Mind The Gap: The Danger Of Overlooking Meteorology For Climate Change Action

The clock is ticking for climate change action. In a recent report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of the importance of limiting the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees C to hold off extreme climate disruptions that could exacerbate global conflict and drought among other issues. Since the Paris Accord was established, global leaders and countries have been making — and revising — climate change roadmaps to strengthen international responses and broaden participation under the support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. But there is a wide gap between now and 2050. Critical components of mitigating that change can start today and be driven through finance, technology, policy, behavior medication and science. The theme for Earth Day this year is “Invest in Our Planet” which calls for everyone – from individuals, to businesses and governments – to take action to reduce the impact on our environment. Because even though our focus is on the future, every organization and individual is dealing with the effects of climate change today.

Financial Disclosure

Many countries are making climate risk disclosures mandatory for publicly traded and large privately held companies because of the risk to financial stability and the economy. Climate risk disclosure encompasses two major types of risk, physical and transition. Transition risks are tied to greenhouse emissions, such as a company’s direct and indirect greenhouse emissions, the total amount of fossil-fuel related assets, and the impact on valuation from climate change policy and legislation. The transition risks have traditionally been where companies have focused reporting efforts.

Conversely, the physical risks, which include extreme weather events, sea level rise and changes in climate patterns, have been more challenging for companies to report. These risks are important to consider as S&P Global data show that extreme weather events linked to increasing average global temperatures represent the biggest physical risks for S&P 500 companies and the World Economic Forum listed extreme weather as the second highest global risk for the next ten years.

Using weather analytics for financial disclosure benefits organizations in two ways. First is by identifying current and future risks to a company’s assets, operations, and personnel safety before an event. Several studies tie the underreporting of physical risk in climate risk disclosures because of unknown hazards. The second is to use weather analytics to prepare and mitigate weather impacts. For example, if a utility company has infrastructure in high-risk areas, knowing the potential impact could help reduce power outages as well as activate restoration responses quicker. This is not only an operations issue but a financial risk as well. Several states have enacted regulations and penalties tied to outage duration which may affect the utilities profit and liability.

Reducing Greenhouse Emissions

There are also actions we can take today by using weather analytics to reduce environmental impact. For example, in shipping, weather-optimized routing can reduce emissions and fuel consumption by up to 5%, depending on the type of vessel, the season, and the conditions. Some companies are using “just in time arrivals” algorithms to reduce time in port. When ports are full, ships idle offshore with their engines – and emissions – still running. A recent study of four major seaports found that during the “pandemic period” ship emissions increased by an average of 79% across those four ports. By incorporating weather analytics into just-in-time arrival calculations, then a captain can navigate using a weather optimized route, and when integrated with port authority information, the captain can adjust as needed, such as slow steaming, which has been shown to reduce greenhouse emissions, or provide one or more alternatives for the mariner to optimize a route.

Weather analytics can also reduce carbon emissions when treating winter roads. Road pavement forecasting, which uses a combination of high-resolution forecasts, road sensors and environmental assessment of temperature influences on road sections, can reduce unnecessary treatment. While not carbon emissions, road pavement forecasting is also helpful for the environment through eliminating unnecessary chemical treatments which have shown to contaminate drinking water and harm the environment.

Supporting Municipality Response and Recover

Climate change is a public health and environmental risk for many municipalities across the country. Municipalities are increasingly seeing a need to incorporate weather analytics into their daily operations. Not only to plan maintenance work and operation safety, but also to better protect and prepare its citizens for extreme weather events. A recent report by the National Oceanic National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that summer 2021 was the hottest summer on record in the contiguous U.S. We saw the impact of these hot temperatures on transportation, such as buckling roads in Minnesota and in the tragic effect through the loss of lives, particularly during the Pacific Northwest heat wave. Several cities are hiring heat officers to devise cooling strategies and plan response strategies for increasing temperatures. At the same time, municipalities like New York City, are grappling with intense rainfalls which flood the city’s infrastructure and threaten lives. While the city is investing $14 billion to ensure a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030, it’s also committed to protecting its residents from the risks associated with climate change.

Seeking additional weather support came from the NYC Emergency Management’s commitment to fulfilling the initiatives outlined in the City of New York’s “The New Normal: Combating Storm-Related Extreme Weather in New York City” report. Weather analytics, and more effectively combined with risk communicators, supports agency’s decision-making to inform citizens and tailor our emergency services accordingly.

These are just a few of many ways that weather analytics can help bridge the gap between environmental impact today and the tools and steps that we need to take to prepare for our future climate.


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