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Nature, big business and the future

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Just maybe, economic activity and financial capital could align itself with the planetary demands!

A collection of items crossed my screen in the last few days that reinforced the interconnectedness of all life on Planet Earth.

First I saw an item on the BBC News website that demonstrated that climate change, global warming, or however one wants to describe man’s relationship with the planet, is not some crazy, fuzzy idea of a few liberal environmentalists.  This was a report of the significant drop in global wheat yields.

The report was entitled, Climate shifts ‘hit global wheat yields’ and was written by Mark Kinver, Science and environment reporter, BBC News.  Here’s a taste of what was written.

Shifts in the climate over the past three decades have been linked to a 5.5% decline in global wheat production, a study has suggested.

A team of US scientists assessed the impact of changes to rainfall and temperature on four major food crops: wheat, rice, corn and soybeans.

Climate trends in some countries were big enough to wipe out gains from other factors, such as technology, they said.

Professor David Lobell from Stanford University went on to say,

“In particular, you have to assume how non-linear the response will be and how different the crops of tomorrow will be from the crops of today,” he said.

He added that the study focused on historical data in order to strengthen confidence in the existing projections.

“I think it is very clear that climate is not the predominant driver of change over long periods of time in crop production.

“Across the board, you see crop yields going up over the past 30 years, but the question is how much is climate modified (and) what would have happened if the climate was not changing.

“In some countries, we see that climate has only affected things by a few percent. In other countries, we see that yields would have been rising twice as fast.

“On a global average, we see that wheat production would be about 5% higher if we had not seen the warming since 1980. We see about the same for maize or corn.

“Yet for rice and soybean, we actually find that production is about the same as if climate had not been trending.”

The report may be accessed here.

Sort of moving on, most people, when they stop and think about it, must realise that 6.9 billion people living (i.e. depending) on Planet Earth have to be causing changes.  The Inside Science News Service published a reminder from last December of a calculation that,

By Mary Caperton Morton, ISNS Contributor
Inside Science News Service

STRASBURG, Pa. — Next month, representatives from more than 190 nations will gather in Japan at the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit to develop a global strategy for staunching habitat and biodiversity loss around the world.

The statistics are sobering: Every 20 minutes a species goes extinct. At that rate — estimated to be a thousand times faster than pre-human impact background levels – in 300 years, half of all living species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants will be gone. [My italics]

This alarming decline has not gone unnoticed. In 1992, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity — or CBD — one of the most widely ratified treaties in the world, established lofty conservation goals to be met by 2010. But since then the decline in biodiversity has not slowed. Nearly 16,000 species are still listed as threatened, with more than 200 of them described as “possibly extinct.”

What we need, some might ask, is for big business to get behind and push!  Perhaps not so far fetched.

Last October, the British Guardian newspaper, published a very telling reminder that nothing ever in life stays the same.

The article was presented thus,

Biodiversity loss seen as greater financial risk than terrorism, says UN

Loss of ecosystems perceived by banks and insurance companies to be a greater economic risk than terrorism, finds UN report.

Written by Jonathan Watts in Nagoya.

A controlled burn of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. The report cites the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as an extreme example of the potential impact of inadequate environmental controls. Photograph: Ann Heisenfelt/EPA

The financial risks posed by the loss of species and ecosystems have risen sharply and are becoming a greater concern for businesses than international terrorism, according to a United Nations report released today.

From over-depletion of fish stocks and soil degradation caused by agricultural chemicals to water shortages and mining pollution, the paper – commissioned by the UN Environment Programme and partners – said the likelihood has climbed sharply that declines in biodiversity would have a “severe” $10bn (£6bn) to $50bn impact on business.

With the European Union and other regions increasingly holding companies liable for impacts on ecosystem services, it suggests banks, investors and insurance companies are starting to calculate the losses that could arise from diminishing supplies, tightened conservationcontrols and the reputational damage caused by involvement in an unsound project.

Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and Unep executive director, said: “The kinds of emerging concerns and rising perception of risks underlines a fundamental sea change in the way some financial institutions, alongside natural resource-dependent companies, are now starting to glimpse and to factor in the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystems”.

The briefing paper cites the 55% crash of BP’s share price and the decline of its credit rating in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as an extreme example of the potential impact of inadequate environmental controls.

Read the full article in the Guardian here.

The United Nations Environment Programme report may be found here.  The cover page says this,

“ As the global financial sector recovers and moves into the post financial crisis era,
there is one notion that crystallises before our eyes more acutely than ever: we need
to understand systemic risk in a much more holistic way. This CEO Briefing underscores
the critical natural capital that underpins our economic activity and financial capital.”
Richard Burrett, Partner in Earth Capital Partners
Co-Chair, UNEP Finance Initiative

Well put!

As I wrote at the very start, just maybe, economic activity and financial capital could align itself with the planetary demands!

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