Insurance and Climate Change column

Billions Will Experience ‘Sahara’ Like Heat in Next 50 Years, Report States

By | May 8, 2020

Roughly a third of the global population could experience an average annual temperature of 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit (29C) in the next 50 years, with temperatures currently found in small part of the planet, mostly concentrated in the Sahara.

That’s the prediction from a somewhat innocuous sounding paper, “Future of the human climate niche,” published by scientists from the U.S., the U.K., China and Denmark on May 4 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

For thousands of years humans have occupied the same narrow part of the climatic envelope available on the globe characterized by annual temperature averages between 51.8F to 59F (11 °C to 15 °C), while production of crops and livestock is largely limited to the same conditions.

“We demonstrate that depending on scenarios of population growth and warming, over the coming 50 years, 1 to 3 billion people are projected to be left outside the climate conditions that have served humanity well over the past 6,000 years,” the paper states. “Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today.”

Global warming will affect ecosystems, human health, food security, water supplies, and economic growth, impacts that “are projected to increase steeply with the degree of warming,” the paper states.

For instance, warming to 2 °C, compared with 1.5 °C, is estimated to increase the number of people exposed to climate-related risks and poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050, according to the paper.

“Absent climate mitigation or human migration, the temperature experienced by an average human is projected to change more in the coming decades than it has over the past six millennia,” the paper states.

High Temps

Temperatures in April were on par with the previous warmest April on record four years ago, with extremely high temperatures in some parts of Europe, Greenland and Antarctica.

Above-average global temperatures meant April was just 0.01 degrees Celsius cooler than April 2016, a difference considered statistically “insignificant” by the Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, and global temperatures were 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the average April between 1981 and 2010, Bloomberg reported in an Insurance Journal article this week.

Switzerland saw perhaps the warmest April compared to the past. The temperature there rose a 5 degrees Celsius above the 1871-1900 average.

Siberia, and parts of Africa, Australia and Mexico all saw a warmer-than-usual month, as did the Arctic Ocean and the coast of Alaska, however southern and southeast Asia were cooler than usual, according to the service.

Nineteen of the 20 warmest years all have occurred since 2001, with the exception of 1998, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Temperature readings around the world have been rising since the Industrial Revolution, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

An ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies shows the average global temperature on Earth has increased by a little more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since 1880, while two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975.

Scientific Beta

A group called Scientific Beta is warning against design flaws in European Commission proposals on climate benchmarks and sustainability disclosures, a draft regulation that makes the weights of stocks in the new climate indices depend more on their stock market performance than on their ecological performance.

Scientific Beta is a provider of a platform to help investors understand and invest in advanced beta equity strategies established by EDHEC-Risk Institute, an academic institution in the field of fundamental and applied research for the investment industry.

The EU Commission two years ago announced forthcoming measures to enhance the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) transparency of benchmark methodologies and an initiative to put forward standards for the methodology of low-carbon benchmarks in the EU.

The group criticized the “lack of a serious study and the significant flaws” in the draft regulation in a letter dated May 4 addressed to the EU in response to a call for feedback.

The group worried about the substitution of enterprise value for revenues in the definition of carbon intensity, which it argues introduces capital market biases – real estate development, software, and online retailing will be particularly favored – and instability into carbon metric measurement.

The dramatic rise in carbon intensity sustained by index products that embarked the new metric is in-line with earlier warnings that these products would fall “foul of the decarbonization trajectory” of the regulatory proposal if faced with a significant fall in equity markets, the group stated.

“Like all providers that are highly active in the area of ESG, and particularly Low Carbon, investing, we support initiatives that aim to favour the adoption of high standards,” Noël Amenc, CEO of the group, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this proposal does not go in the right direction and our previous criticism of the proposal from the Technical expert group on sustainable finance remains relevant for the most part.

Indian El Niño

A study published on Wednesday shows that as early as mid-century, global warming could cause an ancient climate pattern similar to El Niño in the Indian Ocean.

The study published in the journal Sciences Advances on Wednesday, “Emergence of an equatorial mode of climate variability in the Indian Ocean,” notes that the tropical Indian Ocean, which has long been considered a minor driver of climate variability relative to the Pacific or the Atlantic oceans, is experiencing changes that could produce stronger sea surface temperature variations.

These long-term changes appear to be forced by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, according to the study, which states that this variability in the Indian Ocean has increased since the 1850s.

“Using climate model simulations, we uncover the emergence of a mode of climate variability capable of generating unprecedented sea surface temperature and rainfall fluctuations across the IO,” the study states. “This mode, which is inhibited under present-day conditions, becomes active in climate states with a shallow thermocline and vigorous upwelling, consistent with the predictions of continued greenhouse warming.”

Currently the Indian Ocean exhibits much weaker variability than the Pacific and Atlantic, where the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and the Atlantic Niño drive “pronounced basin-wide” sea surface temperatures anomalies.

“Model simulations show that continued greenhouse warming could alter these features, and the IO could evolve into a mean state similar to the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,” the study states.

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