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Rising temperatures could drive food inflation up by 3.2 percentage annually
by CarbonBrief, PIK-Potsdam, Down to Earth
Mar. 2024
Rising temperatures could drive food inflation up by 3.2 percentage annually by 2035
Increased average temperatures could drive up annual food inflation by up to 3.2 percentage points per year and overall inflation by up to 1.18 percentage points per year by 2035, shows a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the European Central Bank, published in Nature: Communications Earth & Environment.
This effect persists over 12 months in rich and poor countries alike, making climate change an important economic factor for price stability. In the study, the scientists looked at how climate indices – like high temperatures, extreme rainfall – have impacted inflation in historical data. The study shows that the inflation response to average monthly temperature increases is non-linear: Inflation goes up when temperatures rise, and it does so most strongly in summer and in hot regions at lower latitudes, for example the global south, according to the study authors.
The study observed that adaptation measures to past as well future climate change has had a limited effect on inflationary pressures.
Mar. 2024
Climate adaptation becomes less effective as the world warms. (CarbonBrief)
With global temperatures over the past decade around 1.2C warmer than pre-industrial levels, the impacts already urgently demand adaptation investments to avoid mounting losses.
However, research suggests that existing limits and barriers to adaptation could take decades to overcome, particularly in vulnerable countries. And while adaptation measures are gradually being put in place, how might they be further affected by continued warming?
In our new study, published in One Earth, we investigate how the effectiveness of well-established adaptation options in relation to water changes as the world warms.
Our findings show that the effectiveness of water-related adaptation declines markedly once warming passes 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – from a central estimate (median) of 90% to 69%, 62% and 46% at 2C, 3C and 4C, respectively.
With the implementation of adaptation already lagging behind what is needed, our findings show that warming beyond 1.5C needs to be avoided for effective adaptation to be possible.
Measuring the effectiveness of adaptation
The latest assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that current adaptation efforts are insufficient to cope with the increasing severity of warming-related impacts across the world.
This “adaptation gap” – the difference between what is needed to reduce impacts and what has been implemented – is growing, despite increasing adaptation efforts across all world regions.
Where adaptation has been documented, many benefits – such as economic gains, better educational outcomes or infrastructure improvements – have been observed. However, we still have very limited evidence and knowledge about how effective adaptation is in reducing climate risks – arguably the key purpose of adaptation.
This is, of course, an inherently difficult thing to measure, as it is not possible to calculate impacts that have been avoided because of adaptation.
Different ideas of how to measure adaptation effectiveness have been put forward. In a very narrow sense, the IPCC defines adaptation effectiveness as the extent to which an adaptation option is anticipated or observed to reduce climate-related risk, an approach we use in our study. More encompassing definitions of effectiveness include the multiple benefits adaptation can have on a broader set of outcomes, such as human well-being and equality.
A better understanding of the risk reduction potential of adaptation is crucial, as climate impacts will become more severe over the next decades. With limited resources to invest, it is essential that informed decisions can be made.
In our study, we look at a set of frequently used adaptation interventions in the water and agricultural sectors, which are central in current modelling approaches of future impacts.
We collated a set of published case studies distributed across all world regions. We grouped these options into nine different types of adaptation interventions.
For example, adaptation measures under “changes in cropping patterns and crop systems” include approaches such as shifting planting dates or substituting different crops. Measures related to “water and soil moisture conservation” include approaches such as reduced tilling (turning of the soil) or introducing mulching (covering topsoil with plant material).
Each case study assesses in detail how a particular option could be implemented according to specific local conditions and provides results on its potential to reduce climate risks.
In many studies, different combinations of measures or different specifications of one measure – for example, shifting planting dates by 10, 20 or 30 days – are tested. Where this leads to different levels of effectiveness, we focus on those specifications that show to be most effective in reducing risk.
Our findings suggest a concerning picture: adaptation options are effective in reducing risks in most assessed settings up to 1.5C of warming, but with increased warming, effectiveness declines across all options and regions.
* Authors: Dr Tabea Katharina Lissner, research director at the Global Solutions Initiative. Tessa Moller, a research intern in the energy, climate and environment programme at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Dr Martina Angela Caretta, assistant professor in the department of human geography at Lund University. Dr Aditi Mukherji, director of the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Impact Action, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
Mar. 2024
Indians may already be experiencing temperatures close to limits of human survivability without even being aware. (Down to Earth)
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) declared 2024’s first heatwave conditions for isolated pockets of west Rajasthan on March 27, 2024. But there are many more places that likely suffered from humid heatwaves and will continue to do so in the next few days. These are not being accounted for in IMD’s heatwave data.
