Climatrends

Climatrends

Climate change trends and the analysis of potential business implications. read less
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Episodes

Episode 8: Dr. Zeke Hausfather
06-05-2021
Episode 8: Dr. Zeke Hausfather
EPISODE 8: Thinking Big. How Government and Markets Can Work Together on Climate Solutions. Climate change is a complicated web of science, politics, technology, economy, and controversy. Where do we begin in building a solution? In this Episode: A discussion with Dr. Zeke Hausfather about realistic greenhouse gas emissions trajectories. The challenges of predicting human behavior. Can we rely on markets and companies to innovate ourselves into a net zero economy? Where does the government fit in? Dr. Hausfather’s take on the role of carbon emissions capture technology. Episode Links: Zeke on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hausfath Carbon Brief: https://www.carbonbrief.org/ The Breakthrough Institute: https://thebreakthrough.org/ Welcome back to another episode of Climatrends. I’m meteorologist Susie Martin. At the time we’ve recorded this, news of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaching levels 50% higher than during the industrial revolution hit the headlines. This is according to measurements from the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii… https://www.carbonbrief.org/met-office-atmospheric-co2-now-hitting-50-higher-than-pre-industrial-levels The data is clear. This is an urgent matter and unfortunately, there is no quick solution to the climate crisis. Climate change is a complicated web of science, politics, technology, economy, and controversy. With oil as the lubricant of the global economy, how can we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels? Coal supplies roughly half of the electricity used in the U.S. and nearly that worldwide. Then there’s the matter of infrastructure. Approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from infrastructure construction and operations such as power plants, buildings, and transport. There are layers upon layers upon layers to this. There are two main players to the solution: the government and markets. There is a growing expectation that your company be not only prepared to handle the business implications of physical and transitional risks associated with climate change, but also do your part to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. It’s tricky because this is a moving target as policies shift and new science emerges. Our goal with the podcast is to have meaningful discussions with true experts with a business lens and peel the layers. I’m particularly excited about our guest today. We’re going to be discussing the complicated dynamics of climate change and what this means for businesses. What technologies may be part of the solution? What is the role of government? How is this going to affect markets? One thing is for sure: going into this blindly is a dangerous proposition for your business. Note that in this episode, we mention the IPCC AR5 report. For those that don’t know, it is the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released in 2014. We also briefly discuss RCP scenarios that were used in the IPCC AR5. RCP stands for representative concentration pathway. The RCP scenarios are an attempt to predict future greenhouse gas emissions trajectories based on human behavior. The four RCPs range from very high (RCP 8.5) to very low (RCP 2.6) future concentrations. Without further delay… let’s begin.
Arctic Warming & Winter Weirding - Dr. Jennifer Francis
05-02-2021
Arctic Warming & Winter Weirding - Dr. Jennifer Francis
The Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet and there is no doubt that this is having a profound effect on weather patterns. How is Arctic warming and amplification changing winter weather behavior? Does the data connect the dots between climate change and “weather weirding?” In this Episode: Introduction to Dr. Jennifer Francis, Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center How is the Arctic influencing winter weather? Can we expect to see fewer, yet more intense winter storms? Dr. Francis’ take on what businesses should prepare for in the next 10, 20, 30 years. Overview Meteorologist Paul Douglas here with another episode of Climatrends. And no, it’s not your grandfather’s winters anymore either. Are the lakes freezing up later in the fall or winter, than you remember growing up? Reliable, usable snow – snow you can count on? Have you experienced fewer white Christmases in your hometown in recent years? The weather is, increasingly, playing out of tune during the winter months. I live and work in the Capitol of Cold, Minnesota, so at first blush warming winters sound like a pretty good idea to many people living up north. Bring on the winter warm fronts, Paul! But the slow-motion warming trend we are tracking has real consequences, as you’re about to hear. The abrupt global warming signal scientists have been tracking for is loudest and strongest during the winter months, with more precipitation falling as ice and rain over roughly the southern half of the U.S. in recent decades. Counterintuitively, a warmer, wetter atmosphere is producing more snow for many northern cities, but the rain-snow cut-off line is shifting north over