A major bank has announced that the world’s resources are running dangerously low, and that businesses and governments alike are not taking climate change seriously enough. By August 1st, 2018, the planet had used all of its’ budget for natural resources, according to an analyst group at HSBC, which referenced studies carried out by the non profit GFN (Global Footprint Network). In other words, the world’s inhabitants consumed twelve months worth of planetary resources in only seven months, which does not bode well for the future of mankind.
The analysts from HSBC made a statement saying that they believe this data proves that most governments and businesses are unprepared for climate events, and that they are not making efficient use of natural resources. Lots of asset managers and banks have begun taking into account risks from climate change when making investment decisions – a policy inspired partly by Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York. In January 2018, more than 200 companies, which manage $81.7 trillion between them, promised to frequently report the danger that climate change represents to their operations, and introduce procedures to lower its’ effect on the world. Notwithstanding, it is not often that a multinational bank publishes equity research with such forceful concerns about the environment.
To determine the natural resource budget for the world, the GFN calculates the demand for these resources, which include forests, marine products and food — along with mankind’s impact on the planet from elements such as carbon emissions. The final total is intended to provide an extensive insight into the population’s global footprint. Ever since the GFN began monitoring ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, which is the time of year when we have consumed twelve month’s worth of resources, this date has consistently moved to earlier in the year. We only exceeded the planet’s resource budget by two days in 1970 (HSBC reports that Earth Overshoot Day was December 29th during this year). Since then though, this date has moved forward by nearly five months.
To perform its’ Earth Overshoot Day calculations, the GFN evaluates the amount of natural resources, including food, that can be grown over twelve months, and the quantity of carbon that can be sequestered by the planet. Reportedly, resource consumption is occurring 1.7 times quicker than resource regeneration. That is to say, 1.7 planets would be required to fulfill our present levels of consumption.
Because the population has grown considerably, the amount of renewable natural resources consumed has surpassed the earth’s renewal ability for over forty years. In addition, waste from food has an impact on our ecological footprint — which is a gauge of how much natural resources are required to keep the population sustained at its’ present level. Approximately 1.3 billion tons of food produced globally (thirty-three percent of all food produced) is lost or wasted every year. Roughly fifty percent of American produced food is wasted every year.
Levels of carbon, which increase because of human activities such as deforestation and fossil fuel burning, comprise sixty percent of our ecological footprint. According to the GFN, the planet needs to lower its’ carbon footprint, so that climate change can be averted and ecological overshoot can be stopped. Water is one of the primary natural resources that is diminishing. The United Nations states that, within seven years, 1.8 billion people are likely to live in territories with no water supply at all. By 2030, tens of millions (or even hundreds of millions) of people are predicted to be displaced from their homes because of this.
Another resource that is declining is phosphorus. This chemical element, which facilitates plant growth, could disappear from the planet within the next century if no new reserves of it are found, according to scientists working on global phosphorus research. Worse still, the earth’s oil reserves are predicted to run out within half a century, based on production levels from 2017. The effect of this over consumption is clearly evident, with species extinction, decreased crop productivity and soil erosion becoming more common. Additional hurricanes and droughts are happening too, because earth overshoot results in a higher atmospheric concentration of carbon, and this causes further damage to the environment.
HSBC highlighted other severe events due to heat, such as higher than ever world wide temperatures and Scandinavian wildfires. From the usually modest summer temperatures of Scotland, Canada and Ireland to the blistering heat of Southern California and the Middle East, several Northern Hemisphere locations saw their warmest weather during July 2018. Big heat domes, or heat pressure areas, distributed round the hemisphere resulted in the scorching temperatures. The Broadcasting Corporation in Canada reported that this heat was responsible for the deaths of fifty-four people in Quebec, close to Montreal, where particularly high temperatures were recorded.
Model analysis in the north of Siberia on July 5th, 2018 showed an increase in temperature to more than ninety degrees, which is forty degrees higher than normal. Meteorologist Nick Humphrey wrote that this was the most severe heat event that he had ever witnessed. Also in July, Africa probably experienced its’ warmest temperatures ever accurately measured. Ouargla in Algeria rose to 124.3 degrees. If confirmed, this would exceed the previous warmest temperature accurately recorded in Africa of 123.3 degrees, which was set in Morocco on July 13th, 1961.
Compared to other parts of the world, polar habitats are warming quickly, with the International Climate Change Panel claiming that Arctic land air temperatures have increased by five degrees. No one statistic, on its’ own, can be used as proof of global warming. However, together, these temperature records reflect the type of severe weather that we expect to experience on a warming planet.
Over the summer of 2018, Sweden was faced with multiple drought fueled, intense forest fires that spread throughout the country. The government there had to request assistance from the European Commission several times, to get these blazes under control. The predicament that Sweden is in has been caused by a prolonged period of unusually high temperatures, combined with notably dry weather. The winter and autumn in Sweden had plenty of rain, however this altered in May, reflecting the weather across most of Europe. The Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology in Sweden issued a statement highlighting the danger of low water levels for virtually all of southern and central Sweden. May was an exceptional month, because the average temperature in Stockholm was nearly six degrees above normal, at 16.1 degrees.
Many other countries have encountered wildfires in the summer of 2018 as well. Russia, Norway and Finland have also had to cope with numerous big fires. Even the United Kingdom, which typically has no shortage of rain, has been affected. The LFB (London Fire Brigade) has had to tackle multiple grass fires in the city, one of which was described as the largest ever, which blazed over 100 hectares of East London grassland. In June 2018, a fire in the north of the country, on Saddleworth Moor, was contained by firefighters after destroying 2000 acres of moorland.
In America, wildfires fueled by drought spread across areas of Colorado, California, Alaska and other states in July 2018, wiping out over 100 properties and forcing the occupants of over 2000 households to evacuate. They are part of a worrying trend linked to global warming. Other problems include greater frequency of floods, hurricanes and heat waves, and melting ice sheets.
HSBC said that, while scientists look to analyze specific phenomena — their overall belief is that global warming is making this phenomena more probable and more extreme. Research published in Nature in 2018 showed that global warming is making storms remain in a single area for longer than was the case during the previous century. Slow hurricanes can be especially dangerous — in 2017, Hurricane Harvey stayed in Texas for over two weeks, causing catastrophic floods and damage worth billions of dollars.
The latest research indicates that, by 2100, global temperatures could exceed the Climate Change Intergovernmental Panel’s forecast by fifteen percent. The GFN says that earth overshoot can not carry on indefinitely – eventually, ecosystems will begin to deteriorate and collapse if preventative action is not taken. The projected effects of global warming are becoming an alarming reality. HSBC reports that severe environmental incidents have a big social and economic cost. This is why, in their assessment, green policies will have to be given higher priority, with a greater emphasis on the social ramifications.