Vast Gap Seen in Climate Adaption Spending Across 10 of the World's Biggest Cities
The amount of money going towards adapting to climate change in 10 of the world’s biggest cities has increased by a quarter in recent years, according to new research.
Against a backdrop of a global recession, this might seem like good news. But representing at most 0.33 percent of a city’s wealth, resilience-building is still a small fraction of total spending.
The new study, published Monday in Nature Climate Change, also highlights the “staggering” difference between adaptation spending in developed and developing countries, with the city of New York spending 35 times more per person to protect its residents than Lagos.
The disparity is “proof of concept” that money is being spent preferentially to protect physical capital over people, say the authors.
More than half of the world’s population are classified as living in cities. That figure is projected to rise to 66 percent by 2050. Cities face a wide range of climate change risks, from heat waves and flooding in densely packed cities to sea level rise in coastal cities.
Exactly how much cities around the world are doing to make themselves more resilient is hard to establish. Even more difficult to pinpoint is how those efforts are changing over time.
The authors of today’s study built a database from more than 1,000 sources of information about how much money is being spent on activities related to climate change adaptation. This covers everything from building coastal defenses to urban drainage to planting trees.
Lead author on the study, Dr. Lucien Georgeson from University College London, explained to Carbon Brief:
“We started with an overall definition including all economic activities related to adaptation across the ten economic sectors in the study. From there, we isolated the activities that could be directly related to climate change.”
Take the example of the Thames Barrier, says Prof. Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London and co-author on the new study. He tells Carbon Brief:
“Building the Thames Barrier was to protect against weather events, particularly storm surges … That cost would not be counted as an adaptation to climate change. However, the Environment Agency has planned to retrofit it to increase the actual gate height by an extra meter. This is a clear adaptation to increased sea level rise in the future.”
Importantly, the researchers looked at spending in both the public and private sectors in order to build up a complete picture from the bottom up. As Georgeson tells Carbon Brief:
“The underlying thing that we wanted to achieve was to create a baseline for measuring whether action to adapt to climate change in different cities around the world is improving or not and whether there are any disparities between cities.”
First, the study takes a global view, estimating that a total of £223bn is being spent on climate change adaptation around the world. This is equivalent to 0.38 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).
To see how adaptation spending varies in different regions, the authors focused on 10 “megacities,” defined here as cities with populations of more than three million or a GDP within the top 25 of cities or both.
The authors selected New York, London, Paris, Beijing, Mexico City, São Paulo, Mumbai, Jakarta, Lagos and Addis Ababa to represent a range of regions, socioeconomic states and climates.
On first glance, the picture appears encouraging. Total adaptation spending across the 10 cities has risen by around 27 percent in the last seven years, from £4.86bn in 2008/9 to £6.15bn in 2014/15. Almost all cities show growth despite the economic recession, Georgeson tells Carbon Brief:
“In a nutshell, there has been a broadly positive trend in adaptation to climate change … Most cities have fairly stable growth, so that’s a positive sign.”
But within lies a much more complex picture. Adaptation spending varied enormously across the cities, the paper explains. In 2014/15, total spend ranged from £15m in Addis Ababa to £1.6bn in New York, as the chart below on the left shows.
Expressed as a proportion of wealth, a huge disparity exists between cities at different stages of economic development. Megacities in developed countries spend around 0.22 percent of their GDP on building resilience to climate change, compared to 0.15 percent for cities in developing countries.
The one stark outlier to this pattern is Beijing, the paper notes.
Spending 0.33 percent of its GDP on climate change adaptation and resilience, this is far more than any other developing or developed city. The authors attribute this to strong centralized policy frameworks in China, with a national plan in place since 2007 covering adaptation in both urban and rural areas.
The authors break down the total figures further to take into account the relative sizes of each megacity’s population. Again, the differences in adaptation spending across the cities are stark.
