Children at Risk

School CrossingCheck out the photo essay developed when working in Guinea, a French-speaking country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Guinea is desperately poor and particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Sometimes the dirt road at the school crossing is flooded during the rainy season; other times, it is bone dry during the drought periods. Taking these photographs was somewhat risky, as army personnel were ready to arrest anyone with a camera, based on the belief that photographs were likely intended to embarrass the country’s leadership. But a few quick snapshots captured the contrast between the children who were happy to do what few in their region do – go to school – and the extreme poverty in which they live.

Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters

World Bank BookBecause the poor tend to work in sectors that are vulnerable to extreme weather events, live in fragile housing in high-risk areas, and have fewer resources, they are disproportionately affected by natural disasters and often are driven deeper into poverty when disasters occur, according to a recent report from the World Bank and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. The report, Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters, estimates that natural disasters drive twenty-six million people worldwide into poverty each year, with an average economic loss of $300 billion and a reduction in human well-being of $520 billion. The report argues that to reduce poverty we must reduce disaster risk. Policies that enable resilience and the ability of the poor to recover from unavoidable disasters could reduce losses in human well-being by $100 billion a year. These include revenue diversification programs, including cash transfers from other social programs, to reduce reliance on a single income source; financial inclusion programs designed to help the poor accumulate savings or access credit during post-disaster recovery periods; adaptive social protection programs that provide flexible support to victims of disaster; and disaster risk financing in support of preparedness, recovery, and reconstruction efforts.

New York Times Reports Business Support of Climate Agreement

The New York Times has reported the statement signed by 365 business leaders and investors urging President-Elect Trump to support the Climate Agreement concluded in Paris last year. Investing in a low-carbon economy is not only good for the environment, it advances American prosperity and job creation. Prisere LLC is among the U.S. businesses that signed the letter, affirming our commitment to reduce our carbon footprint and create jobs in the clean energy economy.

Disaster Risk Analysis from The Economist

Economist StudyA report released this week, Towards Disaster-Risk Sensitive investments: The Disaster Risk-Integrated Operational Risk Model, presents the results of a pilot study of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s model conducted from January to April this year in twenty disaster-prone locations: Australia, Bangladesh, China, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Japan, Laos, Madagascar, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, and the United States. Only Australia, Italy, the Republic of Korea , Taiwan and the USA are judged to have a “mature” approach to economic resilience. (The findings with respect to the U.S. surprised us!)  The Economist model, developed with UNISDR’s Risk Knowledge Services division, is built around five pillars: institutional framework; disaster risk-reduction policy, preparedness and response; economic resilience; societal resilience; and resilience of the physical environment. They are measured according to 23 separate indicators, both qualitative and quantitative. It is great reading. Download the report for free at this link.

Disaster Risk Reduction Course

A Resilient Future: Science and Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction, a course offered by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, is now available online for free or for $50 if you desire a certificate of completion. This course demonstrates how science and technology help to increase disaster risk and increase resilience. Course participants are introduced to existing and emerging technologies suitable for disaster risk reduction while promoting the overall aim of sustainable development. The course focuses on three main natural hazards: floods, landslides and earthquakes. At the conclusion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Explain Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) related concepts and science and technology for DRR.
  • Identify and describe existing and emerging technologies for landslide and flood reduction.
  • Explain methodological tools to assess vulnerabilities and risk and strengthen the resilience of communities at risk of landslides, floods and earthquakes.
  • Exemplify the role and the challenges of science and technological innovations for disaster risk reduction in an interdisciplinary manner including the importance of social aspects.
  • Recognize some of the actors active in DRR and international policy frameworks and technology for DRR.

The instructor, Dr. Silvia Hostettler, is the  Deputy Director of the Cooperation & Development Center at the École Polytechnique in Switzerland, where she is responsible for coordinating research activities and for directing the Biennial International Conference of the UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development. As this course is a great resource for our graduate student interns to help them get started with our projects, we highly recommend it.

