UN survival plan offers new hope for the planet

UN survival plan offers new hope for the planet

By Tim Radford

A bold UN survival plan could put nature back in charge of the Earth − and researchers explain why that should happen.

LONDON, 26 February, 2021 − UN chiefs want to transform the world by putting nature back at the heart of global decision-making, arguing that the global economic shutdown triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to change the planet for the better: for a stable climate, for cleaner air and water, and for a richer natural environment, thanks to the UN survival plan.

The goal? A more sustainable and more equitable world by 2030, a carbon-neutral world by 2050, a curb on global pollution and waste and a halt to ever-accelerating rates of wildlife extinction worldwide.

The methods? One of the first, in Making Peace With Nature, the new United Nations Environment Programme report, will be to incorporate what conservationists call “natural capital” into measures of national economic performance.

That is because forests, savannahs, wetlands and other natural habitats represent wealth, and their loss accelerates poverty. If nations and regions can reverse environmental decline then they can at the same time advance the alleviation of poverty, and secure reliable food and water, and good health, for all.

And to reinforce such arguments, new and entirely separate research continues to underline the UN vision of natural capital as real investment in the services on which all humankind depends.

Vital sanitation need

In 48 cities around the globe, nature provides at least 18% of the sanitation services: creatures in the soils filter and clean around 2.2 million cubic metres of human excrement in the form of pit latrines before it can reach the groundwater table.

Since, in 2017, around one fourth of the global population had no access to sanitation facilities, and 14% used toilets that disposed of waste on site, this is not just an important service but a vital one: vital to human health.

The same research team reports in the journal One Earth that − since more than 892 million people worldwide in effect release excrement into holes in the ground − then nature must sanitise more than 41 million tonnes of human waste every year before it gets into the groundwater. So that’s a service worth US$4.4 billion (£3.14bn) a year, British researchers calculate.

Around 70% of the world’s crops depend on insect pollination, and the range and abundance of insect pollinators is vulnerable to shifts in climate. Importantly, many crops rely on wild pollinators − that is, commercial honey bee colonies cannot always do the trick of turning flowers into fruit, or grain − so what happens to wild insect populations affects what is available for supper.

“The war on nature has left the planet broken. But it guides us by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding programme”

US researchers report in the journal Ecological Applications that they took the case of wild bees and open field tomato crops: these depend on insects that release pollen by vibration, among them bumble bees.

They matched distribution of 15 species and climate data now against predictions for climate change across North America to find that − in the eastern US alone − within the next three to four decades, 11 species of pollinator could be in decline. The implications for food security are inescapable.

And a third study simply looked at what climate change, human population expansion, pollution and demand for freshwater had done to the planet’s rivers and lakes.

French and Chinese scientists report in the journal Science that they had identified what they call “marked changes” in the biodiversity of more than half the world’s rivers and lakes, thanks to human impact.

Of more than 1,000 fish species, 170 were extinct in their natural river basins, at a very conservative estimate. Out of 2,456 river basins, found everywhere except the deserts and the poles, 1,296 of them, covering more than 40% of the planet’s continental surface, and accounting for 37% of the length of the world’s rivers, revealed “deep and spatially distributed anthropogenic impacts.” That is science-speak for loss and defilement.

Lethal heat prospect

Such research − published on an almost daily basis − provides the context in which the latest UNEP report makes its argument. The report identifies a threefold planetary emergency and calls for advances in science and bold policy-making to make lives better both for the poorest in the world, and for nature itself.

It warns that the planet is heading for a warming of at least 3°C by the century’s end; that more than one million species could be heading for extinction; and that pollution-triggered diseases right now deliver an estimated nine million premature deaths each year.

“The war on nature has left the planet broken. But it also guides us to a safe place by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding programme,” says António Guterres, UN secretary general, in the report’s foreword.

“By transforming how we view nature, we can recognise its true value. By reflecting this value in policies, plans and economic systems, we can channel investments into activities that restore nature and are rewarded for it.

“By recognising nature as an indispensable ally, we can unleash human ingenuity in the service of sustainability and secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet.” − Climate News Network

Cover photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash.
This article was originally posted on The Climate News Network.
Climate action offers a hidden peace dividend

Climate action offers a hidden peace dividend

By Patrick Verkooijen & Tawakkol Karman

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

On Feb. 23, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the threat that climate change poses to global peace. The question is no longer whether global warming sparks the flames of conflict; it is about where climate shocks are likely to tip already fragile situations into war or civil strife.

