Selected research highlights

Selected research highlights

FloodingCoastal flooding may be a threat to assets worth up to 20% of global GDP by 2100, or USD 14.2 trillion. This is concluded in a study published in the Nature journal ‘Scientific Reports’, co-authored by IVM’s Sanne Muis. 

The regions that will be mostly affected are, according to the authors, north-west Europe, south and south-east Asia, the north-east USA and north Australia. The findings show that, without investments in coastal defences or greenhouse gas emission reductions, coastal flooding can have major impacts on global population and economy. By the end of this century, the land area affected may increase by 48% and the number of people exposed to coastal flooding may increase to 287 million (4.1 % of global population). This is a result of tide and storm events as well as projected regional sea level rise.

The authors combined global data on water levels during extreme storms with projections of sea level rise under different climate scenarios. They used these data to model the maximum sea level that can occur in 2100 and combined this model with topographic data to identify regions at risk of coastal flooding. Using data on population and GDP in the affected areas they were able to estimate the number of people and assets at risk.

MeadowGlobal biodiversity policy is at a crossroads. Recent global assessments of living nature and climate  show worsening trends and a rapidly narrowing window for action. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has recently announced that none of the 20 Aichi targets for biodiversity it set in 2010 has been reached and only six have been partially achieved. Against this backdrop, nations are now negotiating the next generation of the CBD's global goals, due for adoption in 2021, which will frame actions of governments and other actors for decades to come. 

In response to the goals proposed in the draft post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) made public by the CBD, an international team of biodiversity experts, including IVM’s Peter Verburg, has urged negotiators to consider three points that are critical if the agreed goals are to stabilize or reverse nature's decline. First, multiple goals are required because of nature's complexity, with different facets (genes, populations, species, deep evolutionary history, ecosystems, and their contributions to people) having markedly different geographic distributions and responses to human drivers. Second, interlinkages among these facets mean that goals must be defined and developed holistically rather than in isolation, with potential to advance multiple goals simultaneously and minimize trade-offs between them. Third, only the highest level of ambition in setting each goal, and implementing all goals in an integrated manner, will give a realistic chance of stopping — and beginning to reverse — biodiversity loss by 2050.
The team’s recommendations were published in Science.

EM waveThe COVID-19 pandemic and climate change share several striking similarities in terms of causes and consequences, and in terms of human behavioural biases towards them. How can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic experience to make better choices for climate policy? This is discussed in an article by Wouter Botzen, Sem Duijndam, and Pieter van Beukering recently published in World Development.

The COVID-19 and climate crisis share many similarities in terms of causes, such as unsustainable transport and food systems, and consequences, including health risks. By disproportionally affecting deprived communities both problems also intensify existing world inequalities. In addition, both problems can be characterized as low-probability-high consequence risks, which are associated with various behavioural biases that imply that individual behaviour deviates from rational risk assessments by experts and optimal preparedness strategies. In their research, Wouter Botzen and colleagues discuss six important risk-related behavioural biases in the context of individual decision making about these two global challenges to derive lessons for climate policy. 

One of these lessons is the need to develop communication strategies that stress the consequences of risks associated with climate change and COVID-19 to ensure that individuals start and keep paying attention. One reason for the high public support for the COVID-19 lockdown measures is the reality of immediate health risks. Therefore, climate communication strategies that emphasize health risks, in particular, may be effective in enhancing support for climate policy. The article also discusses how more sustainable behaviour can be stimulated using communication policies, regulations, and financial incentives that work with, instead of against, the identified behavioural biases. In order to prevent that these policies increase existing world inequalities, securing basic needs and providing financial support for underprivileged people is imperative. 

Source cartoon: EcoMatcher

BiostarBending the curve on biodiversity loss requires everyone to chip in. Luckily, there has been an explosion in the number of cities, regions, companies, indigenous peoples’ and civil society organizations, engaging in biodiversity. They join hundreds of international ‘cooperative initiatives’ for biodiversity, creating new opportunities for a broader ‘whole of society’ approach to global biodiversity governance, beyond the Convention on Biological Diversity. We know little, however, about the impacts of international cooperative initiatives on biodiversity governance.

IVM researchers Katarzyna Negacz, Oscar Widerberg and Philipp Pattberg, in cooperation with Marcel Kok (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, PBL), have investigated the accountability of international and transnational cooperative initiatives in global biodiversity governance.

The report entitled ‘Monitoring, reporting and verification of international cooperative initiatives for biodiversity’, analyses how accountability is operationalized across 99 international and transnational biodiversity initiatives, focusing on whether monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) frameworks are in place. The somewhat surprising results show that more initiatives than expected have monitoring and reporting practices in place. The report is a deliverable of the project ‘Global Biodiversity Governance Beyond 2020: The Role of International Cooperative Initiatives’.