Tsunami Triggers Tidal Waves in Japan

Yesterday, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale rattled the coast of Japan in the vicinity of where a 9.1 quake had struck almost six years ago. The power of the 9.1 quake generated 30 to 60 foot tsunamis, overwhelming Japan’s extensive sea walls and shore protections, killing over 15,000 people, leaving 225,000 homeless and causing an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Yesterday’s tsunamis reached just under 5 feet and caused minor injuries to a dozen or so people. The difference in impact results from the fact that the 2011 earthquake was roughy 1,000 times the power of yesterday’s earthquake, as quakes are measured on a logarithmic scale. Nevertheless, for the survivors of the 2011 tsunami, yesterday must have triggered a strong emotional response, particularly for those who had lost loved ones. Even seemingly “minor” hazards, such as yesterday’s quake, can have profound consequences. And it is worth considering how a similar event could be devastating for another locale – Japan is exceptionally well prepared for such hazards. Few countries can match its disaster risk reduction efforts.


Insurance Policy Benefits Haiti

Instead of waiting for aid to trickle down, Haiti received an immediate disbursement of $23 million from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF). The payment was due under a tropical cyclone policy the CCRIF had issued to Haiti back in 2009. While the country still waits for the emergency funds requested by the United Nations, the CCRIF claims payment  allowed the Haitian government to pay emergency personnel, keeping essential government functions operational at a critical time.


Art Thinking

art-thinkingThe reading for this weekend is Art Thinking, a guide to creativity written by Amy Whitaker, an entrepreneur-in-residence who holds both an MBA and an MFA. The book addresses the challenges of trying to develop big picture thinking while dealing with the smaller details our daily schedules demand. The genesis of our interest in these ideas was our work at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). While the business types in our group were nervous about having to draw in order to express our ideas visually, it soon became apparent that art is a form of entrepreneurship. The artists and the entrepreneur are both trying to bring a vision to life, and often have to do so with little or no resources. So we set aside the fear of appearing foolish with our awkward drawings and make our best attempt, knowing that successive refinements will bring us closer to our goals. RISD was an early advocate for STEAM (that is, STEM, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics + Art), arising from their belief that bringing creative minds from the studio and liberal arts worlds together with scientists and technologists will broaden conversations and generate more innovative ideas. This book promises to accomplish that goal.

Low Carbon USA

Business Supporting ClimateToday is the last day of the Marrakech Climate Conference where the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the Paris agreement, takes place. The agenda focuses on financing the transition to a low-carbon economy to reach the targets agreed upon in Paris last year. In support of that work, leaders of more than 100 U.S. companies, including Prisere LLC, signed a letter addressed to President Obama, President-Elect Trump, the U.S. Congress and global leaders participating in the Marrakech conference to reaffirm our deep commitment to addressing climate change through implementation of the historic Paris agreement. The letter will appear in its entirety in U.S. business news media as well as online to underscore that addressing climate impacts is a top priority for U.S. businesses. We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy. Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Specifically, we call for:

  1. Continuation of low-carbon policies to allow the US to meet or exceed our promised national commitment and to increase our nation’s future ambition;
  2. Investment in the low carbon economy at home and abroad in order to give financial decision-makers clarity and boost the confidence of investors worldwide; and
  3. Continued US participation in the Paris Agreement, in order to provide the long-term direction needed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C.

Implementing the Paris Agreement will enable and encourage businesses and investors to turn the billions of dollars in existing low-carbon investments into the trillions of dollars the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all.

Hurricane Matthew Motivates Preparedness

Hurricane Matthew is the most expensive Atlantic hurricane since Superstorm Sandy, which struck the East Coast four years ago. FM Global, a leading property insurer, conducted a survey to determine if the hurricanes motivated businesses to re-think their approaches to preparing for natural disasters. The survey found that 28 percent of employees from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas report that their employers are increasing investment in preparedness for natural disasters like hurricanes. Survey respondents also said that Hurricane Matthew interrupted normal business operations and 26 percent of employees said their companies lost customers or orders as a result of the storm. With just over one out of four affected businesses losing customers or business as a result of the storm, we cannot afford not to prepare.