The San Francisco skyline viewed from Alcatraz, during a clear day (top), and during a smoke storm on 16 November 2018 (bottom). Top and Bottom are the same shot taken a week apart. Photo: marcstokes79 / Instagram

By Amanda Mull
17 November 2018

(The Atlantic) – The particulates in smoke don’t destroy homes. They don’t down trees. But in the case of wildfires, smoke’s impacts—and dangers—can reach hundreds of miles further than the flames themselves. As of Friday evening, the Camp Fire raging in Butte County, north of the San Francisco Bay Area, has a death toll of 71 and has left more than 1,000 people unaccounted for. The fire’s smoke, meanwhile, has been endangering the health of millions of of Northern Californians.

Northern California had some of the worst air quality in the world at the end of this week, with levels of hazardous airborne particulate soaring. With that has come a variety of public-health moves to keep residents safe in the region’s most populated areas. There have been widespread school and university closures. Many businesses have urged employees to work from home. Some public transit in San Francisco has been made free, in an effort to keep people inside as much as possible if they must commute.

In a region whose weather is usually pretty temperate, smoke days have become the Bay Area’s version of snow days. But instead of a joyful respite from work, wildfire smoke mixes a blizzard’s large-scale logistical nightmares with the anxiety of worsening climate change and a class divide that plagues American public health. Three of the five largest fires on record in California have occurred in the past three years, all in the northern part of the state. For the region’s residents, smoke days won’t go away once the Camp Fire is contained.

The risk posed by wildfire smoke is significant, and it goes far beyond a few days of coughing or headaches. According to Kristie Ebie, a professor of global public health at the University of Washington, the consequences of breathing wildfire smoke extend to other parts of the body because of the noxious nature of the tiny debris the smoke carries with it. “That affects not only people’s lungs, but it gets absorbed into people’s systems,” she says. Recent research shows that absorption can lead to cardiac arrest, stroke, and other deadly outcomes.

With kids home from school, people working from home, and few safe ways to leave the house, Northern Californians are looking for any outlet available to find some relief. “It’s very challenging, because everyone’s cooped up,” said Aubrey Hirsch as she sat on the floor of a Berkeley public library and built a Lego boat with her son, whose school closed on Friday. The boy was happy to be have the day off, but Hirsch, a writer, lost a day of work.

Local officials have encouraged people to seek libraries as a safe destination for those who need or want to leave their homes, and especially for those who don’t have in-home air filtration or air conditioning, which can help cycle out smoke that seeps in. On Friday morning, every seat at the Berkeley library’s regularly scheduled story time was full. [more]

Smoke Days Are Now California's Snow Days

Emissions and global warming projections for 2100, based on national pledges and current policies. Graphic: Climate Action Tracker

By James Fernyhough
15 November 2018

(The Australian Financial Review) – Insurance giant IAG has warned a failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could result in a world that is "pretty much uninsurable", with poorer communities likely to bear the brunt of the effects.

In Australia, IAG said temperature increases of more than 3 degrees would expose greater swaths of Queensland to cyclones and flooding, while a rise of more than 4 degrees could make the risks to insurers prohibitive.

"It's a big question because it depends on reinsurance capital, but if you take some of the models that are being done on cyclone risk, for example, there could be more of Queensland exposed to cyclone and flooding in a 3-degree world," Jacki Johnson, IAG's group executive people, performance and reputation, told The Australian Financial Review.

"There is some commentary globally that in a 4-degree world, the world becomes pretty much uninsurable."

This week 16 of the world's biggest insurers, including IAG and QBE, launched an initiative with the United Nations to develop new risk assessment tools in an effort to make insurance accessible and affordable.

Participating insurers, which also include AXA, Allianz, and Swiss Re, will work with climate scientists to develop a better understanding of the new and unpredictable weather events resulting from climate change.

The focus of the initiative is on responding to climate change, rather than preventing it. However, Ms Johnson said the future of insurance depended upon limiting global temperature rises, which could only be achieved by a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

"We have been very vocal [on the fact that] something will have to change because you cannot continue to have the carbon emissions and think that the world will be insurable," she said.

