Future of the Environment

Hurricane Ian and other environment stories you need to read this week

A view of a flooded community after Hurricane Ian caused widespread destruction in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S.

Image: REUTERS/Marco Bello

Kate Whiting
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Future of the Environment

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • This weekly round-up brings you key environment stories from the past seven days.
  • Top stories: President Biden warns that Hurricane Ian might be Florida's deadliest as death toll climbs; Nord Stream methane leak 'biggest' ever; Swiss glaciers have worst melt year on record.

1. News in brief: Top environment and climate change stories to read this week

The death toll from Hurricane Ian climbed past 80 on 2 October. Residents in Florida and North and South Carolina face a recovery expected to cost tens of billions of dollars, and some officials have faced criticism over their response to the storm. The death toll is expected to keep rising as the floodwaters recede. US President Joe Biden warned on 29 September that Hurricane Ian could be the deadliest in Florida's history.

The hurricane also caused Cuba's electrical grid to collapse late on 27 September, leaving the entire country in the dark shortly after it hit the western end of the island.

The ruptures on the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system under the Baltic Sea have led to what is likely the biggest single release of climate-damaging methane ever recorded, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said on 30 September. A huge plume of highly concentrated methane – a greenhouse gas far more potent but shorter-lived than carbon dioxide – was detected in analysis of satellite imagery by researchers associated with UNEP's International Methane Emissions Observatory.

Northwest Nigeria faces worsening malnutrition due to insecurity, high food prices and the impact of climate change, international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières said on 27 September, calling for the region to be included in UN funding plans next year.

More big US companies have tied their CEO pay to climate goals, but few give executives much incentive to make significant emissions cuts, a new study shows.

The International Monetary Fund said on 28 September that its staff have agreed on $293 million in new financing for Barbados, including $183 million via the new Resilience and Sustainability Trust fund created to help vulnerable middle-income and island countries.

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Most of England remains in drought, and careful management of water resources will be needed throughout the winter, Britain's National Drought Group said on 28 September.

Rising interest rates present no significant barrier to the world's transition to net zero by 2050, despite the high levels of investment in green energy needed, according to a strong majority of climate economists polled by Reuters.

Weather disasters linked to global warming are increasingly reducing the productive capacity of the US economy and sapping resources from governments, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on 27 September, arguing for an accelerated transition to renewable energy.


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2. Worst melt year on record for Swiss glaciers, data shows

Swiss glaciers have recorded their worst melt rate since records began more than a century ago, losing 6% of their remaining volume this year. This is nearly double the previous record set in 2003, monitoring body GLAMOS said on 28 September.

The melt was so extreme this year that bare rock that had remained buried for millennia re-emerged at one site, while elsewhere bodies and even a plane lost decades ago were recovered. Other small glaciers all but vanished.

"We knew with climate scenarios that this situation would come, at least somewhere in the future," GLAMOS Head Matthias Huss told Reuters. "And realizing that the future is already right here, right now, this was maybe the most surprising or shocking experience of this summer."

More than half of the glaciers in the Alps are in Switzerland, where temperatures are rising by around twice the global average.

Change in ice volume relative to previous year.
Glaciers in Switzerland are melting faster than ever. Image: GLAMOS

3. US central bank to start climate scenario analysis in 2023

The US Federal Reserve says that six of the country's largest banks will participate in a pilot climate scenario analysis exercise in 2023.

Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase , Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo will be involved in the exercise, which the Fed said will not have capital or supervisory consequences. The Fed plans to publish aggregate findings, but no information about individual firms.

The exercise will be the US central bank's first public effort to gauge the level and management of risks for banks when it comes to climate change. This could begin a process that ends up informing how banks lend and manage risk in the future.

The announcement was met with skepticism from the industry. The Bank Policy Institute, which represents large banks, says that climate risk may not pose a severe threat to bank stability, and that regulators are pursuing "intensive, detailed requirements on banks that are disproportionate to the actual climate-related risk they face".

But advocates of tougher rules called on the Fed to accelerate its efforts and impose new restrictions on banks based on what such analysis reveals.

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