Friday, 3 August 2018

The summer heat is killing us. Maybe time to worry about the planet.

The Beginning

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Your Life

It’s the summer and it’s painfully hot. A new world record has been broken on the thermostat and it’s more than likely to break again next year. ACs are straining to keep us cool with the unfortunate respite coming in the form of whatever days we can scrounge in Sahel. We’re pointing the finger at one culprit: climate change. And so this issue is dedicated to our dying planet and the endless shirts we’ve thrown away because we wore them in Cairo traffic on a Sunday afternoon.

What exactly is climate change and why is it becoming such a big deal? The New York Times has put together a primer with all these questions and misconceptions in mind.

“Two degrees is more significant than it sounds”: It’s easy to dismiss a climate scientist who says the Earth is two degrees hotter now than it was in 1880 because the figure seems so inconsequential — especially to those of us who feel no difference between 45° and 43° weather. But that small change is wreaking havoc: “Scientists have published strong evidence that the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. It is also causing heavier rainstorms, and coastal flooding is getting worse as the oceans rise because of human emissions.”

What’s the prognosis? The highly dangerous effects of climate change are already starting to grip the planet — the hype around the issue is essentially a reflection of how far gone we are. Scientists say that, if the issue remains uncontained, it could trigger serious global events within three decades, including destabilizing governments causing sea levels to rise and flood coastal cities. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Changing policies and behaviors in relation to the environment can still make a difference, but we need to do more and act faster.

Still not buying it? Don’t stop reading here. We dive into some of the most unexpected ways that climate change is affecting you personally, and offer a few simple and manageable ways that you can do your part.

The situation has gotten so bad, we now have…drum roll…night warming: We’ve likely all heard of the many metrics used to gauge how bad global warming is becoming. These include CO2 levels in the air, rising sea levels, and of course, hotter days. But another metric is now worrying scientists and that’s the warming of the summer nights. In parts of the US, night time temperatures have reached records of up to 38°C, according to the New York Times. What is also alarming, is the fact that night time temperatures are rising at nearly double the daytime rate.

Why should you even care? Well, for one, rising nightime temperatures can be deadly. “The combination of high daytime and high nighttime temperatures can be really lethal because the body doesn’t have a chance to cool down during the nighttime hours,” said Lara Cushing, professor of environmental epidemiology at San Francisco State University. Older people, the sick, and young children are especially at risk of overheating during high summer night temperatures. Also at risk are agricultural, construction and other outdoor workers, who can no longer avoid the heat by shifting their hours to work earlier or later in the day.

And for those thinking they are fortunate enough to have avoided the problem with an air conditioner, that’s exactly the type of thinking that has gotten us here. Air-conditioners expel hot air into the atmosphere, exacerbating the problem. The impact of heavy use of ACs on power usage and the burning of fossil fuels that goes with it isn’t doing climate change any favors either.

Back over in the daytime world of Mad Max scorchers, certain parts of the world will literally be too hot for human habitation by the end of the century. Naturally, the first place that comes to mind is the GCC. According to computer simulations by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Gulf region will be the world’s hottest region by 2100 as a result of climate change. However, scientists and economists do not foresee this being a total catastrophe there, considering the GCC’s wealth, small population, and low food requirements.

The real region causing concern is South Asia. “The areas likely to be worst affected in northern India, southern Pakistan and Bangladesh are home to 1.5 bn people,” said MIT professor Elfatih Eltahir, the study’s co-author. The study shows that about 2% of India’s population is sometimes exposed to extreme combinations of heat and humidity. This is projected to increase to 70% by 2100 if nothing is done to mitigate climate change. Heatwaves across South Asia in the summer of 2015 killed an estimated 3,500 people and similar events will become more frequent and intense, researchers said.

A number of Indian cities and politicians are warning of an imminent public health crisis, according to an in-depth feature in the New York Times by Somini Sangupta. “These cities are going to become unlivable unless urban governments put in systems of dealing with this phenomenon and make people aware,” said Sujata Saunik, who served as a senior official in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs. So far, the responses have been inadequate to address the issue. Think about that next time your complaining about our manageable Cairo heat.

Still not convinced of the threat? How about the prospect of losing out on your morning coffee. Climate change is posing a very clear and present danger for the trusted old coffee, outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz tells Time Magazine. About half of the land around the world currently used to produce high-quality coffee could be unproductive by 2050, according to a recent study in the journal Climatic Change. Another paper, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that that number could be as high as 88% in Latin America.

