Climate Geopolitics: The Data | Brunswick
Perspectives

Climate Geopolitics: The Data

Brunswick’s Jon Miller looks at the climate science and potential impacts.

Food Insecurity

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization warns: “For decades, the number of hungry people had been declining—this isn’t true anymore.”

Current Situation: 26.4% of the world’s population faces moderate or severe food insecurity—about 2 billion people.
Future Prediction: Population rising to 9 billion people food production must increase by 70%

Carbon Emissions & Surface Temperatures

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Both continue to climb—and show no signs of abating.

Water Insecurity

They might be the most easily imaginable consequences of a warmer planet: drier land and less water. According to UN Water, by 2030 as many as 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by “intense” water scarcity, and by 2040 one in four children under the age of 18 will be living in areas “of extremely high water stress.” A third of the world’s biggest groundwater systems are already in distress.

The effects on public health and national economies could be devastating, and could inspire mass migration or armed conflict. Such projections are unsettling, yet today’s situation is more dire than many realize.

Every continent has areas of water scarcity, and more than 2 billion people today live in countries experiencing high water stress. Nearly half of the world’s population already live in potentially waterscarce areas, according to UN Water.

Mass Extinction

Based on an assessment of 100,000 species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. 

27 percent

of species are threatened with extinction

30 percent

sharks & rays

33 percent

reef corals

25 percent

mammals

41 percent

amphibians

34 percent

conifers

27 percent

crustaceans

14 percent

birds

Antartic Ice Mass & Rising Seas

The red line shows a steady decline in the Antarctic Ice Mass, one of Earth’s two polar ice caps and the largest mass of ice on the planet. The blue line shows the consistent rise in global sea levels. 

In 2018, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global sea levels had risen 3.2 inches (81 mm) above the 1993 average. As oceans warm and ice sheets continue to melt, sea levels will continue to rise. This spells problems for those who live on or near coastlines—which, according to the UN, constitutes about 40 percent of the world’s population.

Climate-Related Disasters

The past 4 years have been the hottest on record, as have 20 of the past 22 years. The UN estimates that a climate crisis disaster happens on average every week. The cumulative price tag of those disasters is $520 billion annually. The steep economic costs are mirrored by severe humanitarian ones.

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters found that, in 2018, extreme weather drove almost 29 million people to need emergency assistance or humanitarian aid.

Climate scientists predict that, as the planet continues to warm, extreme weather events will become more common and destructive.

Energy Transition

Renewables are set to penetrate the global energy system more quickly than any fuel in history, according to BP.

Meanwhile, Shell projects that demand for renewables is set to exceed demand for fossil fuels within a generation. However, growing populations and emerging economies will combine to see fossil fuel usage continue to climb until about 2025, gradually tapering off over the following decades.

In a controversial move, the European Investment Bank announced it would stop funding fossil-fuel projects. Their rationale was that such projects were bound to become obsolete, and thereby, poor investments.

Renewable energy is the fastest-growing source of energy, contributing half of the growth in global energy supplies and becoming the largest source of power by 2040.

Jon Miller is a Partner based in London leading the Business & Society global practice.

Charts: Peter Hoey

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