Is it hot outside? Should I bring an umbrella?
Most of us don’t think much beyond these questions when we check the weather report on a typical day. But weather information plays a much more critical role than providing intel on whether to take an umbrella or use sunscreen. It can help manage the effects of climate change, prevent economic losses and save lives when extreme weather hits.
Every now and then an email stops me in my tracks, reminding me that Oxfam is stuffed full of bright, motivated, altruistic people. Here’s one I got a few weeks ago from Debbie Hillier, one of our Humanitarian Policy Advisers, in response to my request for thoughts on the state of the aid business. Her views are fleshed out in ‘A Preventable Crisis’, a new report published this week:
Here is a current example of how the aid system doesn’t work.
El Niño events and other droughts are forecast months in advance. There is of course some uncertainty in the forecasts, but nonetheless, there is often a high probability of a natural hazard. And with major droughts/El Niño/La Niña, these can affect many millions of people.
So there are situations of high probability and high impact – like the current El Niño. And these are situations where we know what the solutions are. There are far fewer complicating political factors than in conflict – we know what to do.
If this was the private sector, there would be a significant response at this point. However the aid system does not work like this.
Taken together, these global commitments—all relevant to transport—set a high bar for success in transforming the world’s mobility in the next 10 to 15 years; they are also diverse and complex. For example, nine targets in the SDG framework relate directly to transport. Some targets are straightforward—for instance, Others are less—including the SDG target 9.1 of “developing quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and trans-border infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all” which does not specify a clear quantitative target to be achieved by 2030.
I’ve suggested recently that although high economic growth in recent decades has greatly improved average life expectancy, infant mortality, and other leading indicators policymakers and development practitioners were still worried about the sustainability of these trends and whether people in developing countries would eventually enjoy the high standards of living of high-income countries. This, against the background of a planet under increasing stress, particularly as a result of climate change. In this blog, I explore some of the actions needed to sustain our global economy.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for more than 80% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally, but only 12% of emissions are currently covered by explicit carbon prices. The High Level Panel on Carbon Pricing has called on the international community to double this figure to 25% by 2020 and increase it again to 50% within a decade. Read more.
Just months after a historic climate conference in Paris, I can’t help but marvel at how far the world has progressed in the uptake of renewable energy. Take solar power, for example. What used to be a prohibitively expensive endeavor just years ago, is now a household-level solution in many countries. Then there are the record-setting solar auctions in countries like Zambia, the United Arab Emirates, India, Mexico, and Peru.
So what’s the next critical piece of the puzzle in our global efforts to provide sustainable energy for all?
In my view – and that of many others – it is to establish a viable, stationary solution to store energy. While stationary energy storage on a large scale has always been around – hydro energy storage, as an example, is efficient and cost effective – it is tied to topography and difficult to add at will. The cost of batteries has also been a big obstacle to widespread deployment and was a primary reason for the electricity grid to be designed as the biggest real-time delivery systems humans have ever made.
, improving educational outcomes, safeguarding food and minimizing its waste, improving healthcare, and supporting countries’ digital ambitions (that computer of yours heats up pretty fast). And all of this, from improved productivity to education to health, is vital to eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity across the globe.
The idea that there are untapped opportunities for improving the energy efficiency of individuals and homes is common. Energy efficient windows, lightbulbs, and appliances are sold worldwide. People are advised to “turn off the lights when you leave a room,” and schemes have been introduced to reduce energy consumption by tapping into social psychology. But what about large firms? Or entire industries? Companies, after all, want to minimize costs to save money, don’t they? How about airlines, whose bottom lines are subject to the international price of fuel?
It seems rational, but the International Energy Agency does not mention the aviation sector in its Energy Efficiency Market Report, nor does Kinsey in their comprehensive catalog of potential energy efficiency measures. Most reports (that I could find) focus on regulation of commercial enterprises. This is a shame. The environmental impact of aviation is clear: aircraft engines emit heat, noise, particulates, CO2, and other harmful gases that contribute to climate change. Despite more fuel-efficient and less polluting turbofan and turboprop engines for airplanes as well as innovations in air frames, engines, aerodynamics, and flight operations, the rapid growth of air travel in recent years has contributed to an increase in total aviation pollution. In part, this is because aviation emissions are not subject international regulation thus far and because the lack of global taxes on aviation fuel results in lower fares than one would see otherwise.
Interestingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, the National Bureau of Economic Research just released a working paper that suggests airlines’ fuel consumption can be reduced if they “nudge” the pilots to use less fuel, using behavioral interventions.
“In a time when gods walked the earth, an epic battle rages between the encroaching civilization of man and the gods of the forest…” That’s the opening line of the official movie trailer for Princess Mononoke.
I’ve always been a fan of Studio Ghibli, but among their films, Princess Mononoke was one that inspired me most. If you don’t know the story, there’s a prince that gets involved in a war between mankind and gods. The fate of the world rests on a forest princess! Yes, there’s a fearless forest princess in this movie. With its strong plot, interesting characters and fantasy elements, it became one of the highest-grossing films in Japan. Sure enough, Mononoke led me to a path of believing in heroes and saving the world.
If I ask you what movie changed your life or inspired you to action, I’m guessing that you would tell me about a blockbuster, or maybe, a cause-related documentary. Stories speak to us differently and individually. The bigger question is, where can these stories take us?
Mapping gravel roads in flood-prone areas amidst talk of guerrilla ambushes was not what I had imagined when I signed up as a climate change specialist for the World Bank. But if my first trip to the Zambezia and Nampula provinces in northern Mozambique is any indication of what life as a World Banker is going to be – my teenage Indiana Jones fantasies may well come true!
It all started innocently enough when I was hired to support a project in Mozambique focused on improving the conditions of feeder roads to foster agricultural production. The northern provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are major agricultural producers for the country, but also highly flood-prone. The Zambezi, Ligonha and Molocue rivers flood almost every rainy season, rendering significant elements of the road network impassable, sometimes for months. A changing climate could increase the severity and frequency of extreme rainfall – further exacerbating flood risks. Our goal was to identify elements of the unmapped, “unclassified” feeder network which could be improved to provide network redundancy, and thus improve road system resilience to flooding. It quickly became clear that the first step in evaluating an unmapped network is to map it, so I spent the last two weeks in Mozambique working with the government to do just that.