Where fair winds no longer blow
It was at the Frankfurt airport, while waiting to board a flight to Vienna, that I picked up a copy of the Financial Times. Its special report for the day focused on environmental impacts of global warming. Writing in it, Fiona Harvey says that Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, has asked all its suppliers to measure their greenhouse gas emissions. The supermarket chain will label all the products it sells to show how much carbon went into their manufacture. Wal-Mart’s decision to seek the ‘carbon footprint’ of is suppliers is reflective of businesses around the world stepping up efforts to reduce their environmental impact.
Carbon footprints provide a measure of how much of an impact an individual or company is having on the planet, and a carbon label is an indication of the amount of carbon-di-oxide emitted as a result of producing goods and services. So, Harvey adds, that if you are eating a Cadbury Dairy milk chocolate bar, you will know the impact you are creating on the environment.
It is not only on manufacture that companies are focusing. They are also seriously looking at transporting goods in ways that can reduce emissions. It is all about greening fleets and reducing route distances.
In the special report, Clive Cookson points out that it has been a year of unusual weather in many parts of the world. In Europe, the southeastern part of the continent has suffered heat, drought and forest fires, while exceptional summer rainfall inundated the northwest. In the U.S., Texas was flooded while California was hot. Heavy monsoon rain has caused devastation in South Asia. Cookson adds that enough computer modelling has been done for meteorologists to warn with confidence that a warming climate will bring more extreme and more variable weather, and that global warming is increasing flooding because warmer air holds more moisture – a 1 degree C temperature change can increase rainfall by 7 per cent.
Writing in the same report, Andrea Felsted says that according to Torsten Jeworrek, a member of Munich Re’s management board, the year has not seen an extraordinary event hit the insurance and reinsurance markets such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005. Munich Re is one of the world’s largest insurers, re-insurers and insurance brokers that have signed up to a series of principles for managing and reducing the risk of climate change. The industry aims to influence public policy to help manage climate change. Felsted says that insurers believe urgent action is needed to reduce the risk from climate change if cover is to remain affordable and widely available. The Association of British Insurers, for instance, has suggested that insurers offer incentives, such as lower premiums on insuring more efficient cars, and ask for improvements in energy efficiency in buildings.
A headline in the special report that caught my attention was ‘China’s future clouded by smog’. According to Geoff Dyer, as the pace of growth of the Chinese economy continues to surprise many, the environmental damage the boom is causing is also causing surprise. The country is becoming one of the world’s main sources of pollution, he adds. With the Chinese economy galloping at the rate of 11 per cent a year, Chinese emissions of greenhouse gases could surpass that of the United States by the year-end. As a result of the pollution from factories, nearly 60 per cent of China’s rivers cannot be used as sources of drinking water and more than a quarter of rivers are not clean enough for industrial use. About 700 million people drink water contaminated with animal and human waste. There’s industrial smog, too. Dyer points out that a number of studies have concluded that the cost of pollution in China could be between 8 per cent and 12 per cent of the country’s GDP every year.
After reading it all, I was left wondering where India was headed!