If you’ve been thinking the climate summit later this year will be one big bore, think again. New studies, government agencies and even banks are looking at climate change, and the picture isn’t pretty.
Studies published at the end of August in scientific journals, an analysis from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and a series of webinars at Arizona State University on the global security implications of climate risk are all sounding warnings about the potential for climate change to both disrupt and endanger the status quo.
For international investors, that means keeping an eye on the weather, but also on government actions (or inaction) and on political and economic disruptions. To that end, here’s a look at the 5 largest risks cited in the most recent studies, and what they’re liable to hit.
1. Severe winter weather in places it wasn’t before:
A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience found that increasing water temperatures north of Alaska and Russia are weakening the winds that blow bitterly cold air away from regions in eastern Asia and North America. That’s contributing to record snowfalls and bitingly cold winters. Remember Boston’s nine-plus feet of snow? Came from warmer Arctic air, according to the researchers.
South Korean and U.K. researchers, led by Jong-Seong Kug of Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea, found that weaker winds allowed frigid air to linger where it normally does not—the northern hemisphere’s middle latitudes.
There’s a fairly regular pattern to how the air moves. The Barents and Kara seas separate parts of Norway and western Russia from the Arctic Ocean. Warmer weather there, the researchers found, meant that approximately 15 days later East Asia would get severe weather. On the other side of the globe, if the Chukchi and East Siberian seas—which separate Alaska and eastern Russia from the Arctic Ocean—experience a warm spell, approximately five days later the U.S. and Canada will be hit with bitter cold.
2. Tropical cyclones blowing an ill wind:
It’s not all about the cold. Another paper, in the journal Nature Climate Change, declares that the tropics will be in for more extreme cyclones. Three coastal areas are in particular danger of higher storm surges: Cairns, Australia; the Persian Gulf; and Tampa, Florida.
Although it has never been hit by a tropical cyclone, the Persian Gulf’s odds are “large,” according to researchers led by Ning Lin of Princeton University. “Further warming of the ocean may further increase the chance of the Persian Gulf region being struck by an extreme storm,” the study said. That could mean Doha and Dubai could both be in danger of major storm surges—something neither is prepared for.
The researchers termed such storms in the region “gray swans”: “tropical cyclones as high-impact storms that would not be predicted based on history but may be foreseeable using physical knowledge together with historical data”—and said they “identify a potentially large risk in the Persian Gulf, where tropical cyclones have never been recorded.” However, climate change can produce effects not necessarily anticipated by scientists, particularly as warming accelerates.
3. South Asian economies at the front: