Insurance and Climate Change column

Cities Are Stepping up Their Own Greenhouse Gas Battles

By | January 7, 2021

Long Beach, Calif., this week took a step in a plan to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions.

The city council on Tuesday heard an update report on a plan to lessen the expected impacts of climate change, meet state-mandated greenhouse gas emissions standards by 2030 and put the city on a course for a more aspirational goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, the local news site LBPost reported.

“The presentation moves the Long Beach Climate Action and Adaptation Plan along to the next step, which is a formal environmental impact report mandated by the state. After that, the plan would have to come back to the City Council for a decision on whether to adopt it,” the website reported.

The page proposal lays out a pathway for the city to meet the state’s 2030 emissions benchmarks by reducing greenhouse gases.

“We depend a lot on oil,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “But it’s also damaging our community and damages the planet and damages our long-term ability to be sustainable.”

Many local governments are taking on their own climate change battles.

Denver voters on election day passed a measure to raise city sales tax by 0.25% starting in January with the goal of reducing the city’s climate footprint, while San Francisco in early 2020 called on insurance companies to stop insuring and investing in fossil fuels.

Australia Fires

The bushfires in Australia were not only made worse by climate change, but the risks in the future will likely rapidly intensify for south-eastern Australia without significant efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, researchers say.

A paper published Thursday in the Communications Earth & Environment journal showed the warming climate contributed to elevating the threat, from drying out fuel loads to worsening bushfire weather, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting.

A projected continued reduction in winter and spring rainfall is likely to “pre-condition” the region to forest fire.

“There are multiple ways where the effects of climate change are acting to increase fire risks,” Nerilie Abrams, a climate scientist at Australian National University and lead author of the paper, told the newspaper. “What you expect to see is not just a gradual increase…but a very rapid intensification of fire risks.”

Munich Re

Natural catastrophes around the world resulted in $210 billion in damage in 2020, with the United States especially hard hit by hurricanes and wildfires, the German reinsurer Munich Re reported Thursday.

That total increased from $166 billion in the previous year, and comes as a warming planet heightens risks, according to a Reuters article published in Insurance Journal this week.

Munich Re said reported insured losses rose to $82 billion from $57 billion in 2019.

“Climate change will play an increasing role in all of these hazards,” said Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek, pointing to hurricanes, wildfires and other storms.

The insurer reported the hurricane season was “hyperactive,” with a record 30 storms, surpassing 2005’s 28 storms, while heat waves and droughts are fueling wildfires, with $16 billion in damage last year in the U.S. West.

Warm cities

Climate change is making the urban heat-island effect worse in cities worldwide, according to an international team of researchers.

The researchers used a new modeling technique that shows by 2100, the world’s cities could warm by as much as 4.4 degrees Celsius on average, an article in Wired states.

The Environmental Protection Agency explains that structures like buildings and roads absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat, so in urban areas, where such structures are highly concentrated, become islands of higher temperatures referred to as “heat islands.”

The new model shows hotter cities could be catastrophic for urban public health, which is already suffering from the effects of increasing heat.

The model looks at changing temperatures and humidities.

“These two factors are the conspiring menaces of extreme heat: Our bodies respond to high temperatures by perspiring, which is more fancily known as evaporative cooling,” the Wired story states. “But humidity makes this process less efficient, because the more moist the air is, the less readily it accepts evaporating sweat from our bodies. That’s why humid heat feels so much more uncomfortable than dry heat.”

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