Extreme temperatures keep affecting wheat production in Europe

Yet another year, climate change shows its effect more vividly on European summer. Extreme temperatures have devastated corn fields in North Europe, while a combination of droughts and high intensity rains on the Black Sea area have plunged production estimations, with the consequent potential of a price raise.

France, main EU producer, has also been experimenting extreme meteorological situations, which forced analysts to take their production estimations down to 34 million tons, almost 3 million less than last year.

As we follow harvest path to North Germany (second biggest corn producer in the European Union, right behind France), more and more evidence of damage on the crops arise, leading to a reiterative cut on the production forecasts for the EU joint corn output.

“Situation is catastrophic in northern Europe” recently said Andree Defois, president of Strategie Grains, the company of reference regarding grain and oilseed markets in Europe.

The consultancy cut off again few weeks ago its estimation for soft wheat’s harvest in Europe for the year, setting it under the 130 million tons, which is a six year minimum, and Defois confirmed that most likely it will be revised again.

Map of droughts in July 2018, JRC European Drought Observatory

Poland wheat production is also struggling: droughts at the beginning of summer and the effects of the recent heatwave mean that the country’s production may fall over 8%, to a total of 10.7 tons, according to Wojtek Sabarinski, analyst for Sparks Polska.

In the meantime, United Kingdom prays to have it better than its neighbours, has also estimated that this year’s output will be a 5 years low.

The Scandinavian and Baltic regions have not been able to escape this weather craziness either: for instance, Sweden’s production has fallen around a remarkable 40% so far.

European prices have risen over 15% in the last month, reaching its peak price in the last 4 years: 208.5 €/ton, in consonance with an increasing concern worldwide regarding wheat supply.

Thus, the repercussion of European situation it’s going to be noticed all around the globe. Considering that the EU as a collective is the main wheat producer in the world, and that the forecasts for production have fallen for the main four producers (France, Germany, UK and Poland), shortage in supply or a very noticeable increase on prices to readjust equilibrium may be expected.

The implications of this situation are very straight forward: the price rice in such a basic product as wheat will definitely be felt throughout the agro-alimentary sector. While clearly being bad news, both for Europe and for consumers, we can only hope governments take note of the “not-so-gentle” pushes that nature keeps on giving us. Global warming is becoming everyday a more tangible problem, and the longer we take to seriously tackle it the more it will cost us.

Current carbon approach can be insufficient to achieve Paris Goals, experts say

Nowadays models’ trust into dealing with climate change by using “negative emissions” technologies, such as CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage), may be into question, according to latter news.

A recent report from the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) claimed that the current state of technology cannot compensate for the actual amount of emissions, even with the forecasted cuts and reduction on them.

“We cannot trust technology to come to rescue,” are words from Michael Norton, a science and engineering professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TITech). “We need to reduce our emissions as rapidly as possible.”

Nonetheless, since the efforts to lessen the use of fossil fuels seem to be insufficient, the attention that researchers are giving to capture climate pollution is consistently growing: alternatives like fertilising the oceans with iron or planting more carbon-absorbing trees keep popping up and taking the issue forward.

Problem is, according to the scientific community, that much of the needed technology is still under test and not for the open public, meaning its actual reach capability is way lower than what it should be according to both its potential and the scale needed. For instance, it has been estimated that more than 12 gigatons of carbon dioxide would need to be removed from the atmosphere each year; however, current situation of technology would get to eliminate just a fraction of that.

Furthermore, Norton pointed out that the technique required to store that captured carbon below ground is still far from being viable in real life, and showing a slow progress. “Science is not actually making much headway at all”, added.

Definitely one of the roots of the slow development of this sector is the shortage of economic incentives to actually carry the industry forward. Probably the most flagrant sign of it is the absence of a carbon tax: the fact that most emitters of carbon pollution do not actually pay for that makes it so that they lack a real incentive to actually consider these technologies or to work on cutting their emissions.

Nevertheless, despite the lack of progress on the specific sector of carbon capture and storage from both economical and technical sides, it is still researchers’ duty to keep investigating them. Their relevance is going to grow steadily as time goes on and humanity’s effect on the environment stays increasing, worsening also nature’s reactions to our footprint: longer droughts, more devastating floods, a general rising on the sea level… “Every tool in our toolbox may be necessary in the second half of the century to tackle climate change”, warned Norton.