This could occur in the Arctic Circle, where melting ice caps are triggering a scramble for resources, or in the world’s populous and fertile river deltas, turned barren by rising seas, or in the Sahel and the Middle East, regions already blighted by conflict and acute water stress. In every region of the world, climate impacts are “threat multipliers” – they aggravate the risk of conflict, even if they are not directly responsible for instability or strife.

Policy-makers are only now beginning to look at the hidden peace dividend that flows from investing in climate adaptation. The idea makes intuitive sense. It is one our leaders should explore more fully.

We know there is no simple connection between climate change and conflict. But in a world already weakened by COVID-19 and existing climate stresses, we have a moral duty to do everything we can to eliminate or avert future threats to peace. And climate adaptation is something we know how to do. We just don’t do enough of it.

The adaptation gap

A new report by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) estimates the world spends just $30 billion a year on climate adaptation – that is five to 10 times less than the $140 billion-$300 billion a year the UN Environment Programme and others estimate is needed to address climate impacts in the developing world. 

It is also seven times less than the total global cost of climate disasters, which amounted to $210 billion in 2020, according to Munich Re, the global reinsurance house, and only a tiny fraction of the $14.5 trillion in lost annual economic output due to war and civil strife, according to the 2020 Global Peace Index. In the face of the devastating human and economic consequences of war and civil strife, we need a new approach to building peace.

The GCA’s State and Trends in Climate Adaptation 2020 report highlights some of the initiatives that are contributing to regional peace and stability.

In the Arab world, for example, a regional platform for assessing the impact of climate change on water resources is playing a crucial role in defusing potential tensions over water scarcity. The RICCAR platform’s knowledge hub is being used to raise awareness and promote regional co-operation and coordination in water management. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, two-thirds of freshwater resources cross one or more international boundaries, making regional co-operation on water management essential to guarantee peace and security. In this context, the importance of a regional knowledge hub that promotes shared policies for water management and for avoiding conflicts over water cannot be overstated.

Another encouraging story comes from Rwanda, where Christie Nicoson of the University of Uppsala has been studying the impact of climate adaptation programs on the cohesion of communities still traumatized by the 1994 genocide. One particular program worked to reduce vulnerability to heavy rains and mudslides by establishing early-warning and disaster preparedness systems, and by planting trees to prevent soil erosion. Nicoson found that communities were better informed and better able to cope with climate impacts thanks to the program. And by reducing resource stress, climate adaptation is having a positive effect on social cohesion and peace. 

The link to peace

We know it is difficult to establish a direct link between climate adaptation and peace. And we are not touting climate adaptation as a cure all against poverty, social inequalities, weak institutions, the arms trade, religious extremism, or national, regional and ethnic power struggles and rivalries.

But climate adaptation does have a positive contribution to make, both in terms of promoting peace and in removing potential flashpoints for conflict. That is because social justice lies at the heart of successful climate adaptation. And peace, broadly speaking, is a measure of justice, fairness, and wellbeing of society.

Done well, adaptation reduces social exclusion and inequalities by promoting sustainable livelihoods and stronger coping mechanisms against severe climate shocks. Farmers who have access to drought-resistant crops will be less likely to abandon their landholdings when drought strikes. Nature-based solutions, such as tree planting, and good water management reduce the potential for conflict over scarce resources.

The Global Commission on Adaptation has estimated that investing $1.8 trillion in climate adaptation by 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in social, economic and environmental benefits. The peace dividend from climate adaptation investment might be harder to quantify, but it definitely exists. Climate adaptation can help avert conflict by increasing communities’ coping capacities, and by facilitating development and progress toward greater wellbeing. For that reason, it is worth considering as a powerful tool for promoting global peace.

 Tawakkol Karman is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation. 

This article was originally posted on Thomas Reuters Foundations news.
Cover photo by Stefan Muller on ClimateVisuals.
What motivates natural resource policymakers in Africa to take action on climate change?

What motivates natural resource policymakers in Africa to take action on climate change?

Climate services are vital tools for decision makers addressing climate change in developing countries. Science-based seasonal forecasts and accompanying materials can support climate risk management in agriculture, health, water management, energy, and disaster risk reduction.

But in East Africa, natural resource managers have been slow to use climate information services, partly because they are difficult to understand and may not feel relevant for their local planning purposes. A new study published by the journal Risk Analysis suggests that one way to encourage policymakers in East Africa to use climate services more often is to appeal to the motivational factors that influence their professional actions on climate change.

Researchers at the University of Cape Town found that experience with extreme weather events and social norms — external expectations of how one is supposed to feel, behave, or think in particular situations — may play important roles in motivating professional action on climate change.

