Month: June 2015

Is climate change increasing the risk of armed conflict?

By Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

The recently published 2015 Global Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, said that although OECD countries became more peaceful in 2014, there has been substantial increase in annual war-related deaths since 2010, and there are now more refugees than at any time since the Second World War. It is currently difficult to give a definitive answer as to whether climate change could exacerbate these problems.

Climate change is likely to exacerbate a range of environmental problems including heat waves, water shortages, and extreme weather and flooding, but whether or not this will lead to increased rates of armed conflict is still the subject of research.

Transforming climate change from a threat to an opportunity: Lancet Commission on Health and Climate report launch

by Dr Kris Murray, Grantham Lecturer in Global Change Ecology

Today the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate announced the release of their new report “2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health”.

Following a first report released in 2009, which concluded that “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”, today’s report has a proactive, positive take-home:  “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.”

Strategically released following the 68th World Health Assembly held last month and in the lead up to the UNFCCC’s COP21, to be held in Paris later this year, the report is the culmination of a second international (predominantly Chinese-European) working group assembled to assess the health impacts of climate change and to identify and accelerate effective mitigation and adaptation policies over the next 5 years.

Investing in institutional ‘software’ to build climate resilience

by Camilla Toulmin, Ced Hesse, Daoud Tari and Caroline King–Okumu, International Institute for Environment and Development

Building resilience to extreme weather needs a systems approach, including institutional ‘software’ as well as technical, financial, and physical infrastructure – or ‘hardware’. Designing, financing, achieving and evaluating success in the intangible aspects of resilience is challenging. Illustrating the systems approach to this challenge, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has been supporting the government of Kenya to invest in social software as a means to manage variable resource availability in the northern drylands.

Between 1980 and 2012, it is estimated that the annual damage from extreme-weather related events rose from $20b to 150b, totalling close to US$2 trillion, of which only ¼ was insured. 

A New York take on Sustainable Development: Is it feasible?  

By Clea Kolster, PhD student, Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet

The term ‘sustainable development’ was first coined in 1987 in the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development report, Our Common Future. Almost 30 years later, the concept of sustainable development is more relevant than ever.

The definition given in the report is, to this date, the most widely accepted modern definition of the term: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Climate and society, energy, water, ecosystem health and monitoring, global health, poverty, urbanization, natural disasters, food, ecology and nutrition – these are some of the main problems that need to be tackled when discussing the possibility of sustainable development.

Towards a Global Energy Internet

Professor Jo Haigh, Co-director of the Grantham Institute reports back from the Climate Parliament meeting in Lucerne, 12 June 2015.

I have just found a seat on the train from Lucerne to Zurich airport. It is absolutely packed, I suppose, with people going away for the weekend.  Staring through the window at the snow-capped mountains, and having spent the day at an inspirational conference set by the beautiful lake, I am wondering quite why anyone would want to leave.

I have been at a meeting of the Climate Parliament. I only learned of this organisation recently but it is rather splendid – a group of legislators from across the world who are concerned about climate change and looking to influence governments to act.  

The case of our missing trash

by Dr Erik van Sebille, Grantham Lecturer in Oceanography and Climate Change

Our oceans are filthy with plastic. Most attention so far has focused on the bottles, carrier bags and other junk floating in the middle of our oceans. Some say that we ought to go out there and clean the stuff up. But a series of recent high-profile studies suggest that this stuff is only 1% of all the plastic in our oceans. The question on this World Oceans Day 2015 is, where is the other 99%?

It’s hard to imagine a life without plastics, and this awesome material has greatly advanced our standard of living.

Making it pay by simple addition: win-win solutions for health and the environment

Dr Kris Murray, Grantham Lecturer in Global Change Ecology

Our planet is ill. Ongoing loss and endangerment of species, degradation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their services, and manmade changes to the global climate are dramatic symptoms of a major decline in the planet’s environmental health.

In glaring contrast, human health has improved, in some cases radically. Decreases in malnutrition, mortality due to infectious diseases and infant mortality rates, accompanied by substantial increases in life expectancy, can be observed in every major region of the world.

So why is health winning a war, while the environment is losing one?