The basic criteria for IMD to declare a heatwave is when the temperature of a place crosses 40 degrees Celsius (°C) in the plains, 37°C in the coastal areas and 30°C in the hills. These temperature values are the thresholds set by IMD for the declaration of heatwaves in India.
Apart from this, the temperature of a particular day has to be above normal by at least 4.5°C for two consecutive days for a heatwave to be declared.
When the temperature crosses 45°C, the weather agency immediately declares a heatwave without considering the deviation from normal temperature for that particular place. But this criteria does not take into account relative humidity, which is increasingly becoming a cause of humid heatwaves.
During a humid heatwave, the temperature felt by the human body or by other animals and plants is much higher. This happens even when the observed temperatures are lower than the thresholds because of relative humidity, which is a measure of the moisture levels in the atmosphere.
The combined impact of temperature and relative humidity can be captured by calculating the wet bulb temperature or heat index of a place. This takes into account both the variables and gives the actual felt temperature.
Wet bulb temperature is the lowest temperature to which air can be cooled by the evaporation of water into the air at constant pressure. And this evaporation is constantly happening from the skin through sweating, which helps humans cool down when there is excessive heat.
But if there is higher moisture in the atmosphere, this cooling down takes place at a much slower pace or stops completely. At such a point, the temperature of the human body starts increasing, leading to heat stroke and death.
Internationally, the agreed upon safe limit of wet bulb temperature is below 30°C and highest limit is 35°C, above which the possibility of human death becomes almost certain. Between 30°C and 35°C, the human body undergoes hyperthermia, in which the body temperature increases leading to discomfort and multiple impacts on various organs including the brain and the heart.
Around mid-day on March 28, Sholapur in Maharashtra recorded a maximum temperature of 40°C and relative humidity of 53 per cent. This translates to a wet bulb temperature of 31.54°C.
Similarly, Jalgaon recorded a maximum temperature of 46.8°C and relative humidity of 29 per cent, which translates to a wet bulb temperature of 30.72°C.
Currently, this is not captured in the IMD definition of a heatwave as the weather agency does not calculate wet bulb temperature of a place, though there would be declaration of heatwave conditions for the Jalgaon region which falls under Madhya Maharashtra subdivision as its temperature exceeded 45°C.
The IMD has come up with two new terminologies for heat stress experienced by the place — ‘warm night conditions’ and ‘hot humid weather’. In its statement dated March 28, it has indicated that ‘warm night conditions’ prevailed in isolated pockets over north Gujarat, Marathwada and Madhya Maharashtra subdivisions, though it has not defined what it means by ‘warm night conditions’.
In its forecast for the next few days, the weather agency has also predicted that warm night conditions would prevail over Gujarat, Marathwada and Madhya Maharashtra on March 28 and March 29.
IMD has also predicted hot and humid weather for the Saurashtra and Kutch regions of Gujarat on March 28 and March 29 and for Rayalaseema, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karaikal, Kerala and Mahe between March 28 and April 1. But what is meant by ‘hot and humid weather’ is not clearly defined by IMD.
Even the thresholds of 30°C and 35°C are not exactly accurate. There have to be separate thresholds for tropical countries and these need to be continuously monitored and humid heat alerts generated for the impacted population.
In a research paper published in the Journal of Applied Physiology of the American Physiological Society in December 2021, scientists had found that the wet bulb temperature threshold of 35°C cannot be applied to human adaptability across all climatic conditions. In high humidity conditions, that threshold could be well below 35°C. This was the first study with empirical evidence that evaluated the impact of wet bulb temperature on human health.
This means that there may be humid heatwaves close to the human survivability threshold of heat stress already occurring in India and they are not being monitored. More importantly, the people being impacted are not being informed about the occurrence of such conditions.
Mar. 2024
Climate change made west Africa’s ‘dangerous humid heatwave’ 10 times more likely. (CarbonBrief)
The “dangerous humid heat” that engulfed western Africa in mid-February was made 10 times more likely by human-caused climate change, a new rapid attribution study finds.