 

 

You can find the original report here:  https://easac.eu/publications/details/easac-net/

Better Finance, Better World: how to make the Sustainable Development Goals more “investable” for commercial players

Today, January 24th, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission presented a  consultation version of the paper Better Finance, Better World at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The commission has set up a taskforce to consider how to deploy blended finance more effectively and how to encourage growth in the sector. That would make the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations more “investable” for commercial players.

What is blended finance?

Blended finance is  the strategic use of development finance and philanthropic funds to mobilize private capital flows to emerging and frontier markets, resulting in positive results for both investors and communities. Blended finance offers the possibility to scale up commercial financing for developing countries and to channel such financing toward investments with development impact.

In the last 5 years, the blended finance market doubled in size but is still much fragmented. In the next 3-4 years it could double again. Investments are supposed to increase and become more innovative, bespoken and less fragmented (each one with $1-10 billion of capital). Moreover, private actors’ awareness about the positive effects of blended finance is necessary to increase its potential. Benefits will come in terms of portfolio diversification and lower credit losses.

The role of financial institutions

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are institutions created by a group of countries, while Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) include microfinance institutions, community development financial institution and revolving loan funds. They both play a central role in scaling up the blended finance market, providing financing and professional advising for the purpose of development.

At the moment, for every dollar, they mobilise less than $1 of private capital. This mobilisation ratio would need to more than double over the next decade in order to get the financing target. Increasing these ratios will likely shift portfolios more toward infrastructure investment and toward more stable middle-income countries. But it could also free up additional development capital for frontier, low-income countries and high additionality projects.

Potential of blended finance for developing countries

In fact, capital will not be a constraint for developing countries anymore. Instead, performance differentiation over the next decade is more likely between those developing countries that get policy and institutional mechanisms right, versus those that are slower to adapt. Developing countries that prioritise sound policies and institutional capacity can build stable project pipelines, particularly using blended finance institutions which can link these policies to sectoral strategies, investment plans and sustainability standards.

Blended finance may reveal itself as a major opportunity for the world to increase its rate of growth, deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and strengthen long-term returns for savers.

The entire paper is available at the following link and open to consultation. The Commission will welcome every feedback and input on developing the action plan until 16 March 2018 and publish the final version of the paper at the April meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

We Are Still In! – United States is much more than Trump

As probably many of you already know, Donald Trump announced this summer he will pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. Only two countries were not part of the agreement: Syria and Nicaragua,  for very different reasons. But now they are in as well and United States results as the only country that is not willing to cooperate with the rest of the world for the climate problem.

US, as the world’s largest economy and second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, were playing a leadership role within the agreement. Now they are losing not only the opportunity to guide the international debate about climate change, but also their credibility and reputation.

Nevertheless, under the UN’s legal processes the withdrawal cannot be really effectively until 2020. The prospective date for US withdrawal falls on the day after the presidential election that year. Until then, the US remains a participant in the accord.

Despite an important and globally significant political move, the Trump’s decision does not change the situation so radically – neither for United States nor for the global coalition. The Paris Agreement does not set any internationally binding targets for the CO2 emissions reduction. Each country has voluntarily defined its national committment (26-28% emissions reduction within 2025, with respect to the emissions level in 2005 for the United States) and there are no fines to be paid in case of failure.

Moreover, United States is also still taking part in the discussions for the implementation of the global and national committments. In fact, president Trump sent a delegation to Bonn that tried to continue to shape the rules of the Agreement. Unfortunately, the people registered by the government for the official delegation were only 48 (nothing compared to the 161 people from Canada).

But someone else was present to honor the deal…

Another import effect of the US withdrawal was an unparalleled wave of support for the treaty from many US states, cities and businesses which have pledged to honor the Paris deal. Even if the United States is the only developed country not setting up a pavilion at the COP23 summit, a rival group of US governors, mayors and business leaders, called the We Are Still In coalition, were present with the “US Climate Action Centre” pavilion, the largest one of the summit. It was led by California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Over one hundred prominent leaders from US states and local governments, private sector and academia were present at the pavilion, representing over half of all Americans and around $6.2 trillion of the US economy (still the biggest economy at the summit, not considering China).