While the Paris agreement officially aims to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, current policies would result in far higher temperature rises.

According to Climate Action Tracker, a German-government backed initiative, under current policies global temperatures are on track to rise by 3.4 degrees by the end of the century.

Will Steffen, professor emeritus at Australian National University and member of the Climate Council, predicted rises would be even higher.

"I suspect on current trajectories it will be more like 4 degrees. So we're not on a good track at all," he told The Australian Financial Review. [more]

Climate change on track to make world 'uninsurable': IAG

Climate Action Tracker 2017 projections and resulting emissions gaps in meeting the Paris Agreement's temperature goals. Graphic: Climate Action Tracker

14 November 2018 (IAG) – UN Environment’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) announced today a partnership with 16 of the world’s largest insurers—representing around 10% of world premium and USD 5 trillion in assets under management—to develop a new generation of risk assessment tools designed to enable the insurance industry to better understand the impacts of climate change on their business. This understanding is vital for an industry whose core business is to manage risk.

The pilot group will develop analytical tools that they will use to pioneer insurance industry climate risk disclosures that are in line with the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). This will require them to make use of the latest climate science, including some of the most advanced, forward-looking climate scenarios available.

“For generations, the insurance industry has served as society’s early warning system and risk manager by understanding, reducing, pricing and carrying risk. Its message now is loud and clear: climate change risk is intensifying and is a serious threat to the insurability of communities and economies around the world,” said UN Environment chief, Erik Solheim.

“An uninsurable world is a price that society could not afford. This is why UN Environment is working with leading insurers to understand and reduce risk, to seize unprecedented business opportunities in climate action, and to ensure an insurable, resilient and sustainable world.”

The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. As rising temperatures accelerate sea level rise and catalyse extreme weather events, communities, businesses, cities and countries are facing new types and higher levels of risk.

The Financial Stability Board, chaired by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, mandated its Task Force to develop voluntary and consistent climate-related financial disclosures for use by companies in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders. The Task Force’s final recommendations were submitted to the G20 in June 2017 and have four key pillars—governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets.

The tools and indicators that will be jointly developed and piloted by the Insurer Group will incorporate the latest scenario analysis to assess climate-related physical and transition risks in insurance portfolios. Insurance coverage incentivises risk reduction, puts a price tag on risk, de-risks investments, and serves as a financial shock absorber for communities, businesses and governments.

While insurers are also major investors—with global assets under management of over USD 30 trillion—this initiative will focus on the assessment of climate risks in their core insurance portfolios and products.

"The more insurers understand climate risks facing the economy, the more they can make prudent decisions in managing risk and serving their clients, and the more efficient and stable our markets will become,” said Michael Bloomberg, Chair of the Task Force and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action.

“The pioneering work of this group will pave the way for greater climate risk transparency and climate action by the global insurance industry, and it's great to see that it's consistent with our Task Force's recommendations."

Reliable information on insurers’ exposure to climate risks will strengthen the stability of the financial system, encourage more and better disclosures from client companies across sectors, and help boost insurance products and investments needed to transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient communities and economies.

The Insurer Group’s work follows equivalent work by leading banks and investors, all convened by UNEP FI for the purpose of advancing financial sector know-how on climate change and the adoption of the Task Force’s recommendations.

Its outputs aim to support key platforms and initiatives, including the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in New York in September next year to drive ambitious climate action needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

IAG Group CEO Peter Harmer emphasised the importance of global collaboration to establish the framework.

“The insurance industry has long understood the risk of climate change on our communities and customers, and it is vital that the financial sector works collectively to share our knowledge and create a framework for transparent and sustainable operations and reporting,” Mr Harmer said.

“We look forward to working with our global industry peers in the UNEP FI PSI pilot, and contributing to the development of a set of standards to give investors and customers the ability to make informed decisions in the context of what IAG and our industry are doing to help combat climate change.”