What’s big coffee doing about it? A lack of action from the governments on the issue has prompted companies like Starbucks to step in to ensure access to the much-needed beans. In 2013, Starbucks bought a 600-acre farm in Costa Rica, which grows and roasts Arabica coffee, to act as the company’s field laboratory to test the threats posed to coffee by climate change. Researchers claim that in the near future, such challenges will be constant and farmers in some regions would be able to grow coffee at higher elevations, but in other areas there would be nowhere else to go. “Entire regions risk becoming unable to continue producing Arabica coffee,” Schultz says.

Now that we’re done scaring you, what can we do about it?

The whole world should be repurposing its waste like Sweden. Over the last several years, the Scandinavian nation has honed the practice of waste-to-energy (WtE) production. So much so that they have not only run out of trash to use for their national power generation program, but are now actively importing it. “About half — or 47% — of Sweden’s waste is recycled…The remaining 52% of the country’s waste, like excluded scrap metals, circuit boards, and agricultural waste is used for the country’s WtE program, which produces electricity from burning waste. So all that remains is a remarkable 1% of Sweden’s trash that actually ends up in a landfill,” according to Save the World.

But why would anyone import garbage, you ask? From an environmental perspective, buying some of the world’s seemingly infinite supply of waste ensures that more trash is repurposed — meaning that at least some of our +2 bn tonnes of annual refuse will not end up in oceans or rivers, or inside the stomachs of sea creatures and the birds that live off them. From an economic point view, selling garbage is a “win-win situation for most countries.” Not only is it cheaper to ship trash to Sweden than have to pay landfill taxes, but some WtE facilities pay up to USD 43 per tonne of trash. “In 2014 alone, countries like the UK and Italy exported about 2.3 mn tonnes of waste,” which translates to some USD 100 mn in revenues (watch here, runtime: 3:27).

Food for thought: In a country like Egypt the possibilities for waste repurposing are seemingly endless, especially now that the authorities here have finally set a feed-in tariff for WtE projects (EGP 1.03 per kWh). With a population count closing in on 100 mn, we probably produce way more trash than we can handle (as made evident by the mounds of its covering our streets and beaches). Much of this can be recycled, used for energy production, and even exported as a way of driving in some hard currency.

You don’t have to go broke going green. Recently, many businesses are trying to make sustainability a priority by installing energy-saving equipments, cutting food-waste and conserving water. While this may seem like a costly endeavor, business are innovating around the costs of going green. Soneva Resorts gives a good example on running a cost effective sustainability program. From recycling plastic, glass and installing solar panels, to creating their own cooking charcoal and growing their own produce-fed compost from hotel waste, according to Forbes. The resorts even hire an environmentalist engineer to make sure that no cement was used in the room’s construction.

You can always pass the costs to that unenlightened consumer: Soneva also imposes a 2% carbon tax levy on visitors to offset direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions across is operations, including any CO2 emitted by visitors using air travel to reach the resorts. The USD 8 mn funds raised so far from this were channeled towards funding sustainable projects like building wind turbines in India, planting more trees in Thailand and providing safe drinking water to thousands all over the world.

How about re-inventing air travel why we’re at it: Airbus is working on a solar energy-powered plane that can stay airborne for up to 120 days. The Zephyr plane is not meant for transporting passengers, but actually weighs just about as much as an average person would, according to the BBC. Instead, the plane’s ability to say in the air for so long means it can be used as a communications platform that is even better and more accessible than satellite. “Zephyr will provide the potential to revolutionize disaster management, including monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills,” the head of the program at Airbus, Sophie Thomas, said (watch here, runtime: 1:07).

Your top 5

The five most important business and economy stories out of Egypt in July:

  • Egypt’s GDP grew 5.3% in FY2017-18 — its highest rate in a decade — while the budget deficit fell to a six-year low to 9.8% of GDP.
  • The timeline for the initial wave of the state privatization program was announced, with the first of the five companies selling shares in October.
  • The Finance Ministry has decided to tweak Egypt’s funding mix by shelving short-term borrowing and an international bond issuance in favor of long-term institutional loans.
  • The Madbouly Cabinet decided to scrap the long awaited automotive directive in favor of setting up special economic zones for auto assemblers.
  • Big tobacco companies say they will withhold capital expenses and investments due to the Healthcare Act sin tax.

