Climate Change: The “Price Tag” of Our Collective Inaction

As I analyse the 2024 climate data, it is clear that we have left Mother Nature with an expensive tab. Please take a few minutes to read on.

The Cost of Inaction

A study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), backed by the German government, highlights the potential financial burden of climate change. It projects a cost of an astounding $38 trillion USD per year by 2050.

This cost will affect various sectors crucial to the global economy, including agriculture, infrastructure, productivity and healthcare. This would mean that 17% of the GDP will be gone by the middle of the century. This reduction reflects not only direct damages but also indirect costs associated with adaptation measures, loss of productivity and inevitably, decreased global consumer spending.

The Price of Prevention vs Damage

The study goes a step further and contrasts the cost of implementing measures to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius against the projected damage of exceeding this threshold. At $6 trillion, the cost of prevention pales in comparison to the potential $38 trillion in damages, emphasising the importance of proactive climate action.

However, how proactive is proactive? It is something we lawyers have been considering at the Tokyo IPBA conference this week.

Policy Paralysis and Leadership Lapses

Despite the stark economic realities laid out, governments not just in the inter-pacific zone but worldwide seem to be dragging their feet when it comes to implementing meaningful climate policies. Instead of taking decisive action to reduce emissions, many are mired in political debates and short-term economic concerns.

This lack of proactive leadership not only jeopardises our ability to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change but also increases the likelihood of surpassing critical thresholds, leading to even greater economic and humanitarian crises in the future. I am satisfied with my research that there has been a prevalent discourse when it comes to the economics of climate change. There have been discussions that some countries, particularly those that could use some warming up, can benefit from climate change. However, the numerous costs outweigh the benefits.

Broader Impacts of Climate Change

  • Climate change exacerbates health issues, leading to an increased prevalence of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, and infectious diseases.
  • Heatwaves, exacerbated by climate change, can lead to heat-related injuries and deaths, imposing significant healthcare costs and reducing workforce productivity.
  • The shocking ongoing loss of biodiversity, deforestation and degradation of ecosystems results in far-reaching environmental costs.
  • Ecosystem services, such as pollination, water purification and carbon sequestration, are compromised, impacting human well-being and economic activities.
  • Consider the sheer scale of disruption that is anticipated; hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires displace communities, disrupt livelihoods, and strain social systems.
  • Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns disrupt agricultural production, leading to crop failures, reduced yields, and compromised food security. This, in turn, triggers price volatility, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition, particularly in vulnerable populations. We will see mass human migration from 2050 onwards and in my opinion as a collective really should prepare now.

Global Vulnerability and the Need for Solidarity

Poor, developing nations and marginalised communities within wealthier nations bear the brunt of climate change impacts. Limited access to resources, inadequate infrastructure, and socio-economic disparities exacerbate their vulnerability, amplifying the severity of the impacts and hindering their ability to recover.

The interconnectedness of the global economy means that no nation is isolated from the impacts of climate change. Supply chain disruptions, market volatility, and migration flows reverberate across borders, highlighting the need for international cooperation and solidarity to address climate-related challenges. Developed nations may have greater financial resources to adapt to and mitigate climate change, but they are not immune to its consequences, particularly in the long term.

While the study provides valuable insights into the potential economic costs of climate change, it overlooks the full spectrum of climate-related risks, including extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and ecosystem shifts. Current estimates are based on emissions already released, but global emissions continue to rise. This suggests that the projected costs of climate change may be conservative, failing to account for the full extent of future impacts.

Governments’ inadequate response to climate change, characterised by insufficient investment in emissions reduction and adaptation measures exacerbates the potential costs. This failure to prioritise climate action perpetuates the cycle of environmental degradation, economic losses and social disruption, amplifying the challenges faced by future generations.

Let us together consider the long-term projections. If emissions continue unabated and global temperatures rise beyond 4 degrees Celsius, the economic toll could be catastrophic. With a projected 60% income loss by 2100, the long-term ramifications of inaction are dire, threatening the stability of economies and societies worldwide. Limiting the rise in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius offers a pathway to containing the economic losses associated with climate change.

By reducing emissions, investing in renewable energy and implementing adaptation measures, countries can mitigate the worst impacts and safeguard the well-being of current and future generations. However, building resilience to climate change requires concerted efforts from governments, businesses, and communities. There are always mitigation options; investments in infrastructure upgrades, disaster preparedness, ecosystem restoration and social safety nets can enhance resilience while reducing vulnerability.

I think the real question now is – how long will we tolerate weak leadership? As custodians of our world, when will we act so that future generations are not irrevocably compromised?