“Based on our results, aligning climate services with social norms could offer low-hanging fruit for designing more effective climate services interventions,” says climate scientist Anna Steynor, head of climate services at the Climate System Analysis Group, University of Cape Town. For example, messages such as “80 percent of urban planning professionals are using climate information in their planning” could highlight the use of climate information among policy planners and, therefore, encourage the use of climate services by those who aren’t currently utilizing them.

Between September 2018 and January 2019, the team conducted structured surveys of 474 “policy decision influencers” in five East African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The majority of respondents (71 percent) were employed by national and local government ministries. Others worked for trade unions, international development agencies, non-governmental organizations, research organizations, and the private sector.

All of the respondents were involved in some way with natural resource management. “These individuals are an important community because they are an accessible group for introducing adaptation-oriented interventions and are in a position of leadership to drive social adaptations around climate change,” the authors write.

The participants were asked if they had taken general action, as part of their job activities, to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Three items on the survey assessed overall worry about climate change, as risk perceptions have been shown to underlie action on climate change. Other questions were designed to gauge observance of social norms, personal values, psychological closeness to climate change, and experience of extreme weather events. Questions related to psychological closeness pertained to whether participants felt that climate change would have a big impact on them now, personally and on their community.

The results were statistically analyzed using structural equation modeling in order to construct a conceptual explanatory model for professional action. The resulting causal model illustrates the important role that social norms, psychological closeness to climate change, and experience of extreme events play in motivating action. It also elucidates the cascading effects of variables such as age, gender, education and personal values on action.

“Our model provides a framework for prioritizing the different factors that motivate adaptation action,” says Steynor. “We hope it will prompt further research on individual climate change action and encourage behavioral change among policy decision influencers in Africa.”

Read the original story here.

New Report: Climate Change Risk Assessment for the Insurance Industry

New Report: Climate Change Risk Assessment for the Insurance Industry

The Geneva Association Task Force on Climate Change Risk Assessment for the Insurance Industry

The Geneva Association’s new report offers the insurance industry an integrated, decision-making framework for designing climate risk assessment and scenario analysis.

Join their #RiskConversations webinar on 3 March for a discussion of the report’s findings.
Dramatic changes are still needed to pivot the world economy away from carbon-intensive sectors and to reach the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement.
To guide different industries in taking action, the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) raised the need for decision-relevant, consistent and comparable climate information. There is considerable work ahead for the insurance industry to make headway on the TCFD’s recommendations.
In response, The Geneva Association has mobilised a task force of leading experts from the world’s largest insurers, representing the companies of our CEO members. The initiative is working to develop methodologies and tools for climate risk assessment – and build engagement with regulators, rating agencies and the scientific community – to identify the most viable ways forward.
This first report of the task force finds that:

  1. For both P&C and life re/insurers, climate change presents different levels of physical and transition risk to both sides of the balance sheet (liabilities and assets).
  2. Developing climate risk assessment methodologies and tools for insurers is a work in progress, requiring qualitative and quantitative approaches over different time horizons.
  3. Uncertainties associated with transitioning, related to public policies, regulations, technological advancement and markets, will increasingly affect levels of climate change risk and the future risk landscape.
  4. Robust dialogue across insurance companies and with all stakeholders is increasing climate risk awareness, strengthening collaboration and ensuring effective actions are taken.

The task force will continue its work, analysing the insurance regulatory landscape related to climate risk, and conduct a technical ‘deep dive’ to develop methodologies and tools for scenario analysis for the insurance industry.

Read the report here.

Register for the webinar here.

Millions will die if world fails on climate promises

Millions will die if world fails on climate promises

By Tim Radford

Action to keep climate promises could prevent millions of deaths each year. Unless nations try harder, that won’t happen.

LONDON, 16 February, 2021 − Scientists have looked at conditions in just nine of the world’s 200 nations and found that − if the world keeps its Paris climate promises, of containing global heating to “well below” 2°C by 2100 − millions of lives could be saved.

And another team has looked at what nations actually propose to do so far to hit the Paris targets and found that it is not enough: that everybody will have to be 80% more ambitious.

But, though costly, such ambitions would deliver direct rewards. For a start, the consequences of embarking on policies that would seriously reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel potentially catastrophic climate change could lead to better diets in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK and the US: that alone could save 6.1 million lives.

Thanks to the cleaner air that would come with a drastic reduction in fossil fuel combustion, another 1.6 million people could expect to breathe freely for another year. And the shift from private cars to public transport and foot or bicycle journeys would mean another 2.1 million of us could expect to go on benefiting from the additional exercise for another year, every year.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change says in the journal Lancet Planetary Health that it selected the nine nations because they embraced around half the global population and accounted for seven-tenths of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The message is stark. Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year; the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health”

The Countdown also looked at a range of scenarios for action. And the researchers also considered what, so far, those nine nations had promised to do to contain climate change − the international bureaucratic language calls such promises nationally determined contributions, or NDCs − and found them far short of the effective target: right now, the world is heading for a global temperature rise by 2100 of 3°C or more.

And with these higher global average temperatures there will be more devastating and possibly lethal heat waves, more intense and more frequent storms, protracted drought, torrential rain and flooding, and rising sea levels that will intensify erosion and coastal flooding.

The damage that these threaten alone delivers a long-term economic case for concerted global action to shift agricultural emphasis, save natural ecosystems and switch to renewable fuel sources. But the right choice of action could make lives a great deal better as well.

“The message is stark,” said Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Lancet Countdown. “Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year; the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health. We have an opportunity now to place health in the forefront of climate change policies to save even more lives.”

On the same day, a US team published the results of a look at what nations had to do to actually meet the goal chosen at a global conference in Paris in 2015 to contain global heating to no more than 2°C above what had been the long-term average for most of human history.

Avoiding despair

In the last century alone the planet has warmed by more than 1°C, and the last six years have been the warmest six years since records began. The promises made in Paris, if kept, could mean a 1% drop in greenhouse gas emissions every year.

But, scientists say in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, that will not contain global heating to 2°C. To deliver on the promise, the world must reduce emissions by 1.8% a year. That is, the global community will have to try 80% harder.

Some nations are nearer the more ambitious target: China’s declared plans so far would require only a 7% boost. The UK would have to raise its game by 17%. The US − which abandoned the Paris Agreement under former President Trump − has 38% more work to do.

“If you say ‘Everything’s a disaster and we need to radically overhaul society’ there’s a feeling of hopelessness,” said Adrian Raftery of the University of Washington, one of the authors.

“But if we say ‘We need to reduce emissions by 1.8% a year’ that’s a different mindset.” − Climate News Network

This article was originally posted on The Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Maverick Photo Agency, via ClimateVisuals
Marine heatwaves are becoming more common and intense. What can we do to minimize harm?

Marine heatwaves are becoming more common and intense. What can we do to minimize harm?

By Jen Monnier

In the summer of 2015, Laurie Weitkamp was walking on the beach near her coastal Oregon home when she saw something strange: The water was purple. A colony of tunicates, squishy cylindrical critters that rarely come to shore, had congregated in a swarm so thick that you could scoop them out of the water with your hand. “I’d never seen anything like it,” she says.

Weitkamp, a research fisheries biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon, knew that something had been afoot in the northeast part of the Pacific Ocean since the fall of 2013, which was unusually sunny, warm and calm. A mass of warm water stretched from Mexico to Alaska and lingered through 2016, disrupting marine life. Tunicates weren’t the only creature affected; sea nettle jellyfish all but disappeared, while water jellyfish populations moved north to take their place, and young salmon starved to death out at sea, according to a report by Weitkamp and colleagues. Scientists dubbed this event “The Blob.”

Marine heat waves like The Blob have cropped up around the globe more and more often over the past few decades. Scientists expect climate change to make them even more common and long lasting, harming vulnerable aquatic species as well as human enterprises such as fishing that revolve around ocean ecosystems. But there’s no reliable way to know when one is about to hit, which means that fishers and wildlife managers are left scrambling to reduce harm in real time.

Laurie Weitkamp
Fisheries biologist Laurie Weitkamp is helping develop policies to reduce the threat of marine heat waves, which can devastate ocean life. Photo courtesy of Laurie Weitkamp

Now, oceanographers are trying to uncover what drives these events so that people can forecast them and so minimize the ecological and economic damage they cause.

Unprecedented Heat

The Blob, which lasted three years, is the longest marine heat wave on record. Before that, a heat wave that began in 2015 in the Tasman Sea lasted more than eight months, killing abalone and oysters. A 2012 heat wave off the East Coast of Canada and the U.S., the largest on record at the time, pushed lobsters northward. It beat the previous record — a 2011 marine heat wave that uprooted seaweed, fish and sharks off western Australia. Before that, a 2003 heat wave in the Mediterranean Sea clinched the record while ravaging marine life.

As Earth’s climate warms, record-setting marine heat waves are becoming more frequent and severe. Map adapted from Marine Heatwaves International Working Group.

Heat waves are a natural part of ocean systems, says Eric Oliver, an assistant professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. As with temperature on land, there’s an average ocean temperature on any particular day of the year: Sometimes the water will be warmer, sometimes it will be colder, and every once in a while it will be extremely warm or cold.