Your Time

Productivity on the personal and national levels takes a nosedive as a result of uncomfortably high temperatures, says Business Insider. The idea seems peculiar at first, but give it some thought: How inclined are any of us to work, study, or otherwise be productive after braving some 45°C weather? As temperatures increase, the brain has to spend more time getting rid of waste heat and returning to homeostasis, which directly translates into lower performance. This effect is evident on the national level — studies have proven that warmer countries have lower productivity and GDP. The drop is partially due to the sum of each individual’s decreased productivity, but non-human elements, such as crops, can also take a hit as a result of hot weather. 1.8 bn labor hours will be lost to the heat alone by 2100, resulting in USD 170 bn in lost wages, according to estimates from the EPA.

You can blame the summer heat for those time-wasting fights with co-workers, significant others, and rebel groups: “For every standard deviation rise in temperature, the frequency of interpersonal conflict increases by 2.4%… Intergroup conflict, such as riots, ethnic violence, land invasions, gang violence, civil war, and other political instability goes up even more: an average 11.3% for each standard deviation rise in temperature,” according to the World Economic Forum. Intergroup conflict is particularly problematic because it means that nationwide productivity is taking a hit.

Your Money

Climate change will hurt your wallet: our household budget is at stake here as well. US News’ money blog has put together some ways climate change will negatively impact your wallet.

  • Your health: The most obvious one and the one we’ve discussed the most so far.
  • Your food: Climate change is expected to reduce crop and livestocks livelihood, consequently leading to a hike in food prices.
  • Your wage: As we noted above, getting out of bed to go to work in the scorching heat will get tougher and tougher and your wallet will inevitable get lighter and lighter.
  • Your electricity bill: Warmer winters and even more hotter summers need that cold breeze air conditioning. Economists estimate that net energy costs to consumers will increase by 10-22%, according to the National Climate Assessment.
  • Your transportation: As our roads and infrastructure networks are in constant threat from the weather changes, we’ll be spending more in maintenance and repair services, or even replacing our cars all together.

If you’re hunting online for that sustainable item but are down to only your CIB debit card, don’t fret. Our friends at CIB are pleased to announce that CIB debit cards can now be securely used for online transactions. Starting As of 15 July, CIB debit cardholders will be able to shop, pay bills, and conduct online transactions safely and securely using only their CIB debit cards thanks to the CIB Online Secure Service security feature which authenticates a card holder’s identity through one time password (OTP) protection.

How does this work? The OTP will be sent to your mobile number for online purchase transaction. An SMS notification will be sent after each purchase transaction. The system allows for ease of spending tracking and management.

There’s more: In a limited time offer, CIB customers will be getting double their BONUS points with every online transaction made using their CIB debit card

Your Family

Of all the things you can do to help, having a smaller family is the most effective: There are a lot of small things we can all do to mitigate our contribution to the exacerbation of climate change. What will have the greatest impact, however, is limiting the expansion of the human population — a 2017 study found that having one fewer child is 25 times more effective in cutting carbon emissions than living without a car, according to Population Matters.

Don’t jump to point the finger of blame at low-income families with several children: “Because individuals in the developed world have the greatest impact each, people choosing to have smaller families in the richest parts of the world will have the greatest and most immediate positive effect … reduced emissions as a result of fewer people being born in richer countries allows more economic development in poorer countries without adding to total emissions.”

Once you do have kids, teach them to respect and care for the environment as early on as possible. That starts by adopting eco-friendly habits and lifestyles that your child will adopt as the norm. Some measures are cost-prohibitive — such as exclusively purchasing organic produce — but other switches are easy to make and can set a positive example for your family. The Philly Voice proposes introducing a recycling program to your household, cutting down on your family’s consumption of single-use plastic products such as straws and plastic water bottles, and picking up litter left behind by others as a few steps that are cost-effective and impactful.

Your Style

Go green or go home: With the world now becoming more aware of pressing environmental issues, it’s not at all surprising to see the up and coming generation of fashion designers are more concerned with sustainable practices. “From couture gowns made from coffee sacks to sequins laser-cut from recycled bottles, fashion’s newest recruits are trying to turn their back on the industry’s polluting past,” according to Reuters, which cites research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation saying that “less than 1% of clothing is recycled [and] 0.5 mn tonnes of plastic microfibers are released from washed clothing annually, equivalent to more than 50 bn plastic bottles” (Tap or click here to learn more about “the true harm of microplastics”).

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