The We Are Still In network, in coordination with other 30 organizations, hosted 44 events and played an active role in defining the “non-federal” climate action in order to meet the U.S. emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. You can find all the details about the composition, the aim and the pledge assumed by the coalition on its official page (https://www.wearestillin.com/). What I care to highlight here is the power of the subnational cooperation in a country where the national government has proved to be completely unconcerned about the climate problem. We Are Still In is a perfect example of the potential of both sub-national governments and private agents, such as firms, organizations and citizens, in tackling global problems and voluntarily committing themselves to cooperate in fighting climate change.

Highlights from COP23 – a brief explanation of the key outcomes and the plans for the future

The 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Bonn, Germany, from 6 to 17 November 2017 under the presidency of the Government of Fiji.

It is the first time that a COP is presided over by a small Pacific island developing country that is facing an existential threat from global warming. Fiji’s presidency aimed at raising awareness about the situation of Pacific Island Countries that are among the most affected by the impacts of climate change.

The Conference was organized in two zones: the “Bula Zone”, where negotiations between governments took place, and the “Bonn Zone” dedicated to climate action events (high-level events, side-events, exhibits and delegation pavilions).

COP23 had as a major objective to define rules and framework to translate the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement into action. The Paris Agreement is an international agreement to reduce global warming emissions and limit the increase in global temperature to “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels”. It was adopted in 2015 at COP21 in Paris and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

 

Some key outcomes from COP23

Fiji Momentum for Implementation

The 23rd COP closed on Saturday 18 November, after a night of negotiations, with the adoption of the “Fiji Momentum for Implementation”, a document that aims to advance the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement, in order to complete the Work Programme by 2018, and prepare the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue. In addition, the document contains some provisions on “pre-2020 implementation and ambition”.

Talanoa Dialogue

As agreed in Paris in 2015 and confirmed at COP23, the Facilitative Dialogue, renamed as Talanoa Dialogue, will start in January 2018. The word “Talanoa” is used in Fiji and the Pacific to define a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue”. The purpose of Talanoa is to “share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions, which are for the collective good”.

The Dialogue is a process through which all countries will take stock of their collective efforts towards the Paris Agreement’s objectives and will revise their ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (their nationally determined contributions – NDCs). The Dialogue will close at the end of COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

 

Local Communities and Indigenous People’s Platform and Gender Action Plan

Several decisions were adopted at COP23, including the decision to operationalize the Local Communities and Indigenous People’s Platform. The platform will be a way to “strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples related to addressing and responding to climate change” and to increase their involvement in climate negotiations.

Moreover, on 13 November, the Conference adopted the decision to establish a gender action plan to enhance the participation of women in UNFCCC processes recognising their critical role in climate action.

 

Ocean Pathway Partnership and Powering Past Coal Alliance

Two important initiatives were launched at COP23: the Ocean Pathway Partnership, which highlights the critical relationship between the ocean and climate and promotes action for a healthy ocean; and the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition that aims at accelerating the phase-out of coal in a “sustainable and economically inclusive way”.

The RAIN Project

Climate change is challenging the world with more extreme weather events. As we keep altering the environment and its fragile equilibrium we will face heavier rainfalls, storms and fires. These events contribute to damage the human activities that directly rely on the environment, like agriculture. Additionally, energy transport and communication infrastructures are at serious risk creating large negative economic impacts.

Weather forecasts play an important role in the planning of many human activities, but as weather events become more unpredictable it is of increasing importance to have better tools to be ready in case of such catastrophes.

It is in this scenario that the RAIN (Risk Analysis of Infrastructure Networks) project has born, with the help of European funds. The project has expertise in climatology, operational analysis, transportation economics, risk analysis and mitigation, emergency planning, transportation engineering as well as engineering design and assessment. It aims at providing more robust and reliable informations about weather events, especially for infrastructure operators. The results of the project will help decision making in the long term,  both improving new infrastructure development as well as protecting existing infrastructure against climate change.

The RAIN team use data from official weather records to analyse events and the associated weather forecasts, with the scope to develop more accurate weather forecasts.