But greenhouse gas emissions have bumped up the average temperature. Now, temperatures that used to be considered extremely warm happen more often — and every so often, large sections of the ocean are pushed into unprecedented heat, Oliver says.

Pelagic ocean ecosystems, however, have not caught up to these hotter temperatures. Organisms may be able to survive a steady temperature rise, but a heat wave can push them over the edge.

A 2011 marine heat wave off western Australia reduced local catch of blue swimmer crabs by more than 90%, resulting in a temporary shutdown of the fishery to allow the species to recover. Photo courtesy of Putneypics from Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

When blue swimmer crabs started dying in western Australia’s Shark Bay after the 2011 heat wave, the government shut down blue crab fishing for a year and a half. This was hard on industry at the time, says Peter Jecks, managing director of Abacus Fisheries, but it managed to save crab populations. Not all creatures were so lucky — abalone near the heat wave’s epicenter still haven’t recovered.

“If you don’t have strong predictions [of marine heat waves], you can’t be proactive. You’re left to be reactive,” says Thomas Wernberg, an associate professor of marine ecology at the University of Western Australia.

See Them Coming

After Wernberg saw his region’s sea life devastated by the heat wave, he recruited scientists from many disciplines in 2014 to begin studying these extreme events in what became the Marine Heatwaves International Working Group. The group held their first meeting in early 2015 and has since created protocols for defining and naming marine heat waves, tracking where they happen and measuring their ecological and socioeconomic impacts.

If we could see heat waves coming, aquaculturists, fishers and wildlife managers would have a better chance at saving money and species, Wernberg says. Seafood farmers could hold off stocking their aquaculture facilities with vulnerable species. Lawmakers could enact seasonal fishing closures or temporarily expand protected areas. Scientists could store animals or seeds of vulnerable plants.

That’s why scientists around the world are trying to understand what triggers extreme warming in the ocean. Oliver is one such scientist. He feeds ocean data gathered by scientists, satellites, buoys, and deep-diving robots into computer modeling software to identify the forces that drive marine heat waves.

It’s a relatively new field of research for which there are still few definitive answers. But past heat waves can be broadly classified into two categories, Oliver says: those driven by the ocean and those driven by the atmosphere.

For an example of an ocean-driven heat wave, Oliver points to the 2015 Tasman Sea heat wave. An ocean current that flows south down the East Coast of Australia normally veers toward New Zealand, but in 2015 it pulsed westward toward Tasmania, bringing a wave of warm water from the tropics that lingered more than six months. “Tropical fish were seen in water that is normally almost subpolar in temperature,” Oliver says.

On the other hand, a 2019 heat wave in the Pacific, the so-called “Blob 2.0,” was brought down from the atmosphere, according to Dillon Amaya, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Using computer models, Amaya found that this heat wave emerged when a weather system over the Pacific lost steam, leading to weaker-than-usual winds. Wind helps cool the ocean by evaporating surface water in the same way a breeze cools a person’s sweaty skin. But stagnant air above the Pacific locked more of the sun’s heat into the water that year.

eastern Pacific marine heat wave map
The recent “Blob 2.0” heat wave bears some resemblance to “The Blob,” which disrupted marine life from Mexico to Alaska over the course of three years. Graphic courtesy of NOAA Coral Reef Watch

Amaya is able to simulate heat waves thanks to recent technological advances. Scientists have known for decades that marine heat waves exist, he says, but “we have just begun to recognize these events as unique and deterministic — something we can predict — in the last five to 10 years.”

That understanding inspired researchers to build computer simulations capable of playing out complicated ocean processes by weaving together information about ocean and atmospheric currents, sea surface temperature and salinity. Creating these simulations helps them learn more about heat wave mechanics, which lays the groundwork for predicting future events.

Back in Oregon, Weitkamp is part of the group that manages the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. As heat waves like The Blob and Blob 2.0 deplete fish populations, the group is trying to figure out how to create policies better suited to this new normal. Knowing when the next one might hit could help.

“These heat waves have been a good wake-up call,” she says. “People are trying to figure out how they’re going to adapt.”

This article was originally posted on Ensia.
Cover photo by Adam Goldberg Photography
Willis Research Network Annual Review 2021

Willis Research Network Annual Review 2021

The Willis Research Network is an award-winning collaboration supporting and influencing science to improve the understanding and quantification of risk, with the aim to improve the resilience of our clients and society as a whole.

Download the Willis Research Annual Review here.

The purpose of the Willis Research Network (WRN) is to help society better prepare and cope with the types of events we have all experienced in 2020. Since our formation in 2006, the Network has focussed on developing the science of resilience to support the management of extremes from natural, man-made and hybrid risks.