Throughout February, western Africa was hit by unusually intense heat. Temperatures exceeded 40C in some regions, prompting the Ghanaian and Nigerian meteorological services to issue heat warnings.
The World Weather Attribution (WWA) service have analysed the region’s “heat index” – a measure that incorporates both temperature and humidity, to reflect the physiological impacts of the extreme conditions.
While the average air temperatures in west Africa reached 36C over 11-15 February, the heat index for the same period was about 50C, according to the study.
The study authors find that climate change made the heatwave 10 times more likely and 4C hotter. They warn that if global warming reaches 2C above pre-industrial temperatures, “similar events will occur about once every two years and will become a further 1.2-3.4C hotter”.
There was “very limited” data available on the impacts of this heatwave across west Africa, the study notes. However, the authors told a press briefing that heat is a “silent killer” and that lack of reported impacts does not mean the heatwave was not dangerous.
The report says that “to reduce heat-related morbidity and mortality in southern west Africa, there is an urgent need for improved monitoring and research on the impacts and risks associated with heatwaves”.
Early heatwave
Countries across west Africa have been sweltering under unseasonably hot temperatures for weeks. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency issued a warning on 13 February after air temperatures hit 41C in the north of the country, stating that the heat could cause conditions including fainting, heat rash, “weakness of the body” and respiratory issues. The agency advised people to stay hydrated, seek shade and stay indoors as much as possible between midday and 4pm.
“Experts warn that the extreme temperatures, amid the epileptic power supply, could trigger diseases, threaten livestock, and lead to death,” the Nigerian newspaper Punch said, reporting on the heat warning.
The WWA adds that, across Nigeria, “doctors reported an increase in patients presenting for heat-related illness” and “people complained of poor sleep due to hot nights”.
The Ghanaian Meteorological Agency released an “urgent public service announcement” on 20 February, advising precautionary measures such as staying hydrated and avoiding direct sun exposure.
As the month progressed, hundreds of regional and national temperature records across the region were broken, including hottest February nights in Ghana, Benin and Togo.
Extreme heat is particularly dangerous when combined with high humidity. When it is hot, the human body produces sweat to cool itself down. However, as humidity increases, sweating becomes less effective.
To assess the severity of the hot and humid conditions, the study authors analysed the “heat index”. This measure “combines temperature and humidity to reflect how it feels to the human body”, Dr Izidine Pinto – a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and co-author on the study – explained to a press briefing.
The study says: “While the average air temperature in west Africa was above 36C, the heat index for the same period was about 50C, reflecting how a combination of humidity and high temperatures caused dangerous conditions.”
The authors focus on a region of southern west Africa where the heat was the most extreme, including Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and small parts of Guinea and Cameroon.
In this study, the authors investigate the impact of climate change on the maximum five-day heat index in southern west Africa. They find that global warming made the west African heatwave 4C hotter.
They add that if global warming reaches 2C above pre-industrial temperatures, similar events could become a further 1.3-3.4C hotter. The authors also calculate that climate change made the heatwave 10 times more likely to occur, adding that similar events could occur every other year in a 2C world.
West Africa was not the only region to experience record-breaking heat in February 2024.
February 2024 was the world’s hottest February on record, and countries across southern Africa – including Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe – saw temperatures of 4-5C above the February average.
Africa’s record-breaking heat continued into March. In Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, many residents faced several weeks without water. “Authorities in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial hub, have blamed the ongoing heatwave for the lack of water in some parts of the city for several weeks,” Daily News reported on 13 March.
On 18 March, the health and education ministries of South Sudan closed its schools, after weather services projected an extreme two-week heatwave with temperatures of up to 45C. Parents were advised to keep all children indoors, and ministries warned that any school found open during the warning period would have its registration withdrawn.
Over March 18-19, at least five countries in Africa, including South Africa and South Sudan, reported record-breaking temperatures.
The WWA study says that while the heatwave “potentially affected millions”, there is “very limited” data available about its impacts. As such, it says that very few heat-related impacts were reported by the media and government organisations.
“This, of course, does not mean there are no impacts,” said Maja Vahlberg from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, who is a co-author on the study. In fact, Vahlberg told a press briefing that early-season heatwaves are generally “more impactful than heatwaves in the hot season” because “the human body has to very rapidly adjust to extreme temperatures”.
Heatwaves are a “silent killer”, Pinto told the press briefing, warning that “you only see the impacts later”.