time. Winter shrinkage is real: less snow cover over time, more ice - the forecast calls for more weather weirding. North America is, in fact warming up over time, and this mostly man-made warming signal, that has accelerated since 1970, is changing the characteristics of winter precipitation type and quantity over time. As a general rule, snowfall totals are falling, with more rain and ice, less snow and fewer days with significant snow cover and cold extremes. However, a consistently warmer, wetter atmosphere is priming the pump for larger, more extreme snowstorms for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern USA, fueled by higher water content from the Atlantic Ocean. The result in recent years there has been a statistically significant uptick in mega-snows impacting major East Coast cities from Washington D.C. to New York and Boston, a surge in debilitating storms with nicknames like “Snowmageddon” and “Snowzilla”, especially during midwinter months, when conditions are sufficiently cold for all-snow. Continued warming means less ice on the Great Lakes, more open water and more moisture available for lake-effect snows downwind, resulting in heavier snows for lakefront cities like Buffalo and Cleveland. The transition to more rain than snow events is most pronounced from the southern Mid-Atlantic region into the southern Ohio Valley, southern Midwest region and central Plains, where warming has been sufficient to nudge many storms over from snow to rain, or a sloppy mix. The irony, some of these cities are now spending more money on salt to keep icy roads passable during the winter months.  The Arctic is warming 3 times faster than the rest of the planet and that’s already affecting the jet stream, the high-speed river of air that guides storms across the planet. “Arctic Amplification” due to rapid warming at high latitudes, is increasing volatility and the potential for outbreaks of bitter air and more coastal storms during midwinter, especially over the East Coast. We aren’t seeing more storms, but the storms that do spin up near the coast are often bigger, wetter and snowier – in areas still cold enough to support snow. Winters are increasingly erratic, with less predictable snow cover. If you doubt that just ask anyone who owns a snowmobile or cross-country skis. The “shoulder seasons” of fall and spring are experiencing “winter shrinkage”, with significantly less snow falling during spring, in fact NASA confirms that spring routinely comes a few weeks earlier than it did a generation ago. Ice storms are becoming more prevalent, especially across Mid-Atlantic states and portions of the Midwest. America’s $11 billion winter sports industry is being impacted, and winter-weather-whiplash is a challenge for agriculture and fruit production. Cherry, apple, and peach trees require a minimum number of winter chill hours before they can develop fruit during the following spring and summer months. Old Man Winter is flailing, weather often gyrating from extended thaws… to brief and bitter displays of the Polar Vortex. Less cold air in general, but when it does trend colder these spasms of subzero air are often breath-taking. Literally. What are the implications of warming winters for business? We tracked down an expert to set our expectations for what comes next. About Climatrends Climatrends is a collaboration of sustainability, meteorology, business & climate science experts, leveraging innovative approaches to better understand, analyze and communicate future physical and transitional climate risks and opportunities for businesses and communities. https://climatrends.com/
Fires and Drought - Dr. Jonathan Overpeck
09-01-2021
Fires and Drought - Dr. Jonathan Overpeck
Meteorologist Paul Douglas here for Climatrends, a podcast series examining the business implications of a rapidly changing climate. My businesses are based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where we’ve had our fair share of weather-weirding in recent decades, including more floods. The local DNR now refers to them as mega-rains. More midwinter rain and ice. Higher summer dew points and heat indices - and a consistently longer growing season, which farmers see as both opportunity – and threat. Meanwhile meteorologists across much of the western United States are spending more time tracking drought, fires, smoke and dangerous air quality on their weather maps. All the predictions climate scientists made a generation ago are coming true: wet areas are trending wetter, dry areas are getting drier, setting the stage for a brave new world of super-sized wildfires. Tell that to California, where over 8,000 fires burned a record 4 million acres in 2020, an area bigger than the size of the state of Connecticut. Five of the twenty largest wildfires in California history were observed this year. Coincidence? Fire is a natural part of Earth’s ecosystem, in fact fires serve a purpose in nature, but set against the backdrop of a hotter, drier climate – fires are burning larger, longer and hotter. More communities are being threatened, and now these conflagrations are much harder, and much more expensive, to extinguish. Once again, it’s important to step back and look at the larger trends. Thermometers don’t lie. The western U.S. has warmed 2-3 degrees since the late 1800s. Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and subsequent climate change have had a role in doubling the amount of land consumed by fire. From 2000 to 2018, wildfires burned more than twice as much land area every year than they did from 1985 to 1999. Thanks to rising temperatures, shorter winters, and longer summers, western US wildfire frequency has increased by 400 percent since 1970. The western fire season is now at least 84 days longer than it was in the 1970s, according to Cal Fire, California’s fire protection service. Since 2000, 14 forest fires in the United States have caused at least $1 billion in damages each, from the loss of homes and infrastructure, and mounting firefighting costs. What we’re faced with is a recipe ripe for fire: warmer temperatures, earlier snowmelt, more evaporation and drier soils have collectively fanned the flames. More than 80 percent of U.S. wildfires are caused by people—once a fire starts, warmer temperatures and drier conditions can help fires spread faster, making them harder to put out. Choking levels of smoke gripped much of the west, making it hard to breathe for millions of Americans, the rough equivalent of smoking several packs of cigarettes every day. New terms I’ve never heard before are popping up in the media, “giga-fires” and “smoke waves”. There is no one smoking gun. Scientists talk about a convergence of factors. We hear a lot about forest management, too many dead trees – too much dry brush. That may have something to do with a 1200-year drought and dying trees in the west, made worse by rising temperatures in recent decades. In the United States, drought is now the second-most costly form of natural disaster, behind hurricanes. This is a worldwide threat: drought affects more people globally than any other natural disaster. The threat to agriculture and tourism is obvious, but the energy industry is impacted by heat, drought and dwindling water in rivers and reservoirs used to cool power plants. Businesses are already reacting to fickle water supplies: too much water - or not nearly enough water. Lately it seems to be all or nothing. What do climate models predict for the future of drought, fire and smoke? How can we better prepare industries to manage wild swings in water? What should companies be doing today, to better prepare for tomorrow?
Climate Change and Hurricanes - Dr. Kerry Emanuel
09-01-2021
Climate Change and Hurricanes - Dr. Kerry Emanuel
Climatrends Podcast Episode 3 - Hurricanes Dr. Kerry Emanuel Meteorologist Paul Douglas here with another episode of Climatrends, examining business risk posed by a rapidly changing climate. Our goal: interview leading scientists around the world, to better understand how physical threats are already impacting company’s operations and bottom lines, and what climate models are predicting for the future. What should business leaders be doing today – to better prepare for a warmer, wetter, wilder tomorrow? For what it’s worth, it was a tropical storm - Agnes, back in 1972, that ignited my interest in the weather. I was 14 years old when “Agnes” stalled over my hometown of Lancaster, PA. 10-20 inches of rain fell, washing away century-old, covered bridges in PA Dutch country, flooding our home. I vividly remember swimming in cold, muddy water in my basement. My mother was apoplectic. It was a traumatic event for our family, and in recent decades, hurricane trauma appears to be on the upswing, worldwide. We are recording this in early November of 2020. Another tropical system is lashing Florida. Tropical Storm Eta. We are now deep into the Greek alphabet; the National Hurricane Center ran out of traditional names a long time ago. Louisiana has been hit by 5 hurricanes and tropical storms this year; a record-tying 28 tropical storms and hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic basin this year. Is this a fluke or a trend? Is this normal or natural? Have the oceans always been spitting out this many intense hurricanes, or are consistently warmer oceans and lighter winds aloft creating a more favorable environment for hurricanes to intensify into what some meteorologists euphemistically refer to as “beast-mode”? A man-made chemical blanket of greenhouse gases, CO2 and methane, is warming the atmosphere; 93% of all the additional warming is going into the world’s oceans, jet fuel for hurricanes that get their energy from warm water – the warmer the water, the greater the potential for rapid intensification. The proportion of storms rapidly intensifying in the Atlantic has doubled since 1982. Before we look forward, an examination of the trends. 2020 has been an aberration. There’s no evidence the number of hurricanes is increasing over time. But the storms that do form, naturally, are becoming more intense. Five of the 10 strongest Atlantic storms have occurred since 2016, according to NOAA. Research shows the strongest, Category 3 or stronger hurricanes, are increasing at a rate of 8% a decade.  A rapidly warming arctic may be impacting winds high above the tropics. Scientific studies suggest hurricanes are now moving 10% slower than they did in the middle of the 20th century. