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Editor’s Note: This infographic is part of the ICN “What’s at Stake” series highlighting the key impacts associated with climate change. See also What’s at Stake for the World’s Coasts.
Warming temperatures, rising seas, ocean acidification, changes to regional weather patterns—nearly every consequence of climate change threatens the world’s 8.7 million species in some way. About half of flora and fauna are already on the move in search of cooler climes. Even keeping global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius—the target for international climate treaty talks—will force many species to the brink of extinction, threatening food supplies, human health, economies and communities. Here is a rundown of just how big an impact climate change could have on the natural world.
Credit: inside climate news
Politicians must act to cap global warming when they meet at a United Nations summit at the end of the year as the financial and humanitarian consequences of natural catastrophes become ever clearer, reinsurers meeting at an industry conference said.
The $600 billion reinsurance industry helps insurance companies pay damage claims from hurricanes, floods or earthquakes and can help people and companies get back on their feet after a disaster.
The UN’s climate boss warned this week that national promises to cut emissions so far would cap warming at an unacceptably high level, heightening concerns in the insurance industry about politicians’ lack of resolve.
“Definitely we expect political courage to move in a direction that shows responsibility towards future generations and a certain interest in defending the sustainability of this planet,” Swiss Re’s Chief Executive, Michel Lies, told a news conference.
Swiss Re data shows natural disasters caused an average $180 billion in economic damage per year over the last decade, of which 70 percent was uninsured.
Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said big natural catastrophes can also lead to cuts in sovereign credit ratings — making it more expensive for governments to borrow money — with Latin America and the Caribbean most at risk.
These conclusions should help concentrate minds at the climate talks starting in Paris on Nov. 30, reinsurers said.
“What we can bring to the table is a credible price tag for the decisions that are taken or not taken, making sure everybody understands that in the short term you may not take a decision but you will definitely pay a price in the long term,” Lies said.
Weather researchers say global warming will result in more frequent and intense heatwaves, precipitation and storms. Warming needs to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to avoid the most devastating consequences in the form of droughts and rising sea levels, scientists say.
“Even if this goal is not fully reached, every step in this direction is better than no result at all,” said Peter Hoeppe, head of Geo Risks Research at reinsurer Munich Re.
In the meantime, there must be increasing focus on preventive measures such as flood defences that can help dampen the rise in insurance premiums in the medium to long term, Hoeppe said.
Insurers and Group of Seven industrialized countries are working to expand the availability of insurance to an additional 400 million people in developing countries considered at high risk.
“Climate change is happening, no question,” said XL Group’s Chief Executive, Mike McGavick.
“Insurers and reinsurers have to be at the forefront of transferring that risk,” McGavick said.
Credit: St. Louis Post Dispatch
A Global Research Project
A Word About Temperatures
What the Lines Show
Credit: Bloomberg Business
Ruth Spencer is a pioneer in the field of solar energy. She promotes renewable technologies to communities throughout her homeland of Antigua and Barbuda, playing a small but important part in helping the country achieve its goal of a 20-percent reduction in the use of fossil fuels by 2020.
She also believes that small non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a crucial role to play in the bigger projects aimed at tackling the problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas.
Spencer, who serves as National Focal Point for the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-Small Grants Programme (SGP) in Antigua and Barbuda, has been at the forefront of an initiative to bring representatives of civil society, business owners and NGOs together to educate them about the dangers posed by climate change.
“The GEF/SGP is going to be the delivery mechanism to get to the communities, preparing them well in advance for what is to come,” she told IPS.
The GEF Small Grants Programme in the Eastern Caribbean is administered by the United Nations office in Barbados.
“Since climate change is heavily impacting the twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda, it is important that we bring all the stakeholders together,” said Spencer, a Yale development economist who also coordinates the East Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network funded by the German government.
“The coastal developments are very much at risk and we wanted to share the findings of the IPCC report with them to let them see for themselves what all these scientists are saying,” Spencer told IPS.
“We are in a small island so we have to build synergies, we have to network, we have to partner to assist each other. By providing the information, they can be aware and we are going to continue doing follow up….so together we can tackle the problem in a holistic manner,” she added.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sent governments a final draft of its synthesis report, which paints a harsh picture of what is causing global warming and what it will do to humans and the environment. It also describes what can be done about it.
Ruleta Camacho, project coordinator for the sustainable island resource management mechanism within Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of the Environment, told IPS there is documented observation of sea level rise which has resulted in coastal erosion and infrastructure destruction on the coastline.
She said there is also evidence of ocean acidification and coral bleaching, an increase in the prevalence of extreme weather events – extreme drought conditions and extreme rainfall events – all of which affect the country’s vital tourism industry.
“The drought and the rainfall events have impacts on the tourism sector because it impacts the ancillary services – the drought affects your productivity of local food products as well as your supply of water to the hotel industry,” she said.
“And then you have the rainfall events impacting the flooding so you have days where you cannot access certain sites and you have flood conditions which affect not only the hotels in terms of the guests but it also affects the staff that work at the hotels. If we get a direct hit from a storm we have significant instant dropoff in the productivity levels in the hotel sector.”
Antigua and Barbuda, which is known for its sandy beaches and luxurious resorts, draws nearly one million visitors each year. Tourism accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and employs nearly 90 percent of the population.
Like Camacho, Ediniz Norde, an environment officer, believes sea level rise is likely to worsen existing environmental stresses such as a scarcity of freshwater for drinking and other uses.
“Many years ago in St. John’s we had seawater intrusion all the way up to Tanner Street. It cut the street in half. It used to be a whole street and now there is a big gutter running through it, a ship was lodged in Tanner Street,” she recalled.