In 2014/15, New York spent the equivalent of £193.38 protecting each of its residents, compared to £4.71 in Addis Ababa. Maslin tells Carbon Brief:
“We were expecting there to be disparity between developing, emerging and developed countries. However, what we weren’t expecting was for the difference between, say, Lagos and New York to be a 35-times increase in spend to protect the population against climate change.”
The disparity is particularly concerning given that the the majority of population growth out to 2050 is likely to occur in China, India, Nigeria and Indonesia, say the authors.
While developing cities have greater competition for their expenditure, the huge scale of the disparity suggests protecting infrastructure not vulnerable populations is the biggest priority for adaptation spending, Georgeson tells Carbon Brief:
“You might expect that cities like New York are spending a lot more on climate change adaptation. But the fact that they’re spending more as a percentage of their GDP and much more per capita shows you that adaptation spend now is not necessarily always to protect people that are at risk. It might be to protect the infrastructure and the insurance risks.”
While adaptation spending may be on the rise globally, this should serve as an early warning sign that some countries are getting left behind, explains Georgeson in the video below.
As well as how much each of the 10 megacities spends on adaptation activities, the new study looks at what exactly the money is being spent on. Again, strong differences emerge.
Developed countries spend proportionately more than developing countries on water infrastructure (~16 percent compared to ~13 percent), energy infrastructure (~9 percent compared to ~6 percent) and professional services, such as banking and insurance (~15 percent compared to ~12 percent).
On the other hand, the priority in megacities in developing and emerging countries is building resilience in the agriculture and forestry sectors (~4 percent compared to ~1 percent).
All cities allocate a similar proportion of resources to the built environment (~32 percent). This includes construction and retrofitting as well as energy efficiency, water supply and water use in buildings. The exception is Beijing, where the built environment accounts for nearly 50 percent of the total adaptation spend. The paper explains:
“The greater spend on agriculture and forestry, the natural environment and in some cases health demonstrates the very different profile of needs in developing country cities compared with established global financial centers, where professional services, built environment, energy and water dominate.”
While each city spends a similar proportion of its adaptation resources on “disaster preparedness,” the difference in absolute terms is “staggering,” say the authors in the paper.
In 2014/5, Addis Ababa spent £0.2m on disaster preparedness compared to £21.36m in New York. This includes activities such as building coastal defenses, developing early warning systems, relocating vulnerable residents and advanced risk modeling.
The finding that adaptation spending reflects capital interests rather than human lives is perhaps not unsurprising, says Maslin. But the scale of the difference probably is, he says:
“I think that policymakers are going to be quite surprised by the disparity in the spend between cities … This will help them adapt their policies to enhance that spend and leverage greater spend from the private sector.”
A major strength of the study is the sheer wealth of data and level of scrutiny in the method, say the authors. They confirmed each adaptation activity in at least seven different sources before being counted in a city’s total spend.
This means you get a feel for what is really happening in each city as opposed to what people want you to think is happening, says Maslin. He is optimistic that having this level of data available to city mayors and decision makers will spur change, adding:
“One of the lessons that we learned from the Millennium Development Goals is if you start measuring things and you give policymakers the data, things do improve.”
While it may be a small part of the global economy now, we should expect the level of commitment to climate change adaptation visible within the public and private sector in the world’s most heavily populated regions to rise in line with the risks, say the authors.
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By Michel Penke
More than every second person in the world now has a cellphone, and manufacturers are rolling out bigger, better, slicker models all the time. Many, however, have a bloody history.
Though made in large part of plastic, glass, ceramics, gold and copper, they also contain critical resources. The gallium used for LEDs and the camera flash, the tantalum in capacitors and indium that powers the display were all pulled from the ground — at a price for nature and people.
"Mining raw materials is always problematic, both with regard to human rights and ecology," said Melanie Müller, raw materials expert of the German think tank SWP. "Their production process is pretty toxic."
The gallium and indium in many phones comes from China or South Korea, the tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo or Rwanda. All in, such materials comprise less than ten grams of a phone's weight. But these grams finance an international mining industry that causes radioactive earth dumps, poisoned groundwater and Indigenous population displacement.
