London - the cost of climate change, catcalling and my own cheer squad

November 23, 2017

Tues 21st - 21km


If I had to pick the thing that I disliked most about doing these runs alone, it would be boredom. Everyone who has run 21kms will surely agree that, after about 16kms, it becomes rather tedious. I usually spend the first approximately 4 minutes reflecting on yesterday’s activities (running), the next 15 admiring my surroundings and then the last 105 willing the run to be over. Two things happened on today’s run in London that gave me a brief respite from this uninspiring sequence of events; a friend Alex joined me for the last three miles, not-so-subtly questioning why I had picked a route that went through the heart of London at rush-hour; and, as I was running down Highbury Grove, a 50-something year old drove past and shouted “you know you want it” from the window of his 1980s Holden Astra. I have never really understood catcalling – what possible outcome was this ill-mannered stranger hoping for, as he screeched at me over his malfunctioning exhaust? If “it” in that sentence means what I assume it does, then I am doubtful whether any woman who has donned running gear for a jog around Finsbury Park at 3pm would be interested in any form of “it” from this disrespectful Christopher Walken lookalike.

 Although the rest of the run was rather uneventful, the familiarity of the London streets seemed to make the run go quicker, as I ran a route that I had frequented many times in the last two years. Starting north, I ran around Clissold Park, through the Woodbury Wetlands and then along the river into Finsbury Park. From there I followed the abandoned railway line towards Alexandra Palace, took a number of incorrect trails in Hampstead Heath, picked Alex up in Camden and navigated the busy streets down towards the Thames. The last few miles though the city involved us trying to dodge packs of suit-wearers as they unpredictably changed direction, chatting on their cellphones about important things and carrying unnecessarily large Pret bags. Running through this hectic black and white swarm, it is not hard to see how London has continuously surpassed New York as the world’s leading financial centre. London also generates 22% of the UK’s GDP, making it the largest contributor.  According to a new study, the UK’s GDP might be okay as a result of global warming, however the majority of countries around the world will not be so lucky. The study has found that the global economy may be radically damaged and growth slowed in the coming decades if nothing is done to slow the pace of warming.

As far back as 2006, the Stern Review[1] concluded that climate change could damage global GDP by up to 20% by the end of this century if left unchecked, whereas curbing it would only cost about 1% of global GDP. In a more recent 2015 study published in the journal Nature, it was calculated that global GDP will be 23% lower than it would be without any global warming (due to declined economic productivity). The results of this 2015 study helped to produce this interactive map that shows the change in GDP per capita in each country by 2100, compared to a world without climate change. When broken down, you can see that there are a limited number of countries that will actually benefit from global warming. However, the majority, including New Zealand (at -9%), the USA (at -36%), Australia (at -53%) and Venezuela, India and Saudi Arabia (at -91%, -92% and -96% respectively) will all suffer a loss.  It is worth noting that this study did not account for the economic impact of sea level rise, storms or any of the other expected effects of climate change beyond simple global warming (meaning that in reality the economic effects of climate change are likely to be worse).


In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, it was calculated that:


“the national GDP at risk from climate change exceeds $1.5 trillion in the 301 major cities around the world. Including the impact of human pandemics – which are likely to become more severe as the planet warms — the figure increases to nearly $2.2 trillion in economic output at risk through 2025”


The damage done to future GDP as a result of climate change, and in particular rising temperatures, will be not be shared equally,  as poorer countries, such as those in South America and Africa, tend to already be warmer than what is ideal for economic growth, resulting in a redistribution of wealth from the poorer countries to the wealthier ones.  It is estimated that average income for the world's poorest 60% of people will be 70% below what it would have been without climate change, by 2100.

The argument that fighting climate change is bad for the economy is one that has been frequently cited as a case for inaction (for example, this was the reasoning put forward by Donald Trump when he recently confirmed that the USA would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement). However, more and more studies are illustrating that the financial cost of action is insignificant compared to the future economic losses that will result if we do nothing.


An example of economic loss due to a climate change fuelled event is hurricane Sandy. Climate change’s hand in Sandy was identified in a 2013 study that found sea level rise, driven by the melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of a warming ocean, extended the reach of the storm by 27 sq miles, affecting 83,000 additional people. NOAA predicted that Hurricane Sandy alone resulted in a hit to the economy of US$70.2 billion, a figure that took account of direct damage caused, as well as certain indirect losses (for example, the hurricane resulted in the New York Stock Exchange having to close for two consecutive business days).  Record snowfall is occurring in some cities bringing them to a standstill and extreme heat is causing crops to fail and people to work less (and become less productive when they do work).


So if polar bears and melting icecaps aren’t your thing, then perhaps the financial costs of climate change (that are not just limited to direct damage caused by storms or rising sea levels, but also the loss of potential GDP) will have you thinking. 








So much love for the best support team in the business!! Finishing the run in town to these signs and smiling faces absolutely made my day, you guys are amazing!! xx


[1] The Stern Review is a report that was commissioned by the UK government and led by economist Nicholas Stern, that quantified the costs of addressing climate change and assessed the impact on the global economy.


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