Through the WRN, and our related activities such as the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, we are working hard to support development of expertise and provide wider adoption across the public and private sector.”

Rowan Douglas | WRN Chairman

Despite the operational challenges of 2020, the following pages illustrate another remarkable year in scientific collaboration, real-world application and impact across our research themes and geographies, including North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Long standing academic partners such as NCAR, Columbia University, NOAA SSL Oklahoma, San Diego State University, University of Exeter, University of Cambridge, Newcastle University, NU Singapore, Tohoku and UCL have been joined by partners from beyond the university sector including Cloud to Street, Mitiga Solutions, RUSI, Temblor and Metabiota. Over the last few years, our scope has continued to expand to encompass risks such as pandemic, cyber and political risk.

COVID-19 illustrates how we should all consider high-impact, low probability events within our core operations, planning and finances. Engineering and re/insurance risk management techniques, such as scenario development and stress testing, are now entering the mainstream. The WRN is at the heart of that integration, driven by our engagement with policy makers, regulators and market practitioners. Structural reform is underway on how markets evaluate, disclose and manage contingent risks and liabilities. Until these risks are effectively accounted for, resilience cannot be sufficiently valued and incentivised. The tragic results will be additional lost lives, livelihoods and assets in the years and decades ahead. Through the WRN, and our related activities such as the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, we are working hard to support development of this expertise and its wider adoption across the public and private sector.

Looking ahead, we have a busy year driven by mobilisation in response to the Climate Emergency, the upcoming CoP26 meeting in Glasgow and the needs of Governments, regulators, investors and others. The role of the WRN is to fill in the gaps between high level roadmaps and the practical implementation of the methods, metrics and models to integrate these risks into mainstream valuations and management. In December 2020, we propelled this process with a WRN Challenge Fund competition to support financial sector climate stress testing methods and models.

A decade ago, in September 2011, the WRN co-hosted a three-day summit in Washington DC with the National Academy of Sciences on Managing Extreme Events. Bringing together leaders from science, finance and public agencies, it played a significant role in catalysing the resilience agenda in the U.S. and beyond in the following years. Assuming the COVID situation allows, we aim to hold a second meeting with the National Academy in 2021 to mark the ten-year anniversary and identify the themes and approaches to help us all manage the coming decade.

To underpin all this progress, the Network has also undergone significant internal growth and development this year to prepare for its future. Its success owes most to Hélène Galy, Managing Director, WRN and her growing team. Our thanks also to Carl Hess, Vickie Sefcik and fellow members of the WRN Steering Group, the wider Willis Towers Watson team and WRN members, who have driven our collective projects and programmes. A special thank you to our clients whose engagement and support enables us to maintain our global research programme as a client service and a public good.

Willis Research Network Brochure Topics 2021

Weather and Climate
  • A re-invigorated emphasis on climate risk research
  • Downscaling climate change impacts on Atlantic tropical cyclone landfall rates
  • Projecting changes in severe thunderstorm frequency
  • Quantification of potential climate change impacts on
  • Tropical cyclones
  • How do fishers asses and manage the risks related to extreme storms?
  • Wind vulnerability
  • Rising levels of flood risk
  • Quantifying the climate change impact on flooding: scenario approach
  • Providing a view of risk in emerging markets
  • How remote sensing technology is becoming the key component of analysing flood risk
  • Terra Firma, a year of significant achievements
  • Harbour Waves
  • Tsunami fragility of buildings
  • Seismic resilience of telecommunication networks
  • Do earthquakes interact with each other, and how do we account for it?
  • Earthquake risk in realtime for Japan
  • 2019 Ridgecrest: can earthquakes cause a chain reaction?
  • Quantifying the tail risk from very large earthquakes.
  • Better earthquake modelling for (re)insurance decision-making
  • People risk management in the modern world
  • Industry focus: towards a net zero and more resilience aviation sector
  • Pandemic models are evolving quickly; pandemic insurance needs to as well
  • Understanding and quantifying political risk
  • Exploiting globalisation
  • Understanding the digital acceleration
  • Understanding the startup landscape using knowledge spaces
  • Cybersecurity as strategic asset
  • Underlying and consequential costs of cyber security – cost of equity
  • Loss prevention technologies
Emerging risks and geopolitical risks
  • Dealing with change in an interconnected world
  • Emerging risks and resilient futures
  • Geopolitics of risk

This article was originally posted on the Willis Towers Watson website.

Perspective of LDC youth: what COP26 outcomes will enhance global action on adaptation and resilience?