Environmental Damage: 'Nature Has Been Overexploited'
The problem is that modern technologies don't work without what are known as critical raw materials. Collectively, solar panels, drones, 3D printers and smartphone contain as many as 30 of these different elements sourced from around the globe. A prime example is lithium from Chile, which is essential in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.
"No one, not even within the industry, would deny that mining lithium causes enormous environmental damage," Müller explained, in reference to the artificial lakes companies create when flushing the metal out of underground brine reservoirs. "The process uses vast amounts of water, so you end up with these huge flooded areas where the lithium settles."
This means of extraction results in the destruction and contamination of the natural water system. Unique plants and animals lose access to groundwater and watering holes. There have also been reports of freshwater becoming salinated due to extensive acidic waste water during lithium mining.
But lithium is not the only raw material that causes damage. Securing just one ton of rare earth elements produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste, and has devastated large regions of China, said Günther Hilpert, head of the Asia Research Division of the German think tank SWP.
He says companies there have adopted a process of spraying acid over the mining areas in order to separate the rare earths from other ores, and that mined areas are often abandoned after excavation.
"They are no longer viable for agricultural use," Hilpert said. "Nature has been overexploited."
China is not the only country with low environmental mining standards and poor resource governance. In Madagascar, for example, a thriving illegal gem and metal mining sector has been linked to rainforest depletion and destruction of natural lemur habitats.
States like Madagascar, Rwanda and the DRC score poorly on the Environmental Performance Index that ranks 180 countries for their effort on factors including conservation, air quality, waste management and emissions. Environmentalists are therefore particularly concerned that these countries are mining highly toxic materials like beryllium, tantalum and cobalt.
But it is not only nature that suffers from the extraction of high-demand critical raw materials.
"It is a dirty, toxic, partly radioactive industry," Hilpert said. "China, for example, has never really cared about human rights when it comes to achieving production targets."
Dirty, Toxic, Radioactive: Working in the Mining Sector
One of the most extreme examples is Baotou, a Chinese city in Inner Mongolia, where rare earth mining poisoned surrounding farms and nearby villages, causing thousands of people to leave the area.
In 2012, The Guardian described a toxic lake created in conjunction with rare earth mining as "a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond nearby factories discharge water loaded with chemicals used to process the 17 most sought after minerals in the world."
Local residents reported health issues including aching legs, diabetes, osteoporosis and chest problems, The Guardian wrote.
South Africa has also been held up for turning a blind eye to the health impacts of mining.
"The platinum sector in South Africa has been criticized for performing very poorly on human rights — even within the raw materials sector," Müller said.
In 2012, security forces killed 34 miners who had been protesting poor working conditions and low wages at a mine owned by the British company Lonmin. What became known as the "Marikana massacre" triggered several spontaneous strikes across the country's mining sector.
Müller says miners can still face exposure to acid drainage — a frequent byproduct of platinum mining — that can cause chemical burns and severe lung damage. Though this can be prevented by a careful waste system.
Some progress was made in 2016 when the South African government announced plans to make mining companies pay $800 million (€679 million) for recycling acid mine water. But they didn't all comply. In 2020, activists sued Australian-owned mining company Mintails and the government to cover the cost of environmental cleanup.
Another massive issue around mining is water consumption. Since the extraction of critical raw materials is very water intensive, drought prone countries such as South Africa, have witnessed an increase in conflicts over supply.
For years, industry, government and the South African public debated – without a clear agreement – whether companies should get privileged access to water and how much the population may suffer from shortages.
Mining in Brazil: Replacing Nature, People, Land Rights
Beyond the direct health and environmental impact of mining toxic substances, quarrying critical raw materials destroys livelihoods, as developments in Brazil demonstrate.
"Brazil is the major worldwide niobium producer and reserves in [the state of] Minas Gerais would last more than 200 years [at the current rate of demand]," said Juliana Siqueira-Gay, environmental engineer and Ph.D. student at the University of São Paulo.