The lack of reporting on the impacts of the heatwave “reflects the need to improve awareness of dangerous heat and detection of heat impacts”, the study says.
Feb. 2024
Amazon rainforest at the threshold: loss of forest worsens climate change. (PIK-Potsdam)
The Amazon rainforest could approach a tipping point, which could lead to a large-scale collapse with serious implications for the global climate system. A new Nature study by an international research team including scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK) reveals that up to 47 percent of the Amazonian forest is threatened and identifies climatic and land-use thresholds that should not be breached to keep the Amazon resilient.
“The Southeastern Amazon has already shifted from a carbon sink to a source –meaning that the current amount of human pressure is too high for the region to maintain its status as a rainforest over the long term. But the problem doesn't stop there. Since rainforests enrich the air with a lot of moisture which forms the basis of precipitation in the west and south of the continent, losing forest in one place can lead to losing forest in another in a self-propelling feedback loop or simply ‘tipping’”, states PIK scientist Boris Sakschewski, one of the authors of the study.
Up to 47 percent of the Amazon rainforest threatened by droughts and fires
Recent stress from increased temperatures, droughts, deforestation, and fires even in central and remote parts is weakening the Amazon's natural resilience mechanisms, pushing this system towards a critical threshold. The study finds that by the year 2050, 10-47 percent of the Amazonian forests will be threatened by increasing disturbances, risking to cross a tipping point.
Based on a large body of scientific results, the researchers identify five critical drivers connected to this tipping point: global warming, annual rainfall amounts, the intensity of rainfall seasonality, dry season length, and accumulated deforestation. For each of these drivers they suggest safe boundaries to keep the Amazon resilient.
“We found for example that for mean annual rainfall below 1000 mm per year, the Amazon rainforest cannot exist. However, below 1800 mm per year, abrupt transitions from rainforest to a Savanna-like vegetation become possible. This can be triggered by individual droughts or forest fires, which both have become more frequent and more severe in recent years”, states Da Nian, scientist at PIK and also author of the study.
The impact of forest loss does not stop at the borders of the Amazon. The moisture transported via Amazons´ so called “flying rivers” is an critical part of the South American Monsoon and hence essential for rainfall in vast parts of the continent. Moreover, the Amazon as a whole stores carbon equivalent to 15-20 years of current human CO2 emissions. Amazon forest loss therefore further drives global warming and intensifies the consequences.
"Greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation have to end"
The study also analyses examples of disturbed forests in various parts of the Amazon to understand what could happen to the ecosystem. In some cases, the forest may recover in the future, but still remain trapped in a degraded state, dominated by opportunistic plants, such as lianas or bamboos. In other cases, the forest does not recover anymore, and remains trapped in an open-canopy, flammable state. The expansion of open, flammable ecosystems throughout the core of the Amazon forest is particularly concerning because they can spread fires to adjacent forests.
“To maintain the Amazon forest within safe boundaries, local and global efforts must be combined. Deforestation and forest degradation have to end and restoration has to expand. Moreover, much more needs to be done to stop greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide”, concludes co-author Niklas Boers, professor of Earth System Modelling at the Technical University of Munich.


Climate change indicators reached record levels in 2023
by WMO, Copernicus Climate Change Service
Mar. 2024
Climate change indicators reached record levels in 2023: WMO
A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) shows that records were once again broken, and in some cases smashed, for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice cover and glacier retreat.
Heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires and rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones caused misery and mayhem, upending every-day life for millions and inflicting many billions of dollars in economic losses, according to the WMO State of the Global Climate 2023 report.
The WMO report confirmed that 2023 was the warmest year on record, with the global average near-surface temperature at 1.45 °Celsius (with a margin of uncertainty of ± 0.12 °C) above the pre-industrial baseline. It was the warmest ten-year period on record.
“Sirens are blaring across all major indicators... Some records aren’t just chart-topping, they’re chart-busting. And changes are speeding-up.” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“Never have we been so close to the 1.5° C lower limit of the Paris Agreement on climate change.” said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo. “The WMO community is sounding the Red Alert to the world.”
“Climate change is about much more than temperatures. What we witnessed in 2023, especially with the unprecedented ocean warmth, glacier retreat and Antarctic sea ice loss, is cause for particular concern,” she said.