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is warmer and wetter, meaning hurricanes are consistently dumping more rain on coastal areas. In 2017 Hurricane Harvey dumped out more than 65” of rain just east of Houston, Texas, with catastrophic results. There is a growing, compelling body of evidence that hurricanes are trending slower and wetter, with more rapid intensification before they come ashore. Not more hurricanes, but the hurricanes that do form produce more rain, higher winds and a more devastating storm surge. Who cares? Well, 30 percent of America’s population lives on or near the coast — roughly 60 million U.S. citizens live in Hurricane Alley. In 167 years of record-keeping Florida has experienced 40% of all hurricane strikes. Since 1980, the number of homes in Florida has roughly doubled, a recipe for trouble. Is this all a cosmic coincidence, or are warmer waters, in fact, fueling more intense hurricanes, and if that is the case, how can businesses better prepare for a world of super-sized storms-with-names? What should businesses be thinking, and better yet – doing – to lower risk, protect their employees and keep things going and growing?
Physical Climate Change Risks - Dr. John Abraham
09-01-2021
Physical Climate Change Risks - Dr. John Abraham
Climatrends Podcast Episode 2 - Physical Risks Dr. John Abraham Has the weather always been this crazy? Paul Douglas here. I’m a meteorologist, on a good day. Lately there haven’t been many good weather-days. The news headlines often sound like a billboard for the Book of Revelations. Biblical floods, withering droughts, super-sized hurricanes, raging wildfires burning out of control in the west. Is this really normal weather? Maybe the media is focusing in on wild weather events that have always plagued our nation and the planet? The data suggest otherwise. The definition of normal weather is changing before our eyes. This is not, in fact, normal. A consistently warmer, wetter atmosphere is flavoring all weather now, making many naturally-occurring weather events more intense and long-lasting. The weather, increasingly, is news-worthy. Before looking forward, a look at the trends: 50% of all the carbon dioxide we’ve put into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution was added after 1990. We are poking at Earth’s climate system with a long, sharp, carbon-tipped spike - then acting surprised when the weather bites back. And it’s biting back with increasing frequency and ferocity. According to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the United States have gone up over 300% in 40 years. More than half of all billion-dollar events since 1980 have taken place since 2010 and the 2010s saw twice as many disasters as the 2000s. Average annual damages have quadrupled since the 1980s in this nation. According to U.N. research, over the past 50 years global disasters have increased five-fold, thanks in part to climate change. People around the world are now 3 times more likely to be displaced by cyclones, floods, or fires than by war and other conflicts. No, it’s not your imagination. The extreme weather-machine is on fast-forward. It’s getting hotter out there during the summer season. The suburbs of Los Angeles reported 121 degrees earlier this year. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have been recorded during the 21st century. It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity. The number of dangerously hot & humid days, with high heat indices, has doubled in frequency since 1980. Heat is America’s number 1 killer, and the extended forecast is steamy, especially across the southern U.S. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor – basic physics. Data shows that annual precipitation has increased anywhere from 6-8” in a wide swath from Missouri, Iowa and Indiana to New England. Homes and businesses that aren’t in the flood plain, well away from streams and rivers, are flooding. Farmers report a change in weather patterns. They’re right. Winds over the tropics are lighter; hurricanes moving 10% slower since the middle of the 20th century, creating more extreme rainfall events. 93% of the extra warmth from man-made greenhouse gases is going into the world’s oceans, which are consistently warmer, jet fuel for the wildest storms on earth. Since 1979 hurricanes are 32% more likely to intensify into Category 3 or stronger storms. The proportion of strong Category 4 and 5 hurricanes is increasing by 25-30% for every degree Celsius of observed warming, with more storms intensifying rapidly, at the last minute, before coming ashore. Global mean sea level has already risen almost a foot above pre-industrial levels. 94 million people — nearly 30 percent of our nation’s population — live adjacent to the coast; 2.4 million American homes and businesses worth more than $1 trillion are at risk of “chronic inundation” by the end of the century. Wildfires are burning hotter, bigger, and longer in the western U.S. Human-caused climate change has had a role in doubling the area burned by forest fires since 1984. Pervasive smoke is a chronic problem. Winter, the fastest-warming season, is steadily shrinking, with shorter cold snaps, and more midwinter precipitation falling as ice or rain. The climate is changing, and it’s showing up – increasingly – in the weather. This is a slow-motion transformation and yeah, climate change only hits home when it…hits home. Businesses are already being impacted and we will now highlight the physical risks they face.
