Climate crisis worsens conflict death rates, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

Top nature and climate stories: Climate change may increase conflict deaths; Hurricane Idalia could be US' costliest disaster this year; and more.
Top nature and climate stories: Climate change may increase conflict deaths; Hurricane Idalia could be US' costliest disaster this year; and more.
Image: NASA
  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Climate change may increase conflict deaths; Hurricane Idalia could be US' costliest disaster this year; Air pollution impacting longevity in South Asia.

1. IMF: Climate change may increase conflict deaths

As Africa kicks off its first Climate Summit in Nairobi from 4-6 September, research finds the climate crisis can worsen unrest in some of the continent's most fragile nations, causing more deaths and greater economic losses.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) paper, Climate Challenges in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States, found deaths from conflict as a share of the population could increase by almost 10% in countries classified as fragile by 2060.

The climate crisis could also push an additional 50 million people in fragile states (such as Sudan and Somalia) into hunger by 2060, the paper's authors predict.

"Conflict undermines the capacity of fragile states to manage climate risks," the IMF said. "For example, in Somalia, the areas most severely affected by food insecurity and hunger due to the prolonged drought in 2021-22 were under the control of terrorist groups that thwarted delivery of humanitarian assistance."

Red alert: Rising temperatures, already higher in fragile and conflict-affected states, endanger human health and productivity.
Hotter temperatures affect more lives in conflict-torn countries.
Image: IMF

2. Hurricane Idalia could be costliest climate disaster to hit US in 2023

Hurricane Idalia has the potential to become the costliest climate disaster of 2023 for the United States, according to risk analysts.

The storm, which hit the Gulf Coast of Florida on 30 August and caused millions of residents to evacuate, could cost insurers as much as $9.36 billion in insured losses, according to UBS bank estimates.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Joe Biden said Hurricane Idalia showed no one "can deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore".

Florida insurers suffer losses after strong hurricanes.
Losses incurred by hurricanes in Florida over the past decade.
Image: Reuters Graphics

Early reports seen by Reuters indicated the Category 3 storm has been less destructive than the Category 5 Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida in September 2022, killing 150 people and causing $112 billion in damage.

Natural disasters and extreme weather events were named by Chief Risk Officers as the second biggest risk over the next two years. Failure to mitigate climate change is the biggest risk over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2023.

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

Rising air pollution in South Asia is now posing a major risk to life expectancy in the region, according to the latest Air Quality Life Index published by the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute. Air pollution can reduce life expectancy by more than five years per person in South Asia, the report finds.

Fossil fuels' share in the European Union's power mix has reached its lowest level since records began, according to a report. In the first half of this year, they accounted for just 33% of the EU's power generation, down from 38% in the same period last year, think tank Ember said.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

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EU securities regulator, the European Securities and Markets Authority, has highlighted the surge in cash flowing into biodiversity funds and the need for increased monitoring to prevent greenwashing.

London now has the world's largest clean air zone, as the Ultra Low Emission Zone was expanded to cover the entire city – an additional 5 million residents – despite facing strong opposition.

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has promised the country will be better prepared to fight wildfires in future, with drones and forest temperature sensors installed. It comes after a wildfire burning in the northeast of the country for 11 days destroyed an area larger than New York City.

German companies have expressed concerns about the energy transition, seeing it as a greater risk than an opportunity for their competitiveness, according to a survey conducted by the DIHK Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

A set of standards released by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) will set worldwide sustainability reporting requirements for decades to come, writes Sue Lloyd, ISSB Vice-Chair. The standards place more onus on companies to disclose how climate change affects their business. Now the work begins to get companies to start using them.

Blended finance can provide the catalyst to scale funding to protect nature and climate, says Akanksha Khatri, the World Economic Forum's Head of Nature and Biodiversity and Carlos Correa, Senior Fellow, Conservation International. By working in coalition, mainstreaming nature across multilateral development banks and institutionalizing blended finance for nature-positive initiatives, we can quickly scale the blended finance needed to meet global climate and biodiversity goals.

Investment in renewable energy is skyrocketing, in line with ambitious national targets aimed at curbing carbon emissions, writes James Larsen, CEO of energy storage company e-Zinc. As renewable energy capacity grows, we must identify and expand better ways of storing this energy, to avoid waste and deal with demand spikes.

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