On an average day in 2023, nearly one third of the global ocean was gripped by a marine heatwave, harming vital ecosystems and food systems. Towards the end of 2023, over 90% of the ocean had experienced heatwave conditions at some point during the year.
The global set of reference glaciers suffered the largest loss of ice on record (since 1950), driven by extreme melt in both western North America and Europe, according to preliminary data.
Antarctic sea ice extent was by far the lowest on record, with the maximum extent at the end of winter at 1 million km2 below the previous record year - equivalent to the size of France and Germany combined.
“The climate crisis is the defining challenge that humanity faces and is closely intertwined with the inequality crisis – as witnessed by growing food insecurity and population displacement, and biodiversity loss” said Celeste Saulo.
The number of people who are acutely food insecure worldwide has more than doubled, from 149 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic to 333 million people in 2023 (in 78 monitored countries by the World Food Programme). Weather and climate extremes may not be the root cause, but they are aggravating factors, according to the report.
Weather hazards continued to trigger displacement in 2023, showing how climate shocks undermine resilience and create new protection risks among the most vulnerable populations.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Renewable energy generation, primarily driven by the dynamic forces of solar radiation, wind and the water cycle, has surged to the forefront of climate action for its potential to achieve decarbonization targets..
Jan. 2024
2023 hottest year on record. (Copernicus Climate Change Service)
2023 has been confirmed as the hottest year on record surpassing 2016, the previous hottest year, by a large margin, according to a new report released by the European Union Copernicus Climate Change Service. The data for this record goes back to 1850.
Samantha Burgess, deputy director of Copernicus, said 2023 was an exceptional year "with climate records tumbling like dominoes."
July and August were Earth's two warmest months on record along with the Northern Hemisphere's summer season reaching new highs. December 2023 was the warmest December on record globally.
Analysis shows that 2023 was 1.48 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1850-1900 pre-industrial reference level with close to half of the days in 2023 surpassing the 1.5°C warming limit. Two days in November days that were more than 2°C warmer for the first time on record.
"Not only is 2023 the warmest year on record, it is also the first year with all days over 1°C warmer than the pre-industrial period. Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years," Burgess said.
Since June, every month has been the world's hottest on record compared with the corresponding month in previous years. More than 200 days saw a new daily global temperature record for the time of year, according to Copernicus Climate Change Service data.
The world’s CO2 emissions from burning coal, oil and gas hit record levels in 2023. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere rose to the highest level recorded at 419 parts per million, C3S said.
"These are more than just statistics," says Prof Petteri Taalas, the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization between 2016 and 2023. "Extreme weather is destroying lives and livelihoods on a daily basis."
Countries agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to try to prevent global warming surpassing 1.5C, to avoid its most severe consequences.
C3S said that temperatures exceeding the level on nearly half of the days of 2023 sets "a dire precedent".
Copernicus predicts that the 12-month period ending in January or February 2024 would "exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level".
“The extremes we have observed over the last few months provide a dramatic testimony of how far we now are from the climate in which our civilization developed,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus’ Climate Change Service. “This has profound consequences for the Paris Agreement and all human endeavors. If we want to manage climate risk we need to urgently decarbonize our economy.”
The global average temperature for 2023 was 14.98 degrees Celsius. The previous record was 14.81 degrees Celsius set in 2016.
According to the CCCS, the annual average air temperatures were the warmest on record, or close to the warmest, over the majority of ocean basins and continents around the world. Unprecedented high sea surface temperature were a critical driver of the extreme air temperature in 2023, according to the CCCS. Antarctic sea ice crashed to record lows.
2023 saw massive fires in Canada, extreme droughts in the Horn of Africa or the Middle East, unprecedented summer heatwaves in Europe, the United States and China, along with record winter warmth in Australia and South America.
"Such events will continue to get worse until we transition away from fossil fuels and reach net-zero emissions," says University of Reading climate change professor Ed Hawkins. "We will continue to suffer the consequences of our inactions today for generations."
Prof Brian Hoskins, at Imperial College London, said: “2023 has given us a taste of the climate extremes that occur near the Paris targets. It should shake the complacency displayed in the actions by most governments around the world.”
"We desperately need to rapidly cut fossil fuel use and reach net-zero to preserve the liveable climate that we all depend on," said John Marsham, atmospheric science professor at the University of Leeds.
Each fraction of temperature increase exacerbates extreme and destructive weather disasters.

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