Perspective of LDC youth: what COP26 outcomes will enhance global action on adaptation and resilience?

By Thinley Choden

Young people from the LDCs have the energy and knowledge to drive climate action – but they need collaboration and investment from decision-makers at the national and international level.

“Young people are the future, and we need to hand over a better world.” Youth often hear such sentiments – and we are grateful. But in the run-up to the UN climate talks (COP26) in November, young people from all sectors and countries need actions: collaboration, binding agreements and funding. 

This year is the moment to reset and start building back better. As a main stakeholder, young people globally are doing what they do best: self-organising, disrupting and creating movements to drive collective global action to accelerate climate adaptation and build a resilient future.

But we are not homogenous. And more importantly, where we come from and are situated heavily influences our voice and agency.

This was the point I made as a speaker at a recent virtual event, hosted by IIED and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). Speakers from government, business and civil society each made their pitch for strong adaptation ambition at COP26, what they are doing about it, and how to judge what success will look like – for us all.

LDC youth still underrepresented in key places

While a growing number of youth climate initiatives are supported and brought into the fold by respective governments or international organisations, we hardly see representation from least developed countries’ (LDC) youth.

As an LDC youth representative, I have to speak truth to power, and demand that governments, organisations and leaders uphold the equity, inclusivity and diversity they speak of, and integrate LDC voices in youth initiatives. As the IIED-ICCCAD event emphasised, the time for asking has passed: it is now time to demand.

Two crucial COP26 outcomes that will support LDC youth

LDC youth want to be heard and to contribute to decisions that will affect our future. I would like to pitch two areas for urgent climate action and outcomes from the COP26 process that will empower LDC youth. 

1. Embed LDC youth leadership in decision-making

The absence of young people’s voices in decision-making is deafening, and even more of an issue for LDC youth. Globally, young people are largely relegated to advocacy roles. While these roles are valuable, they do not provide the platforms for providing meaningful input and action.

Young people face systemic and structural barriers, and more so for LDC youth due to political, economic and socio-cultural contexts. If you are poor, your priority is survival – not climate change; you do not have the bandwidth and means to think beyond your struggle to survive.

Even with knowledge about the climate crisis, you may not have the safe space or capacity or enabling environment to act, because larger and more overwhelming powers are at play. LDC youth fall short in scaling up and sustaining climate solutions due to lack of influence, funds or other forms of support.

We want LDC youth councils or groups established at national and international platforms to recognise us as a key stakeholder in decision-making. We are not looking for tokenism. We want global alliances between the developed, developing and LDC youth groups. We need to lift each other up.

2. Support social entrepreneurship and innovation for LDC youth

The young are on the frontline of disrupting systems to find solutions. Social entrepreneurship and innovation are largely youth driven. Reports suggest eight out of 10 people in the developing world will need to create their own jobs, illustrating that entrepreneurship is the solution.

We want impact funds, accelerators and mentoring programs targeted at social climate entrepreneurs. This is an opportunity for all world governments (including LDCs), international bodies and businesses to show responsible leadership and to join youth in building a social contract based on trust, collaboration and opportunity.

We are not asking for charity, we are asking that you invest in us. We ask you to work with us, to brainstorm with us, design and implement youth inclusive climate actions for adaptation.

My role in driving this change

Here in Bhutan, in addition to being a youth ally and advocate, I am a Climate Reality Leader, founding curator of Global Shapers Thimphu Hub, a consultant and entrepreneur ecosystem enabler.

We hold dialogues on climate change and climate education, building our narrative and call for action. I also work with entrepreneurs for nature positive and social enterprise start-ups. Climate change and the green economy are business opportunities – especially for youth as the job market shifts as economies decarbonise.

But we do this largely in a vacuum with no real collaboration and investment for growth, scale and impact. This restricts us to taking only a step or two when we could be making leaps and bounds. We are not in the boardrooms of corporates, nor cabinets of political parties nor policymaking rooms of governments.

We need these decision-makers to join us and let us join them, to meet each other where we are, and learn from each other. We need intergenerational allyship to solve these intergenerational challenges.

If we are the future, let us work together for that future.

This article was originally posted on IIED blogs.
Cover photo by Curt Carnemark/World Bank, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
India protests: farmers could switch to more climate-resilient crops – but they have been given no incentive

India protests: farmers could switch to more climate-resilient crops – but they have been given no incentive

By Shruti Bhogal and Shreya Sinha

India is witnessing a historic mass mobilisation of farmers against three new farm laws. The country’s government maintains that these laws are the cure for a longstanding agrarian crisis. While this claim has been analysed from several angles, the environmental angle has often been overlooked. This is no small oversight since the agrarian crisis in India is underpinned by strong environmental vulnerabilities, including those associated with climate change.