While the overall number of niobium mining requests is stagnating, the share of claims for Indigenous land has skyrocketed from 3 to 36 percent within one year. If granted, 23 percent of the Amazon forest and the homeland of 222 Indigenous groups could fall victim to deforestation in the name of mining, a study by Siqueira-Gay finds.
In early 2020, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a bill which would allow corporations to develop areas populated by Indigenous communities in the future. The law has not yet entered into force, but "this policy could have long-lasting negative effects on Brazil's socio-biodiversity," said Siqueira-Gay.
One example are the niobium reserves in Seis Lagos, in Brazil's northeast, which could be quarried to build electrolytic capacitors for smartphones.
"They overlap the Balaio Indigenous land and it would cause major impacts in Indigenous communities by clearing forests responsible for providing food, raw materials and regulating the local climate," Siqueira-Gay explained.
She says scientific good practice guidelines offer a blueprint for sustainable mining that adheres to human rights and protects forests. Quarries in South America — and especially Brazil — funded by multilaterial banks like the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group have to follow these guidelines, Siqueira-Gay said.
They force companies to develop sustainable water supply, minimize acid exposure and re-vegetate mined surfaces. "First, negative impacts must be avoided, then minimized and at last compensated — not the other way around."
Reposted with permission from DW.
Researchers at UC-Riverside are investigating how barley, a key ingredient in beer, survives in such a wide variety of climates with hopes of learning what exactly makes it so resilient across climates.
Barley was first grown domestically in Southwest Asia about 10,000 year ago and is grown around the world, from Egypt to Minnesota.
Barley's prime growing regions have shifted northward in recent decades as global temperatures have risen due to climate change caused by human extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects manager for the Brewers Association located in Boulder, Colorado, told E&E climate change's effects are impacting the brewing industry.
"Certainly dynamic growing conditions, water scarcity, extreme weather events, growers' planting decisions can all affect both pricing and availability of brewers' supply of malted barley," he told E&E News.
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France moved one step closer this weekend to banning short-haul flights in an attempt to fight the climate crisis.
A bill prohibiting regional flights that could be replaced with an existing train journey of less than two and a half hours passed the country's National Assembly late on Saturday, as Reuters reported.
"We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions," Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Europe 1 radio, according to Reuters.
The measure now has to pass the French Senate, then return to the lower house for a final vote. It would end regional flights between Paris's Orly airport and cities like Nantes and Bordeaux, The Guardian explained. It would not, however, impact connecting flights through Paris's Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.
The bill is part of a legislative package which aims to reduce France's emissions by 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030, Reuters reported. It is a watered-down version of a proposal suggested by France's Citizens' Convention on Climate, BBC News explained. This group, which was formed by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 and included 150 ordinary citizens, had put forward a ban on flights that could be replaced with an existing train journey of under four hours.
However, the journey length was lowered after protests from KLM-Air France, which had suffered heavy losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, and regions who were concerned about being left out of national transit networks, as The Guardian explained.
"We have chosen two and a half hours because four hours risks isolating landlocked territories including the greater Massif Central, which would be iniquitous," transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said, as The Guardian reported.
However, some environmental and consumer groups objected to the changes. The organization UFC-Que Choisir compared plane routes with equivalent train journeys of under four hours and found that the plane trips emitted an average of 77 times more carbon dioxide per passenger than the train journeys. At the same time, the train alternatives were cheaper and only as much as 40 minutes longer.
"[T]he government's choice actually aims to empty the measure of its substance," the group said, according to The Guardian.
The new measure also opens the French government to charges of hypocrisy. It bailed out Air France-KLM to the tune of a seven-billion euro loan last year, though it did require the airline to drop some domestic routes as a condition. Then, days before the measure passed, it more than doubled its stake in the airline, BBC News reported. However, Pannier-Runacher insisted to Europe 1 radio that it was possible to balance fighting climate change and supporting struggling businesses.
"Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside," she said, as Reuters reported.