Without education and understanding, we are a species sleepwalking.

This is a generational issue caused by the great acceleration from the 1950’s. Now, the urgency of addressing climate change cannot be overstated. The “price tag” incurred is substantial. Yet, as we sift through countless studies on the data and projections, there is hope. With each step towards climate-conscious policies and initiatives, we inch closer to settling our dues with Mother Nature.

Hopefully, we, and generations to come, can continue to preserve and cherish the riches of our planet.

©Lawrence Power 2024

World Leaders Call on Nations to Swiftly Ratify UN Ocean Treaty

In September 2023, nations around the world came together to sign the UN’s ‘High Seas Treaty’, formally known as the agreement on ‘Biodiversity Beyond Natural Jurisdiction’ or ‘BBNJ’. This historic agreement marked the culmination of over a decade of multilateral work, with negotiations beginning as early as 2004.

The HST aims to address a historic gap in ocean governance; there was little protection for the environment in the waters outside of a country’s exclusive economic zone. These waters contain marine resources and biodiversity, providing invaluable ecological, economic, social, cultural, scientific and food security benefits to humanity. At the same time, they are under mounting pressure from pollution, overexploitation, climate change and biodiversity loss.

According to the UN, more than one-third of global fish stocks are over-exploited. At the same time, over 17 million metric tons of plastic entered the world’s oceans in 2021 – by 2050, there could be more plastic in the sea than fish unless action is taken.

At the time of signing, only around 1% of the high seas were protected.

‘While countries are responsible for the conservation and sustainable use of waterways under their national jurisdiction, the high seas now have added protection from such destructive trends as pollution and unsustainable fishing activities.’

The ‘High Seas Treaty’

The treaty aims to provide for the common governance of about half of the Earth’s surface and 95% of the ocean’s volume, to promote equity, tackle environmental degradation, fight climate change and prevent biodiversity loss. Once ratified, the treaty will allow for the establishment of ‘marine protected areas’ in the high seas worldwide. This global pact is seen as a crucial tool to meet a target of protecting 30% of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030, known as “30 by 30”.

The EU has played a central role in this agreement, leading a ‘High Ambition Coalition’ of 52 countries, such as the UK, the US, and India. This coalition gathers parties committed to achieving an ambitious outcome of the treaty. It has pledged 3.5 billion euros to protect the ocean and promote sustainability, alongside 400 new environmental commitments totalling $10 billion.


Despite being signed by 89 nations, only four countries have formally ratified the treaty: Palau, Chile, Belize and the Seychelles. The treaty will enter into force 120 days after the 60th ratification – which, given the time-sensitive “30 by 30” target – could undermine the efficiency of the treaty. According to Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean; “We don’t want (treaty) implementation to take decades the way the treaty itself took. We have to get this done quickly.”

Likewise, the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius has said, “We hope to gather the other 60 ratifications needed for the agreement’s entry into force as soon as possible… The ocean is part of who we are and it is our shared responsibility.”

The importance of swift ratification is further amplified given current pollution trends – with plastic pollution set to double or triple each year by 2040. While the agreement itself is a significant step in the right direction, only time will tell if it was ‘too little, too late’ to prevent catastrophic damage to our oceans.

©Lawrence Power 2024

Record Rainfall: A New Climatic Reality for the UAE?

“How do you know how much precipitation that might actually end up falling from that cloud occurred due to the seeding? Or how much would have fallen without the seeding?”

– Daniel Swain, Climate Scientist at UCLA

Monday marked a historic weather event in the United Arab Emirates, beyond anything documented since records began in 1949.

The desert region, typically semi-arid, has experienced the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the province. Rain began late on Monday, with 0.79 inches recorded according to the meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport. By the end of Tuesday, this figure had skyrocketed to 5.59 inches of rainfall over 24 hours, soaking the city of Dubai—a volume higher than what the city typically receives in an average year, all occurring within a few hours.

Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airport, acknowledged the disruption caused by the deluge at the world’s busiest airfield for international travel. He described this weather event as leading to ‘challenging times’ for the airport and its staff, as this intense rainfall across the UAE has led the province into unchartered territory.

All operations at Dubai Airport were halted for 25 minutes on Tuesday afternoon as floodwaters overwhelmed surrounding roads and runways, making it unsafe for flights to land. Some aircraft were diverted to Al Maktoum International Airport at the Dubai World Central, which is the city’s second airfield and gradually expanding to become the largest civilian airport in the world.

Was this Historic Rainfall a Product of Cloud Seeding?

