrophic levels.

Signals to Watch

Rising Global Emissions

Falling prices for both renewable energy and natural gas have resulted in modest emissions reductions amongst heavy emitters such as Europe and the United States. However, none of the four largest global polluters (China, the United States, the European Union and India) are currently on track to do their part in global efforts to reach the Paris Agreement goals.

  • Experts report that global greenhouse gas emissions rose by an estimated 2.7 percent in 2018, reaching an all-time high. This represents the second year of notable increases after a brief period of relatively stable emissions due to slowed economic growth.

  • The latest IPCC report highlighted the severity of impacts we are already experiencing at 1C warming and stated that 2C of warming is now considered highly dangerous.

  • Countries have agreed to report on their emissions every two years starting in 2024, in accordance with the new Paris Agreement rulebook agreed at COP24 in December 2018 in Poland.

  • International media focus continues to remain on emissions from electricity generation, where the greatest progress is being made. But agriculture and transportation are also major contributors and only limited attention is being given to these sectors and other smaller emitters.

  • The European Union has struggled to maintain emissions reduction momentum, in large part due to Germany failing to transition away from coal. Meanwhile US carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years.

  • China continues to heavily invest in renewable energy, electric vehicles and energy storage, but its total emissions are predicted to continue climbing until 2030. India’s emissions are anticipated to peak in 2033.

  • Air pollution related to consumption of fossil fuels remains a major global issue. More than 3 billion people are breathing deadly smoke in their homes from using polluting stoves and fuels.

“To have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5C, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in half by 2030 and be net zero by 2050.”
Diana Liverman, University of Arizona, lead author for the IPCC 1.5C report.

Source: Climate Action Tracker

Adaptation Investment is Urgent

The impacts of 1C warming are far more severe than predicted. Extreme weather is causing billions in damage annually, with flooding, storms & drought in Asia coupled with raging fires in the United States, Canada, Greece and Sweden. While some climate mitigation and adaptation projects are complimentary, in many cases they are competing for limited government funds.

  • Global impacts to urban environments are currently estimated at $314 billion each year and are predicted to increase to more than $415 billion annually by 2030.

  • Severe wildfires in California caused billions of dollars in direct damage and insurance payouts in 2018.

  • Heat waves hit Europe in 2018, impacting economic performance and reducing power generation from wind turbines, highlighting the urgent need for more investment in climate resilient energy infrastructure and agriculture.

  • According to new estimates by FAO, droughts in Asia caused over $48 billion in lost crops and livestock between 2005 and 2015.

Growing Debate About Geoengineering

A dangerously warmed climate is leading to renewed discussion among experts about the pros and cons of geoengineering interventions. Geoengineering generally falls under two categories: the removal and storage of carbon from the atmosphere and solar radiation management, which is the reflection of the sun’s rays back into space or blocking a small portion of sunlight before it reaches Earth. While there are many proponents of geoengineering solutions, the science is still largely based on theoretical models and has been criticized for being potentially dangerous and forpresenting policymakers with the promise of a silver bullet that may slow attempts to reduce emissions.

  • The New Carbon Economy Consortium is an initiative of academic institutions, national laboratories, and NGOs looking to use emerging technologies to transform the economy by positively utilizing carbon.

  • The United States and Norway are at the forefront of the drive for carbon capture and storage (CCS), but so far the European Commission has been lukewarm about this technology.

  • Y Combinator, the tech incubator famous for kick-starting companies like AirBnB and DropBox, is now pouring millions of dollars into funding geoengineering solutions.

  • Geoscientists, ecologists and urban planners are working to optimize soil to absorb higher amounts of carbon dioxide in both agriculture and urban environments.

  • Other nascent technologies receiving funding include genetically engineered phytoplankton, direct air capture, marine cloud brightening and electro-geochemistry.

  • Despite increasing interest in geoengineering solutions, a growing number of experts are warning about potential dangers associated with the technology, including unknown and potentially catastrophic side effects, high costs, and the fragmentation of international efforts on greenhouse gas reduction.

“Geoengineering is the brave-new-world of climate mitigation. While the scientific jury is still out on risk and effectiveness, what’s already becoming clear from our initial research is that any silver-bullet climate solution brings with it an additional “moral hazard” that it may desensitize the general public to climate risk and sap their motivation to support decisive mitigation.”
Victoria Campbell-Árvai, a Research Scientist at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability

Source: IASS

What to Expect in 2019

We expect to see billions of dollars of additional damage and many more lives lost due to extreme weather events. Resilience, adaptation and liability regarding infrastructure that is ill prepared for increasingly extreme weather will be front and center for both governments and business. Companies will accelerate action to increase climate preparedness in both direct operations and their supply chains. Geoengineering technologies could see greater investment from the private sector and renewed discussion at the policy level.

What This Means for Business

  • Prioritize investment in climate resilience and adaptation

    Companies need to increase the resilience of their supply chains and direct operations. This will require investment in climate risk assessments and scenario planning.

  • Shape policy and lobby governments for more climate action

    Companies need to play a more active part in national and global efforts to implement the Paris Agreement and exert greater pressure on governments to limit global warming. This means advocating for actions like a price on carbon, aggressive deployment of renewables and electric vehicles, and climate smart agriculture solutions.

  • Increase Collaboration Efforts to Scale Low Carbon Economy Solutions

    Rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the resilience of infrastructure will only be achieved through multi-sector collaboration. Companies need to work with corporate peers, governments, NGOs and others to leverage the diverse skills required to scale low carbon economy solutions in all industries.

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