Member companies of the Insurer Group

The leading insurers that will work together with the UN are all signatories to UNEP FI’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), a global best-practice sustainability framework and the largest collaborative initiative between the UN and the insurance industry.The Insurer Group includes: Allianz (Germany), AXA (France), IAG (Australia), Intact Financial Corporation (Canada), Länsförsäkringar Sak (Sweden), MAPFRE (Spain), MS&AD (Japan), Munich Re (Germany), NN Group (Netherlands), QBE (Australia), Sompo Japan Nipponkoa (Japan), Storebrand (Norway), Swiss Re (Switzerland), TD Insurance (Canada), The Co-operators (Canada), and Tokio Marine & Nichido (Japan).

About UN Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI)

The UN Environment Finance Initiative is a partnership between UN Environment and the global financial sector created in the wake of the 1992 Earth Summit with a mission to promote sustainable finance. Over 200 financial institutions, including banks, insurers and investors, work with UN Environment to understand today's environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

About UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative (PSI)

Endorsed by the UN Secretary-General and insurance industry CEOs, the Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) serve as a global framework for the insurance industry to address environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities—and a global initiative to strengthen the insurance industry’s contribution as risk managers, insurers and investors to building resilient, inclusive and sustainable communities and economies. Developed by UN Environment Finance Initiative, the PSI was launched at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and is the largest collaborative initiative between the UN and the insurance industry.

IAG joins global pilot for insurance industry climate risk disclosure

A driver forces a car through a group of protesters in Donges, western France, killing one, on 17 November 2018. Photo: Reuters

By James McAuley
17 November 2018

PARIS (The Washington Post) – The French president is under fire again, this time over rising fuel prices.

On Saturday, some 244,000 protesters, many clad in yellow vests, not only took to the streets, but in many places literally took the streets, according to the French Interior Ministry. The ministry said a network of drivers blocked roads at some 2,000 locations across the country, generating traffic backups for miles and causing one death.

A 63-year-old protester was killed in the eastern Savoie region when a driver panicked by demonstrators accidentally accelerated into the crowd, French media reported. In other incidents nationwide, 106 people were reported injured, five seriously.

The protesters’ chief complaint: the rising cost of diesel fuel. The recent price hike is a direct result of Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to curbing climate change, which included higher carbon taxes for 2018, the first full year of his term. But beyond the diesel issue, many turned out Saturday to voice any number of other frustrations with the so-called “president for the rich,” who is seen as increasingly removed from ordinary people’s concerns.

Tear gas is used to disperse fuel-price protesters in Paris, on 17 November 2018. Photo: EPA

Diesel, a fossil fuel, is known for the pollutants it emits into the air. Although it was traditionally taxed at the same rate as petrol, that is no longer the case: Taxes on diesel have risen by 6.2 percent per liter this year, as part of the government’s efforts to protect clean air. The problem is that diesel remains the most common fuel in France, leading many to view recent policies as an attack on working people more than an environmental safeguard.

The stirrings of the “yellow vest” campaign behind Saturday’s protest began this summer, with online petitions urging Macron to reconsider. But the loudest voice was that of Jacline Mouraud, a white-haired hypnotist and grandmother of three from Brittany who has become the star of the movement.

“I have two little words for Mr. Macron and his government,” she said, in a YouTube video that has garnered millions of views. “You have persecuted drivers since the day you took office. This will continue for how long?” [more]

France’s climate change commitments trigger rising diesel prices and street protests

Colombian migration officers check the identity documents of people trying to enter Colombia from Venezuela, at the Simon Bolivar International bridge in Villa del Rosario, Colombia, 25 August 2018. Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins / REUTERS

By Stephanie Nebehay; editing by John Stonestreet
8 November 2018

GENEVA (Reuters) – Three million Venezuelans have fled economic and political crisis in their homeland, most since 2015, the United Nations said on Thursday.

The exodus, driven by violence, hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicines, amounts to around one in 12 of the population.

It has accelerated in the past six months, said William Spindler of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which appealed for greater international efforts to ease the strain on the country’s neighbors.

U.N. data in September 2018 showed 2.6 million had fled.