“Now it only shows if we have these levels of sea water rising that this is going to be a reality here in Antigua and Barbuda,” Norde told IPS. “This is how far the water can get and this is how much of our environment, of our earth space that we can lose in St. John’s. It’s a reality that we won’t be able to shy away from if we don’t act now.”
As the earth’s climate continues to warm, rainfall in Antigua and Barbuda is projected to decrease, and winds and rainfall associated with episodic hurricanes are projected to become more intense. Scientists say these changes would likely amplify the impact of sea level rise on the islands.
But Camacho said climate change presents opportunities for Antigua and Barbuda and the country must do its part to implement mitigation measures.
She explained that early moves towards mitigation and building renewable energy infrastructure can bring long-term economic benefits.
“If we retrain our population early enough in terms of our technical expertise and getting into the renewable market, we can actually lead the way in the Caribbean and we can offer services to other Caribbean countries and that’s a positive economic step,” she said.
“Additionally, the quicker we get into the renewable market, the lower our energy cost will be and if we can get our energy costs down, it opens us for economic productivity in other sectors, not just tourism.
“If we can get our electricity costs down we can have financial resources that would have gone toward your electricity bills freed up for improvement of the [tourism] industry and you can have a better product being offered,” she added.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Monday he would use his six month term as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to deal with the deleterious effects climate change is having on the socio-economic future of the 15-member bloc.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica are now emerging from the effects of a weather system that left a trail of death and destruction over the Christmas holidays.
Caribbean countries have also had to deal with the annual hurricane season and in many cases, like in Haiti, unseasonal rains that cause widespread devastation.
“The big issue…is global warming, climate change. We are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” he said making reference to the floods in April last year and the Christmas Eve rains that resulted in the deaths of nine people and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages here.
“There are lots of monies which countries talk about for adaptation and mitigation to climate change. But I haven’t seen the money yet and we have to use our diplomacy as a region and we have to be aggressive with our climate change center in Belize.
“In my term as chairman of CARICOM this is one of the issues which you will recall I said earlier on…I want dealt with during my term in a continued serious and structured way, (and it) has to deal with the deleterious effect of climate change and to get the requisite responses from the international community in relation to this matter”.
Gonsalves told a news conference that the region does not contribute “anything to these man made weather systems, these problems with putting so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“We are …on the front line,” he said, adding that “this is an issue which is big”.
Gonsalves said that efforts were now underway to stage an international donors’ conference to help the three affected islands recover and rebuild their battered infrastructures.
He said he had already received a letter from Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who is also chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), outlining plans for an international donors’ conference.
“There is a letter which Baldwin sent to me which I have reviewed and make one or two slight alterations and suggestions, but we have to prepare for a donors’ conference well, maybe in March may be in February… but we have to prepare for it well so that we can get the donors to make pledges,” he said, recalling a similar conference had taken place to help Grenada after it was battered by a recent hurricane.
“I know some of the donors came through and others did not, but at least we need to do that to lift the profile,” Gonsalves said.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister told reporters that an insurance scheme organized through the World Bank, to which all the Caribbean countries contribute, does not go far enough.
“To the extent that the monies you get from the Catastrophic Relief Insurance System is fairly minimal, but of course every little bit helps,” he said.
Gonsalves said he had already written to the leaders of several countries and was now waiting to see “what kind of grant assistance we can get because we really need grants preferably.
“The World Bank will give soft loan monies, the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) will give soft loan monies, the European Union will give grants, Venezuela will give grants, (and) Taiwan will give grants”.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a guidance document today that calls for more to be done to capitalize on agriculture’s potential to mitigate climate change.
The organization says agriculture is directly responsible for over 10 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But improved farming practices offer the possibility of reducing those emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon, while at the same time increasing the resilience of production systems, says the document, National planning for GHG mitigation in agriculture, published by FAO’s Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme (MICCA).
Yet progress in drawing up agricultural GHG mitigation plans — as well as in allocating financing to climate change projects in the agriculture sector — is falling short of what is needed, cautions FAO.
The document aims to help address these shortfalls by providing step-wise advice and examples of national planning for GHG mitigation in food production systems, as well as highlighting opportunities for developing countries to secure climate financing for agriculture.
Examples from existing mitigation planning processes in developing countries illustrate options for addressing key planning elements in country-specific ways, and approaches to involving smallholder farmers in the planning process are highlighted as well.
Key steps, guiding principles
Although opportunities and planning processes will vary from country to country based on local circumstances, a number of general principals hold true, FAO says.
First, mitigation actions in agriculture should be pursued within the context supporting agricultural development and food security, with planners clarifying from the start how mitigation can contribute to national development goals.
Participatory planning and cross-sectoral cooperation will be important to the success of mitigation plans, the report adds. Farmers and other stakeholders should be involved in setting objectives, actions and targets, both to generate support for and to improve the effectiveness of planned policies.
To access international and domestic financing, plans should be very specific regarding how to assess the mitigation potential of proposed policies and measures. Sound systems for measuring the impacts of policies and reporting other performance metrics are also necessary when seeking financing for projects.
Another key step is to identify the barriers that impede adoption of mitigation practices by farmers. Many agricultural practices that can mitigate climate change are already widely known — effective policies need to identify why farmers may not be adapting them, work to remove barriers, and facilitate their wider use.
Also crucial: determining how mitigation policies and measures will be financed.
Some countries are supporting agricultural mitigation activities primarily through domestic fiscal budget lines and policies that leverage private investment, the report notes. For many countries, however, an important goal of mitigation planning is to attract international financial support, in order to match the priorities of international climate finance institutions to specific parts of domestic mitigation plans.