Mass starvation, extinctions, disasters: the new IPCC report’s grim predictions, and why adaptation efforts are falling behind
Given the epic scale on which climate change is playing out, it is likely to become one of the defining investment opportunities of this century. The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report is useful because it chalks out not only the scale of change but also the wide range of adaptations that will be necessary to deal with this change. To our mind, it is but inevitable that well prepared investors will seek to capitalise on this. The authors of this piece featured in The Conversation are amongst the key architects of the IPCC report and therefore well placed to give us the critical takeaways from this report:
“At 1.5℃ warming above pre-industrial levels, the new report projects that, for example, children under 12 will experience a fourfold increase in natural disasters in their lifetime, and up to 14% of all species assessed will likely face a very high risk of extinction. This is our best-case scenario.
Impacts such as these will not be evenly spread, with countries in Africa, Asia and low-lying island nations set to be hardest hit. Yet these nations are among the least able to adapt….
Even if we manage to reduce global emissions and meet the Paris Agreement target of only temporarily exceeding 1.5℃ this century, this could still have severe and potentially irreversible impacts, although less so than for higher temperature rises.
This includes species extinction, especially in low-lying islands and mountainous areas. Ice sheets will further break down in Greenland, West Antarctica and now even East Antarctica, raising global sea levels about half a metre or more by 2100.”
Whilst the media is prone to presenting such reports in apocalyptic terms, we at Marcellus are more interested in understanding the investment opportunities. Broadly speaking these fall into three categories. The first category is water scarcity: “up to 3 billion people are projected to experience chronic water scarcity due to droughts at 2℃ warming, and up to 4 billion at 4℃ warming, mostly across the subtropics to mid-latitudes…
For example, in many subtropical and mid-latitude regions such as the Mediterranean, Chile and Mexico, hot temperature and drought conditions are likely to increase. Irrigation is obviously an adaptation option for high-value crops.
However, the likely lower water availability and increased demand across sectors will reduce water allocations, and constrain irrigation options. What’s more, the efficiency of water use will reduce under hotter, dryer conditions with lower relative humidity of the air. This means for a given amount of water, there’ll be less benefit to crop growth or even for other sectors, such as for cooling power stations.” (Click here for our webinar with water expert Mridula Ramesh on the opportunities & threats around water scarcity: https://marcellus.in/video/
The second area in changes in cropping & agricultural practices and food production as the climate changes: “Across Africa, for example, the report found climate change has already reduced agricultural productivity growth by 34% since 1961 – more than any other region on the planet. Further warming will shorten growing seasons and the availability of water. In particular, warming above 2℃ will result in significant yield reductions for staple crops across most of the continent.
By 2050, reduced fish harvests could leave up to 70 million people in Africa vulnerable to iron deficiencies, up to 188 million for vitamin A deficiencies, and 285 million for vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.”
The third area is fire adaptation (as a drier, hotter planer will necessarily be more fire prone): “For example, higher temperatures and lower rainfall projected for southern Australia will lower the amount of carbon forests can soak up, because the forests’ growth rate will reduce and more fires will lead to greater losses. Alongside enhanced fire management, choosing a mix of plant species that are adapted to a warmer climate could help offset some of these effects.”