Q. What are the effects now and what are the effects in the future?
A. A lot depends on what the reactions of the different players will be. For example, in the U.S., over 50% of the population lives in areas that are considered coastal. Unless there is a great understanding of what rising sea levels, increasing storm surges, and things like that will do to those areas, it’s going to become increasingly costly, and could have quite a series effect not only on economic development but also on social stability. China has a very serious water supply problem and it also has major infrastructure and industrial areas right on the coast, in a typhoon zone, such as in Shanghai. There are different regions that have different vulnerabilities. What will happen will depend very much on how much of an effort is made to integrate those changes into future planning, and to try to counter the detrimental effects.
We do know certain things are going to become increasingly problematic. Energy supplies will be increasingly compromised by environmental change. The offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are very likely to face more shut downs due to increasing storm activity or intensity. Hydroelectric installations are designed for very special operating parameters — certain amounts of rainfall, particular river levels, glacier melts. All of that is in flux now. Nuclear stations require an enormous amount of water for cooling. In France, for example, increasingly high temperatures have made it difficult for plants to operate at maximum capacity in the summer. So energy sector disruptions are happening already, and are very likely to accelerate. It’s like putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We can see certain critical areas being affected but it’s hard to see what the whole picture will be, because so many of the pieces of the puzzle are changing as our reaction to these events changes.