Climate Change and Business Risk - Josh Prigge
09-01-2021
Climate Change and Business Risk - Josh Prigge
Climatrends Podcast Episode 1 - Business Risk                            Interview with Josh Prigge             This podcast examines how a rapidly changing climate will impact business. In fact, climate volatility and weather disruption is already impacting businesses around the world. Patterns are shifting. Extremes becoming more extreme. Connect the dots and you’re left with one thought: this is either the Mother of All Coincidences, or it’s real. It’s happening. This isn’t some far-off-in-the-future thing. NOAA reports the United States have experienced the most weather and climate disasters on record in 2020. And it is, in fact, a trend. Climate theory has become our new extreme weather reality. My name is Paul Douglas. I am a Minnesota meteorologist, climate analyst and entrepreneur on my 7th business. One of those companies is Climatrends, where we try to help businesses navigate this brave new world of rising seas, wetter storms, drier droughts and more intense hurricanes and wildfires – examining the trends, the latest science and climate model predictions - helping business decision-makers lower risk and reinvest wisely, no matter what Mother Nature throws at us in the future. By the way, it was the weather that tipped me off to a rapidly changing climate more than 20 years ago. Weather and climate are flip sides of the same coin. And yes, since the dawn of time we’ve always had weather extremes, but by the turn of the century I couldn’t help but notice the weather – increasingly – was playing out of tune. I was seeing things I had never witnessed before on the weather maps. I certainly wasn’t the only meteorologist tracking the trends and shaking my head in wonder. More eye-opening swings in temperature and precipitation, new rainfall records, more flooding where companies didn’t even realize they were in the floodplain, more coastal inundation when there wasn’t a storm in sight, and yes, more super-sized hurricanes. Weather on steroids. So what, who cares? Well, the story of America one of persistence and innovation - taking calculated risks to create the products and services that add value to people’s lives. Climate change introduces new risk into the equation: Is there a safer place to build our facilities? Will our buildings, operations and supply chains and personnel be able to tolerate more heat, more frequent flash floods and more icing during increasingly fickle warming winter months? How do we harden our infrastructure – how can we make everything we do more climate-resilient: stormproof, water-resistant, heat tolerant and impervious to drought? How do we keep the wheels on the bus and get the returns we need to keep the economy powered up, people employed, and business plans moving forward? With all the lingering uncertainty, where do we plant seeds to get the best return on investment, as weather disruptions increase over time? Our plan: interview the world’s leading climate scientists - get their predictions. Is there consensus? What are the best climate models predicting for 2030, 2050 and beyond? How confident are these predictions? What, specifically, should businesses be doing today – to be fully prepared for what tomorrow brings?  Here’s what we will not do: wallow in gloom, doom and hype. It’s not helpful, and there’s no time. More disruption is inevitable, in fact it’s already here. What worked in the 1970s probably won’t work in the 2020s and beyond. We need new tools, new methods, materials and strategies to better prepare business for bigger swings in weather already in the pipeline. The companies that survive and thrive in the 21st century aren’t the ones with superpowers. The businesses that prosper will be the ones that acknowledge data and evidence, listen to leading scientists, and adapt their operations and investment strategies to this new climate reality. The situation isn’t hopeless – and we aren’t helpless. Companies can fine-tune, pivot and adjust to a warmer, more volatile world. Step one is listening to the best experts we can find.  Let’s get started.