“The main increases continue to be reported in Colombia and Peru,” Spindler said.

Colombia is sheltering 1 million Venezuelans. Some 3,000 more arrive each day, and the Bogota government says 4 million could be living there by 2021, costing it nearly $9 billion.

Oil-rich Venezuela has sunk into crisis under Socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has damaged the economy through state interventions while clamping down on political opponents.

He has dismissed the migration figures as “fake news” meant to justify foreign intervention in Venezuela’s affairs.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR said the exodus was straining several neighboring countries, notably Colombia.

“Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have largely maintained a commendable open-door policy,” said Eduardo Stein, UNHCR-IOM Joint Special Representative for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela. [more]

Venezuelan migrant exodus hits 3 million: U.N.

Survey responses to the question, 'What is the most likely reason you have debt or are struggling with debt?'. Graphic: GOBankingRates

By Cameron Huddleston
8 November 2018

(GOBankingRates) – Debt truly is a four-letter word for many Americans. It can lead to stress, sleepless nights and fighting in relationships. It can force you to live paycheck to paycheck and prevent you from getting ahead financially.

Because debt is such a widespread problem in the U.S., GOBankingRates set out to uncover why Americans are in debt. More than 5,000 adults were surveyed to find out how much debt they have, when debt became a burden in their lives, how they deal with debt and how their lives would be different without debt.

Keep reading to find out how and why Americans are drowning in debt.

Household Debt Continues to Rise in the U.S.

Household debt in the U.S. is at an all-time high of $13.29 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That’s $618 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion in 2008 during the Great Recession.

How Much Debt Americans Have, by Category
Category Annual Change* Total as of Q2 2018
Mortgage Debt +$308 billion $9 trillion
Home Equity Line of Credit -$20 billion $432 billion
Student Loan Debt +$61 billion $1.41 trillion
Auto Loan Debt +$48 billion $1.24 trillion
Credit Card Debt +$45 billion $829 billion
Total Debt +$454 billion $13.29 trillion
*Change from Q2 2017 to Q2 2018
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The biggest contributor to the rise in household debt is growing mortgage debt, which is $9 trillion as of the second quarter of 2018, according to the New York Fed. The second biggest source of debt in U.S. households is student loan debt, which is $1.4 trillion.

How Much Debt Americans Have in 2018: By Age and Gender

The GOBankingRates’ survey found that the average debt among the more than 5,000 adults it polled is $52,458.

Overall Debt by Age and Gender
Age/Gender Average Debt
18-24 $28,090.77
25-34 $58,216.71
35-44 $68,233.57
45-54 $57,901.95
55-64 $53,694.77
65 and over $48,066.73
Females $50,123.50
Males $55,080.53
Source: GOBankingRates survey

Men tend to have a bigger debt burden, on average, than women — $55,081 versus $50,124. And adults ages 35 to 44 have the highest average debt of all the generations — $68,234 — followed by adults ages 24 to 35, with $58,217.

44% of Americans Claim Low Income Is the Primary Reason for Being in Debt

To find out why debt levels are growing in the U.S., the GOBankingRates’ survey asked respondents to pinpoint the reason they most likely have debt. Respondents could choose more than one of the following answers:

  • I spend frivolously/I don’t have a budget
  • My income is too low/I don’t make enough money
  • The cost of living in my city/state is too high
  • I don’t know enough about debt and how to pay it off
  • My college/university was too expensive
  • My debt keeps rising
  • I applied for a loan/credit card I can’t really afford
  • Other

The most common reason respondents gave for why they have debt is a low income, with 44 percent choosing this response. A high cost of living and expensive college education are the second-most common reasons why respondents said they are struggling with debt — with both chosen by 20 percent of respondents. Seventeen percent of respondents chose “Other.” [more]