The project has three main objectives:

Identification of extreme weather events to be analysed by RAIN, by defining appropriate intensity thresholds and by taking into account regional differences in vulnerability and climate.

Assessment of the present state-of-the-art forecast systems for extreme weather and their characteristics, to address and estimate their predictive skill.

Assessment of the frequency of weather hazards throughout Europe for both the present and future climate

Climate is changing and we have scarse information about how really it will evolve. We need more accurate instruments to prevent and minimise the impact of the extreme events to which we will be surely expose in the coming years. This project will to create new operational response strategies that we desperately need.

For more information have a look at www.rain-project.eu 

Climategate: Why we need more media support

Today the power of the media is so strong than ever before. Thanks to social networks, podcasts and off-line streaming services we are constantly hit by news from everywhere.

We can not deny the fact that the media have the power to shape people’s opinions about a certain fact. Moreover, the media coverage around an event decrease or increase the sense of priority we give to that particular event.

Now, we all know that climate change or global warming are on the top of the world’s priority, or at least they should be. But, how do media act with respect to these issues? Are the media giving enough importance to the environmental problems of our planet? Are they doing enough efforts to align people’s idea to what the entire scientific community so strongly is shouting?

The answer presented is not satisfying at all!

Last year, 2015, the biggest media, such as ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox aired approximately 146 minutes of climate change coverage on their evening and Sunday news shows. Compared with 2014, there has been a 5% drop in coverage. This, despite the fact that 2015 has been a big year full of significant actions for climate change; Paris Summit, Pope Francis’ speak are just few examples.

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Okey, we can understand that maybe speaking about climate change does not increase TV audience, and that there are also other topics that must be covered. News media are a business and they must follow more attractive news; right?!

However, there is another huge problem here.

In 2015 Sunday Shows hosted more programs with climate science denial than in 2014. In 2014, the Sunday shows aired four segments that included climate science denial. In 2015, that number increased to six segments. Climate denial surfaced in 50 percent of the climate-related segments on NBC’s Meet the Press(three out of six segments), 17 percent of the climate-related segments on CBS’ Face the Nation (one out of six segments), and 14 percent of the climate-related segments on Fox News Sunday (two out of 14 segments). ABC’s This Week did not feature any climate science denial, but the program only addressed climate change in two segments all year.  [Media Matters, 1/28/15]

 

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Well, we live in a democratic world and people have the right to deny a fact even if is a scientific fact! Still, is unacceptable from a TV channel, watched by millions, to give more space and time to who deny these facts! In this way they are sowing doubts in people mind about climate change, when the scientific community at all agree that there is nothing to doubt at all.

The fight against climate change has always had its biggest opponents in climate change deniers, and they have not been  defeated yet. Not to forget, is very likely that United States may have as next president a climate change denier too! What is more scary?

 

Luckily, if mainstream media tend to be cautious and prefer not to take a strong commitment in the climate change battle, there are good news. Many big voices out there have spoken out loud in favour of the climate change battle, from politicians to singers, from writers to actors, there is an increasing number of people even not involved in governments that have taken action. And is to them we have to give the merit that more people are environmental concerned.

If the media do not want to raise public awareness about climate change, it is time for us to do that. Speak to your  neighbours, share a video or an article on your Facebook timeline, anything can be useful, because if you can just reach one person today, he/she is going to make a huge difference in this fight.

Earthquakes and Climate Change: could they be connected?

Just few days ago central Italy has been struck by a strong earthquake of 6.4 magnitude causing hundreds causalities and millions of euro of damages, destroying to the ground villages in the affected area.

The central part of Italy is a high risk zone for earthquakes, however, earthquakes are more frequent than before.

The idea that climate change can cause earthquakes looks, at a first glance, ridiculous. Indeed, most of us think that climate change affects just global temperature, sea levels and ice melting speed. However, that is just part of the whole story.

In a study conducted by UCL Professor Bill McGuire, whose findings are reported in his book Waking the Giant, is explained how climate change can trigger earthquakes, tsunami and volcanoes eruptions.

