Counting the cost of water risks, record temperatures, and millennial magnanimity

Companies ignoring water-related risks says CDP

The impacts of water-related risks such as droughts, flooding and water scarcity cost business an estimated $14 billion this year, according to new data compiled by disclosure advocacy group CDP. And the threat is set to get worse. The 607 large companies in CDP’s sample identify more than 2,000 water-related risks that they expect to materialise over the next six years. Despite this, the business community appears slow to respond, with only three-fifths (61%) of corporations tracking their water use – up a mere 3% on last year.

The industries most in the firing line when it comes to water risks are utilities (hit by costs of $1.8bn in 2016) and materials companies ($1.7bn). The overall figure for 2016 is slightly skewed by groundwater clean-up operations undertaken by Japanese power giant Tepco following the 2011 tsunami. The company reports spending almost $10bn in 2016 on remediation work around its damaged Daiichi nuclear power plant. Even discounting the Tepco case, the financial impact of water problems still well exceeds the previous year’s total of $2.5bn. More than one quarter (164 companies) of CDP’s sample report facing “detrimental impacts” from water over the last year.

Problems in corporate water management could spell bad news for climate change efforts too. According to the data submitted to CDP, one in four (24%) business-led greenhouse gas emissions reduction activities depend on a stable supply of water. On the flipside, more than half of companies report reducing their GHG emission by using water more efficiently.

Record temperatures continue

This year is likely to be the hottest ever recorded, with preliminary data indicating temperatures of 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, an assessment by the World Meteorological Organization finds. Global temperatures for January to September 2016 were about 0.88° Celsius (1.58°F) above the average (14°C) for the 1961-1990 reference period, which is used by WMO as a baseline. If the prediction proves true, it will mean that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred this century (1998 was the other one). In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures reached 6°C to 7°C above the long-term average.

Sub-Arctic regions in Alaska, north-west Canada and Russia, meanwhile, were at least 3°C above average. The provisional findings follow a more thorough report on multi-year events such as prolonged droughts and recurrent heatwaves. More than half of all such extreme weather events between 2011 and 2014 were influenced by human-induced climate change, the report reveals. The finding is based on an analysis 79 studies published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society during the period in question. It is notable that annual average global carbon dioxide concentrations in 2015 reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time.

The humanitarian costs of temperature rises and extreme weather conditions are high too. According to a recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2015 there were 19.2 million new displacements associated with weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries - more than twice as many as for conflict and violence.

Millennials surprisingly generous

Far from the stereotype image of millennials as the "me-me-me generation", new research suggests that young adults are almost twice as charitably minded as their baby-boom elders. More than four-fifths (82%) of adults aged between 18 and 34 are predisposed to give to charity, compared with a mere 42% of those over 55. The research, carried out by YouGov on behalf of money collection platform Leetchi, identifies "health" as a top priority for millennials (cited by 29% of the 2,500 respondents).

This is closely followed by "wildlife preservation/animals" (27%) and "community projects" (24%). Bottom of the list is "technological development" (10%). Less positive is the trust deficit felt by younger adults towards established charities. More than one-third (38%) of the 18-34-year-olds surveyed say they prefer to sponsor individuals rather than give to traditional charities on the grounds that less gets lost in bureaucracy.

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