Americans Are Drowning in Debt — a New Survey Finds Out Why

Change in global ocean heat content (∆OHC). a, ∆OHC derived from hydrographic and atmospheric observations (normalized to zero in 2007, ±1σ uncertainty). b, Linear least-squares trends for 1991–2016, 1993–2016 and 2007–2016 (±1σ uncertainty). Hydrography-based ∆OHC estimates combine warming rates at ocean depths of 0 to 2,000m (from Cheng and co-authors (CHEN), Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), Meteorological Research Institute (MRI), and National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) estimates) with the revised deep ocean warming (at depths of more than 2,000 m). The atmospheric-based estimate (this study), which uses observed atmospheric potential oxygen trends (∆APO Climate ) and model-based ∆APO Climate-to-∆OHC ratios, does not resolve interannual variations. Graphic: Resplandy, et al., 2018 / Nature

By Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis
13 November 2018

(The Washington Post) – Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth’s oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are. [cf. Earth’s oceans have absorbed 60 percent more heat per year than previously thought]

Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists' work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans “have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.”

“Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. “I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them.”

The central problem, according to Keeling, came in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper’s conclusion about how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time.

The central conclusion of the study — that oceans are retaining ever more energy as more heat is being trapped within Earth’s climate system each year — is in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions. And it hasn’t changed much despite the errors. But Keeling said the authors' miscalculations mean there is a much larger margin of error in the findings, which means researchers can weigh in with less certainty than they thought.

“I accept responsibility for what happened because it’s my role to make sure that those kind of details got conveyed,” Keeling said. (He has published a more detailed explanation of what happened here.) […]

Gavin Schmidt, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, followed the growing debate over the study closely on Twitter and said that measurements about the uptake of heat in the oceans have been bedeviled with data problems for some time — and that debuting new research in this area is hard. […]

“The key is not whether mistakes are made, but how they are dealt with — and the response from Laure and Ralph here is exemplary. No panic, but a careful reexamination of their working — despite a somewhat hostile environment,” he wrote. [more]

Scientists acknowledge key errors in study of how fast the oceans are warming

Map showing pollution from wildfires in California, 16 November 2018, 14:27:09 PST. Data: U.S. EPA PM2.5 AQI. Graphic: PurpleAir

16 November 2018 (BBC News) – Northern California's air quality has become the worst in the world, according to monitoring groups, as the state battles devastating fires.

Air quality network Purple Air said on Thursday the air is now worse than smoggy cities in India and China.

Schools have cancelled classes, flights have been delayed, and internet searches for smoke masks are soaring.

At least 63 people have died in the Camp Fire - the state's deadliest and most destructive blaze.

The number of missing people has jumped to more than 600, local authorities said, doubling the size of the list in a day.

Three more people have also died in the Woolsey Fire, further south. […]

How bad is the air?

The AirNow website ranks the air around San Francisco and Oakland as "very unhealthy", meaning everyone in the area could experience more serious health effects.

Around Elk Grove and Sacramento, it is classed as "hazardous" - the whole population is likely to be affected, their website states.

A San Francisco Chronicle reporter tweeted that breathing in San Francisco was equivalent to smoking nearly a dozen cigarettes. In Paradise, which was destroyed by the wildfire, it is closer to smoking 22 cigarettes.

Internet searches for smoke masks have reportedly skyrocketed, while schools and universities have cancelled classes and held recesses for students inside.

Health officials warned people to stay indoors rather than risk the smoke.

"Wearing a mask may encourage outdoor activity when staying indoors is the best way to minimize exposure to smoke," the Sacramento County Public Health Office said. [more]

California wildfires: Air quality rated 'world's worst'

Aerial view of an incinerated neighborhood in Paradise, California, on 15 November 2018. Photo: Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

16 November 2018 (CBS) – The number of people missing in California's wildfires has soared to over 600, and the death toll has risen to 66. In the "Camp Fire" in Northern California, 631 people were unaccounted for after officials on Thursday added more than 500 names of people reported missing.

Hundreds of others are living in tent cities with no idea when they'll be able to return home. Members of the Paradise community held a town hall meeting Thursday night to begin the long road to recovery with many signing up for FEMA relief.

The town suffered some of the worst damage from the "Camp Fire" -- the deadliest in the state's history. In Southern California, evacuation orders have been lifted in Malibu, where firefighters were still working to contain the "Woolsey Fire."