The three laws at the centre of the current storm are focused primarily on prices of agricultural produce, marketing channels, and the role of middlemen. Unfortunately, environmental aspects – cropping patterns, irrigation and other agricultural practices – that are fundamental to the sustainability of agricultural systems are not being addressed. Agriculture is highly susceptible to fluctuations in temperature, excessive and untimely rains, floods, droughts, pests, diseases and so on. In recent years, such extreme weather events have been aggravated by climate change.

All this is exacerbating water security. Much of India’s agriculture continues to be fed by rainfall rather than canals, wells and tube wells, which means a short growing season of only 2.5 to 6 months. Even the well-irrigated regions in the north west and south east where the 1960s green revolution massively increased yields, are now experiencing groundwater depletion. For example, Punjab’s vast fields of wheat and rice are rapidly developing desert-like conditions.

Map of India showing large and small scale irrigation.
Large scale irrigation (blue) is concentrated in the north west of India and along its east coast. Much of the country relies on rain rather than irrigation. Thenkabail et alCC BY-SA

On top of this, agro-biodiversity is in decline as only a handful of strains of a few crops have come to dominate. And the country’s soil is becoming less and less healthy. India now loses 15 tonnes of soil per hectare each year, eroded away by wind or water.

As a result, crop yields are largely either stagnating or declining. To improve yields, farmers have been intensifying the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and fuel, adding yet another dimension to the environmental challenge before us and making cultivation more expensive. Meanwhile prices of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and labour have been rising steadily and prices at which farmers can sell the crops are either stagnant or increasingly unstable.

Together, these issues have pushed farmers into debt and distress. Many have abandoned their farms, moved to cities or even been driven to suicide. This is particularly true of small-scale landholders who, alongside the landless labourers, have been the worst affected.

Man holds sign saying 'No farmer food. Shame on Modi'
Protests in Haryana state, December 2020. PradeepGaurs / shutterstock

In the northwest breadbasket states of Punjab and Haryana, this stagnation is exemplified by the continuous cultivation of wheat and rice as the winter and summer crop respectively, for many decades now. The practice is widely recognised as environmentally unsustainable, but farmers have persisted because these are the only crops where they receive an assured minimum support price (MSP) through public procurement systems. So even though crop diversification has long been recommended as a response to the environmental challenges, farmers are still sticking with wheat and rice.

There are more climate-resilient and less water-intensive crops that would be better suited to particular regions, but farmers won’t start growing them until they get the kind of state support currently extended to wheat and rice in northwest India. Far from doing this, the new farm laws are in fact likely to undermine the procurement systems and regulated market yards through which such a change could be achieved. In the absence of an assured minimum support price that covers actual farm costs, farmers have no incentive or means to shift to relatively more desirable agricultural crops and practices.

Many farmers are also concerned that the new laws will leave them vulnerable to exploitation by corporate agribusiness and at risk of losing their land. Only time can tell how these concerns play out if the laws are implemented. However, if the spectre of corporate-led industrial farming – envisaged in the new laws – becomes a reality, it could further amplify the environmental crisis in India’s countryside. Empirical evidence shows that widespread monocultures and intensive cultivation practices, which are promoted by industrial farming, have intensified ecological fragilities in various regions of the world.

There is no denying that India must respond to the agricultural crisis by moving towards a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable system. The protesting farmers are demanding that at the very least the status quo be maintained. Even this is not without its environmental and social contradictions, but the new laws, if anything, might make conditions worse.

This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover photo: Fallow farms in rainfed south India. Toby Smith (@tobysmithphoto) for TIGR2ESS
Webinar: Business Unusual for Resilient Urban Infrastructure

Webinar: Business Unusual for Resilient Urban Infrastructure

Thursday, 25 February 2021 from 2:00-3:30pm, Manila Time

The first webinar of the Virtual Dialogues on Resilient Infrastructure for 2021 will be on “business unusual for resilient urban infrastructure”.

The interactive session will bring together experts and practitioners to discuss opportunities to accelerate new ways of advancing resilience of urban infrastructure and share new approaches and pilots on resilience in the urban space ready to be mainstreamed. Regional and global experts will share brief ‘burst’ talks followed by participant break-out groups to explore opportunities for ADB DMCs. Open to DMCs, ADB staff and consultants.

To check the program and register for the event, click here.

Registered participants will receive an email confirming their registration, and two days before the webinar, another email will be sent with the Zoom link and password.

Cover photo by Charles Wiriawan on Flickr.