The earth surface comprehends three main layers the crust, the mantle and a middle section called the astenosphere. The latter it can be thought as a plastic material between the other two. The movement that runs up the three causes the shakes that sometimes turn out as earthquakes and other major seismic movements.

In some regions the inner earth movement is stopped by the presence for example of ice caps, as in Alaska or in Greenland. The big ice-cap works as a force that pushes down the crust and the layers can’t move. Still, they accumulate strain because of the earth’s movement. When ice cap melts, because of climate change, the pressure is released and the crust is bounced back by the inner earth forces. In results you have stronger shakes thank before in the same area, as the previous ice weight has been removed.

Supporting this theory there data that show more frequent and more powerful earth’s movement in the two regions which in the last two decades have seen a tremendous resizing of their ice-cap. Geologist also, have recorded that the faults are lot more active now than before.

Now, this theory it may be proven for arctic area, but there are many area, like in center Italy that are not covered by ice. Although, also more severe rainfalls and floods can produce the same effects. How? More liters of water pour in the underground basins, which consequently adding more pressure on the faults. As the rainfalls get more severe, this could trigger more earthquakes.

Surely, deeper studies must be carried out. But, if is true that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world, we shall not look surprised if they will confirm the theory ultimately.

Climate Change vs. Sports

We have been speaking about sustainability in Rio Olympic Games. Sustainability-in-Rio

Today we want to open your eyes on another issue, the inside competition atlethes are conducting against climate change. No one else more than olympians and their performances is being affected by climate change.

Extreeme temperature is crtical to every sport, mostly outodoor ones. Atlethes are at a risk of heartstoke and lost of concentration. On the top of that, in these contrary conditions less records are expected to be hit.

A report of  Observatorio do Clima, a Brazilian civil society group said that :”Because of warming, sport will never be the same again, and fewer records than in previous games are likely to fall as a result”.

Already organisers of the games are thinking to take some action like hosting marathons during the night with cooler temperature.

Will climate change also cut out some countries from hosting next games? Well, that’s very likely!

A study by university of Waterloo found out, as the chart shows, that cities which previously hosted the Winter Olympics may be unsuitable to host the games in the coming decades due to climate change.

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CREDIT:UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO

Since Sochi, many athletes signed a petition urging world leaders to take action on climate change. Moreover, the new campaign called “1.5°C, the record we cannot break” promoted by the Climate Vulnerable Forum,  has emerged prior to the Rio Olympics, asserting that not all records, especially global temperatures, should be celebrated when they fall.

Now the biggest question is : for how long sports can surivive climate change?

Climate Change: A potential new financial crisis?

Can the Climate Change Crisis lead to a new financial crisis?

It must be clear climate change will affect every aspect of our society and economy! This includes the stock market as well! According to a study conducted by the Economist there is a huge cost associated with climate change for the financial players. The value at risk from climate change estimated is 4.2$ trillion to the 2100 horizon. We must recall that the current total manageable assets globally are 143$ trillion. However to give you a rough idea,  4.2$trn are as much as Japan’s entire GDP!

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What is the value at risk?

The value at risk (VaR) is a measure of the risk of investments. It estimates how much a set of investments might lose, given normal market conditions, in a set time period such as a day.

However, when it involves climate change impact, there is one thing to highlight: the losses are irreversible and permanent!

The financial crisis we have experienced so far brought about catastrophic aftermaths, but we have been more or less been able to recover that losses, Here there will be no chance of doing that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the risk is concrete many have already taken action: France amended a law requiring managers to take into account in their own portfolios the climate-related risks. Many pension funds are using the Investing, Engaging and Divesting formula. Investors are identifying companies that best will benefit from a transition to a low-carbon economy and that are environmentally concerned.  Moreover, they are using engagement as a tool to change the way to do business in the company they invest in, that still have carbon-intensive activities. Lastly the are cutting assets in companies that represent high climate change risk in the long and short term, giving a stark signal to the public as well!

Governments as well are required to take action, as their cost is considerably higher than the private sector and they will experience  more difficulties in making their portfolios more environment-friendly.

 
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As the Economist’s study concludes :“there is a clear need for co-ordinated action by regulators, governments and institutional investors in order to address the long-term, systemic risks at play. Climate risks need to be assessed, disclosed and, where feasible, mitigated.”