This is not the first time that climate measures and aviation bailouts have coincided in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Austrian Airlines replaced its Vienna-Salzburg flight with additional train service after it received government money dependent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, BBC News reported.
The number of flights worldwide declined almost 42 percent in 2020 when compared with 2019. It is expected that global aviation may not fully recover until 2024, according to Reuters.
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Four gray whales have washed up dead near San Francisco within nine days, and at least one cause of death has been attributed to a ship strike.
More whales than usual have been washing up dead since 2019, and the West Coast gray whale population continues to suffer from an unusual mortality event, defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as "a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response."
"It's alarming to respond to four dead gray whales in just over a week because it really puts into perspective the current challenges faced by this species," Dr. Pádraig Duignan, director of pathology at the Marine Mammal Center, said in a press release.
As the world's largest marine mammal hospital, the Sausalito-based center has been investigating the recent spate of deaths. The first involved a 41-foot female who washed up dead at San Francisco's Crissy Field on March 31, SFGate reported. The cause of death remains a mystery, as the whale was in good condition with a full stomach. The second, another female, washed up on April 3 at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve on Moss Beach.
"That animal's cause of death, we suspect, was ship strike," the Marine Mammal Center's Giancarlo Rulli told SFGate. "Our plan is to eventually head back out to that whale and take more samples."
The third whale washed up April 7 near Berkeley Marina, The AP reported. The center determined it was a 37-foot male in average condition, with no evidence of illness or injury.
A 41-foot female turned up the next day on Marin County's Muir Beach. She suffered bruising and hemorrhaging around the jaw and neck vertebrae, indicating a vessel strike.
Vessel strikes are one of the leading causes of death for gray whales examined by the Marine Mammal Center, along with entanglements in fishing gear and malnutrition. While the species is not endangered, the population has declined by 25 percent since last assessed in 2016, CNN reported.
West Coast gray whales travel 10,000 miles every year between Mexico and the Arctic, according to The AP. They spend the winter breeding off of Baja California, and feed along the California coast in spring and summer on their way back north. The Marine Mammal Center began noticing a problem for the migrating whales in 2019.
"Our team hasn't responded to this number of dead gray whales in such a short span since 2019 when we performed a startling 13 necropsies in the San Francisco Bay Area," Dr. Duignan said in the press release.
The 2019 deaths led NOAA to declare an unusual mortality event for West Coast gray whales. It is similar to another event that happened from 1999 to 2000, after which the whales' numbers rebounded to even higher levels. This suggests population dips and rises may not be uncommon for the species. However, it is also possible that the climate crisis is playing a role. The 2019 deaths were linked to malnutrition, and warmer waters can reduce the amount of food whales have to eat in the Arctic, giving them less energy for their migration, CNN explained. Overfishing can also play a role in depriving whales of food, the Marine Mammal Center said.
Dr. Jeff Boehm, Marine Mammal Center CEO and veterinarian, told CNN that he had observed an uptick in shipping traffic after the pandemic caused a slowdown. At the same time, the center is less able to conduct research because of COVID-19 safety precautions. And even in the best of times, only around 10 percent of dead whales wash up on shore, The AP reported.
"This many dead whales in a week is shocking, especially because these animals are the tip of the iceberg," Kristen Monsell, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Oceans program, told The AP.
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About 70% of the buildings in Kalbarri were damaged and tens of thousands are without power by winds gusting over 100 miles per hour. Climate change, caused by humans' extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is making cyclonic storms more extreme by increasing air and ocean temperatures, which effectively supercharges the storms.
"You just thought, this is it. I would have thought that when we opened the door, that there would be nothing around us except that roof," Kalbarri resident Debbie Major told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We are a small town. Half of it has been flattened." Seroja devastated regions of Indonesia and Timor-Leste last week, where it triggered deadly flash floods and landslides.
#CycloneSeroja: homes & units before & after the cyclone hit #Kalbarri, 170kmh gusts causing major damage. #7NEWS https://t.co/WYFL2QOlwB— Paul Kadak (@Paul Kadak)1618186830.0
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