"I lost everything that I received from my mom, from my grandparents from the baby grand piano to china," Ilene Mickens told CBS Los Angeles. "I lost my wedding album. I lost my children's baby albums." […]

Three deer walk past a destroyed home on Orrin Lane after the wildfire burned through Paradise, California, on Saturday, 10 November 2018. Not much is left in Paradise after a ferocious wildfire roared through the Northern California town as residents fled and entire neighborhoods are leveled. Photo: AP

Officials held a press conference Thursday night with the latest details about the Camp Fire in Northern California. The Butte County sheriff said seven additional human remains were found earlier, bringing the total dead from the Camp Fire to 63 (statewide 66).

They said a total of 11,862 structures have been destroyed by the Camp Fire, including homes.

A FEMA official said anyone affected by the Camp Fire needs to register so they can receive assistance.

An official with the California Highway Patrol said looters will be prosecuted.

The CHP said road/highway conditions can be found online at the Butte County website. They said some 165 cars have been cleared from roadways.

The Butte County sheriff's office announced a total of 631 have been listed as "unaccounted" -- a jump in the past 24 hours. The list can be found here. [more]

Number of people missing in California wildfires passes 600

In October 2018, one of the longest dry spells on record has left part of the Rhine in Germany at record-low levels for months, forcing freighters to reduce their cargo or stop plying the river altogether. About half of Germany’s river ferries have stopped running, according to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration. Photo: Gordon Welters / The New York Times

By Christopher F. Schuetze
4 November 2018

KAUB, Germany (The New York Times) – Just after sunrise, Capt. Frank Sep turned to his ship’s radio for the defining news of his day: the water level in Kaub, the shallowest part of the middle section of the Rhine, Germany’s most important shipping route.

The news was bad, as it so often is these days.

One of the longest dry spells on record has left parts of the Rhine at record-low levels for months, forcing freighters to reduce their cargo or stop plying the river altogether.

Parts of the Danube and the Elbe — Germany’s other major rivers for transport — are also drying up. Some inland ports are idle, and it is estimated that millions of tons of goods are having to be transported by rail or road.

With castles and vineyards dominating the river banks near Kaub, just five miles from the Lorelei rock, named for a siren who was said to lure sailors to their deaths, it would be easy to forget how important the area is to German commerce. It is roughly halfway between the inland ports of Koblenz and Mainz, and virtually all freight shipped from seaports in the Netherlands and Belgium to the industrial southwest of Germany passes through here.

On a day in late October 2018, Captain Sep learned that the river was just 10 inches deep. That meant the water in the man-made shipping channel dredged near the center of the river was about five feet deep, down from an average of about 11 feet. Even with cargo at one-third of its usual weight, his 282-foot freighter Rex-Rheni — the King Rhine — would have only inches of water under its hull.

“I’ve never experienced so little water here,” said Captain Sep, who has been working on the river since 1982, the last 22 years on the Rex-Rheni. “It’s becoming so low that it’s very difficult for ships to pass.”

An exceptionally dry summer has caused havoc across Europe. A trade group in Germany put farmers’ losses at several billion dollars. The German chemical giant BASF had to decrease production at one of its plants over the summer because the Rhine, whose water it uses to cool production, was too low. […]

Wild tomatoes are growing in the Rhine riverbed in Bonn. In October 2018, one of the longest dry spells on record has left part of the Rhine in Germany at record-low levels for months, forcing freighters to reduce their cargo or stop plying the river altogether. Photo: Gordon Welters / The New York Times

About half of Germany’s river ferries have stopped running, according to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, and river cruise ships are having to transport their passengers by bus for parts of their journey. Thousands of fish in the Swiss section of the river died because of the heat and low oxygen levels.

There are reasons to believe such weather will become more frequent with a warming climate.

“Our research shows an increase in instability,” said Hagen Koch, who studies rivers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The extremes are going to happen more often.” [more]

The Rhine, a Lifeline of Germany, Is Crippled by Drought


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