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Climate risk is critical and must be mitigated - After today there is no business as usual.

29. November 2020

 

New IPPC Report:

 

New Land Expedition 2013: Seaice camp in Eureka Sound. View towards Axel Heiberg Island, NU Canada.
 

In the preparations for the New Land Expedition in 2013 me and my co-explorers had several conversations about the possible risks that the lack of multiyear ice would present for our journey. The thick and weathered multiyear ice is any polar travelers’ best source of fresh water on the ocean. Younger ice contains more salt and is more that often impossible to melt and use for drinking water.

Our solution was to travel closer to land where we had good access to land-based snow and freshwater ice. In doing so we mitigated one of the climate risks produced by a changing arctic, although our route became significantly longer.

The release of the IPPC report this morning has made it crystal clear that the next years and decades will be defined by how we recognize and mitigate climate risk globally. Mitigating climate risk will create winners and losers. As we harness more and more capital in the race to zero emissions we must also invest in adaptation.

Our climate is no longer dominated by natural fluctuations. We have entered an age where human induced emissions and actions will dominate the climate and the natural world for hundreds and thousands of years and, some changes are irreversible.

The opportunities are huge, but the challenge is greater. We must invest towards a world with negative emissions that at the same time will be robust towards the onslaught of more than 2C warming.

Temperatures have now risen by about 1.1C since the period 1850 to 1900 and stabilizing the climate at 1.5C will be near impossible. 1.5C level of heating would still have resulted in increasing heatwaves, more intense storms, and more serious droughts and floods, but would represent a much smaller risk than 2C, a scenario we are now most likely facing.

This summer has powerfully illustrated why physical climate risk is a major challenge to our civilization. Extreme heatwaves and fires in the American Northwest and Canada, floods in central Europe, fires in Siberia and around the Mediterranean, record melting rates on the Greenlandic icecap are all illustrations on how climate change will increasingly threaten our residential patterns, food production and our businesses supply chains.

Climate risk, of course, is not only physical. In the coming years legal, transitional and reputational climate risk must be recognized and mitigated.

The IPPC report leaves no doubt: Humans are unequivocally warming the planet. The biggest source of the warming is caused by burning of fossil fuels. And with the conclusion that the increased intensity of extreme weather events can be attributed to emissions from fossil fuels it becomes harder for emitters to avoid responsibility for damage. With the new IPPC report legal challenges towards super emitters has gained new and substantial merit.

From a Norwegian perspective it is impossible to avoid the growing reputational climate risk our country is facing. Not only has the IEA recently made it absolutely clear that Exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop to stay within safe limits of global warming and meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The new IPPC pathways towards 1,5C or 2C warming, though not advising on how to get there, leaves non or little room for new oil fields in the North Sea or Barents Sea (The Arctic).

Yet, in the current election campaign none of the major parties has changed course from the conventional drill baby drill policies. At what point will the so-called Norwegian paradox (The oil nation that is investing in solutions like electrical cars to undermine the demand of the very product that is making it rich) be replaced with a general assumption of Norwegian hypocrisy.

The release of today’s report has illustrated is that no investments or policies that will generate new sources of emissions can be undertaken in line with necessary mitigation and moral obligations.

As for a new expedition to the Arctic – it would not be necessary to undertake in order to illustrate the effect of climate change. The climate events of this summer make it more than clear enough. I am better off in the office here at ClimatePoint working to generate new capital streams towards new climate solutions while I wait for the first senior Norwegian politician to blink and propose an inevitable new course. After today there is no business as usual.

 
 
 
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