Act Local

3 min read

How climate risk intelligence can enable sustainable action at the local level

Drone Imagery over a quarry in Barossa Valley, SA, Australia. Photo Credit: Dion Beetson on Unsplash

As discussed in our last post, climate risk intelligence is what makes, through data transformations, frontier climate science and the massive amounts of geospatial data, intelligible. This intelligence bridges the void between the global climate data and the physical impact to local assets which affect human settlements most directly.

Let’s take a look at flooding

Building on existing climate projections compatible with the IPCC CMIP6 climate scenarios (described in a previous post), we are able to aggregate simulations from multiple hazard models. To develop our climate risk intelligence, Sust Global uses a collection of flood impact simulations from 5 different global climate models. Each climate model simulates meteorological variables (e.g. precipitation, temperature, longwave radiation, specific humidity, wind speed, surface pressure) under the Business as Usual (SSP5-RCP8.5) climate scenario. The simulated meteorological variables are fed into 10 candidate global hydrological models that simulate runoff at 0.5 deg spatial and 1-day temporal resolution. These runoff estimates are then fed into a flood model to simulate river discharges at 0.25 deg resolution, mapped to 0.05 deg flood exposure area using high-resolution digital elevation profiles. Scientists have shown that such simulations can be used to assess the socio-economic impacts based on the projected exposed areas, knowledge of land use and population within such impacted areas.

We use such simulations to assess regional flood exposure across continents over the coming 3 decades. The results show some significant flooding scenarios:

  1. Recent IPCC reports predict Europe and the UK are “very likely” to see more heavy rainfall events by the end of the century. There’s already evidence that heavy rainfall is becoming more frequent in the UK due to climate change. And a lot of rain falling in a short space of time raises flood risk.
  2. Heavier rainfall plus sea-level rise make storm surges bigger and more likely to breach coastal defenses. Scientists warn that the warming climate combined with heavier rainfall will not only increase flood risk in the UK but also coastal flooding in Europe is expected to rise seven-fold by 2050.
  3. Parts of Africa are also expected to see significant flooding. In certain areas currently prone to flooding, the severity and frequency of flooding are expected to significantly worsen over the coming decades.
  4. In Asia, about $1.2 trillion in capital stock is expected to be damaged by riverine flooding each year by 2050. (Source)

Flooding based disruption to metal supply chains

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A global collection of mines around the world at different stages of the mine lifecycle: active, inactive, reclamation.
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Future flooding risk at the individual asset level at specific mine sites. We feature two sites. Top Right: An active Mine in Mali where increasing decadal flooding probabilities in the active mine are indicative of upcoming disruptions. Bottom Right: An inactive tailings dam in Gabon where consistently high decadal flooding probabilities are indicative of likely environmental hazards.

Flooding at mine sites is a source of disruption to continued mining. Although there is great variability between incidents, lost production time, repair and maintenance costs, plus fines or legal fees from pollution of local water systems, can mean a loss of revenue anywhere from $10 million to $900 million. This impacts the metal commodities’ supply chain and is a significant cost item for mining companies. Recent studies have quantified the financial impacts of flooding at mining sites to be to the tune of millions of dollars per incident.

Pollution from climate-induced flooding is one of the biggest environmental and social challenges for mining companies. Most active and retired mines have associated tailing dams in close proximity. Overtopping of tailings dams can lead to uncontrolled discharge of acidic heap leach solutions which pollute water systems, disrupt farm lands, leading to cattle and other livestock death, and negatively impact aquatic ecosystems. This can lead to hefty fines and incur millions of dollars in clean-up costs. Also, cumulative effects of pollution and water issues trigger social and regulatory pressure from neighboring communities and NGOs which in turn can impact the entire mining industry.

By using Climate risk intelligence investors and companies can work with local communities, governments, and NGOs to help assess flood risks in a given area, then develop strategies to mitigate these risks.

Key takeaways

  • Location, location, location: Location matters when it comes to understanding extreme climate hazard risk and assessing the near term and long term impacts of climate change. Climate adaptation and mitigation strategies will vary by location.
  • Climate impacts to supply chains: We should anticipate and plan for growing floods in active mining regions which impact the economy and at mining sites prone to environmentally hazardous materials.
  • Asset level assessments enable climate intelligence: Understanding climate risk exposure at specific physical locations allows us to quantify physical risk, plan and adapt to avoid significant environmental damage, economic losses, and supply chain disruptions.

If you find this material interesting and care about the changing climate, I would appreciate you forwarding to a friend and leaving a comment. Sust Global makes it easy to stay up to date with the latest analyses and trends in frontier climate science, just subscribe to Sust Insights. If you would like to assess risks to your assets and business from exposure to extreme physical hazard in the years to come, get in touch with us and sign up for a trial of our Climate Scenario Analysis Platform.

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Gopal Erinjippurath (geo)data scientist building climate adaptation SaaS. Currently CTO and Head of Product at Sust Global. Formerly Head of Analytics at Planet Labs and Engineering Manager at Dolby.

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