The cause of this weather anomaly is speculated to have been caused by cloud seeding, a method frequently used in the country to increase precipitation in areas unaccustomed to consistent rainfall. According to the Desert Research Institute, this process involves introducing tiny particles called nuclei into the atmosphere, which help water condense. Planes operated by the government deploy special salt flares to burn in the clouds during this process, helping to induce precipitation. Meteorologists at the National Center for Meteorology reported conducting around six cloud-seeding flights on the Sunday before the rainfall began. However, whether these operations occurred remains unconfirmed. Flight tracking data has indicated that an aircraft associated with the UAE’s cloud seeding efforts was active over the country on Sunday.

Or, Could Climate Change Be the Real Culprit?

Contrary to this theory, meteorologists and scientists worldwide have suggested that the deluge was not caused by cloud seeding but was instead a consequence of climate change. Keff Hamsters, a meteorologist for Yale Climate Connections, stated that the rainfall event could be attributed to the general increase in extreme weather events—such as storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires—caused by climate change.

Similarly, climate scientist Daniel Swain from UCLA, said that climate change likely played a more significant role than cloud seeding in this particular storm, as warmer temperatures increase evaporation and can lead to more intense storms.

How Inadequate Planning Exacerbated the Crisis

Furthermore, urban planning issues contributed to the catastrophic flooding. The soil in semi-arid regions like the UAE is not well-suited to quickly absorb water, which means that even moderate rainfall is sufficient to cause flooding. Meteorologist Ryan Maue, former Chief Scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has asserted that the storm was ‘certainly’ not due to cloud seeding.

Instead, he pointed out that the risk of flash flooding, while possible almost everywhere on Earth, is often overlooked in urban planning and infrastructure decisions. He went on to emphasise that such extreme weather events should highlight the importance of resilience measures- or rather the fact that it should be standard operating procedure to integrate these measures into urban planning.

In Conclusion

The unprecedented rainfall in Dubai has highlighted several critical issues that demand attention. First, the potential role of cloud seeding in exacerbating this weather event, while debated, underscores the need for careful consideration in the deployment of such technologies. Experts remain divided on whether the intense precipitation was a result of artificial intervention or a natural consequence of climate change. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the increasingly volatile and unpredictable weather patterns the world is facing as global temperatures continue to rise.

A Global Warning: Learning from the UAE’s Crisis to Aid Climate Vulnerable Nations

As global temperatures continue to rise, the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events will only increase. The UAE, a developed urban centre, is facing extreme challenges and has shown that urban planning needs to incorporate more robust resilience measures.

This raises a critical question: what about less developed countries which have been experiencing the impacts of climate change for years? These nations often lack the resources to implement comprehensive resilience strategies. For more insights into how these vulnerabilities affect various countries globally, read here: 10 Countries at Risk from Climate Disaster.

©Lawrence Power 2024

What is a Civil Restraint Order? And When is it Issued?

A civil restraint order (CRO) is a legal measure implemented by a court, designed to prevent the misuse of the judicial system through frivolous or vexatious litigation. Essentially, these orders limit an individual’s ability to make further applications to the court. As such, any form of a CRO carries significant implications for litigants: affecting both the success of their case and – potentially – their ability to access the courts in future.

When a court dismisses an application as being completely devoid of merit, it is then obligated to consider whether it is appropriate to issue a CRO. The criterion for an application being ‘totally without merit’ hinges on its likelihood of failure – it is not necessary to prove that the application was vexatious or abusive.

However, there are instances where an application might have merit, but the surrounding circumstances warrant the court’s consideration of a CRO. For example, in R (Henry) v Bar Standards Board, the claimant’s track record of similar, meritless applications was considered sufficient grounds for the imposition of a CRO.

This illustrates the court’s broad discretion in issuing a CRO when they perceive an application to be without merit and vexatious.

Civil restraint orders can be categorised into three types:

1. A limited CRO is a court order that prevents individuals recognised as vexatious litigants from making any further applications in ongoing proceedings without court permission. It is applicable when an individual has made two or more applications that are totally without merit. This order remains effective for the duration of the proceedings in which it is made unless otherwise ordered by the court.

2. An extended CRO order goes beyond this, with the breadth and severity of the restrictions depending on the court from which the order is issued. For example, an order from a designated civil judge restricts any applications to the County Court related to the specific proceedings, while an order from a Court of Appeal judge prohibits applications in any court. These orders can last up to three years and are issued in cases where a party persistently submits meritless applications.

3. A general CRO is the most severe type. It is reserved for situations where a party continuously files baseless applications, and an extended CRO would not be sufficient or appropriate. Similar to extended CROs, this order is effective for three years, but their scope varies based on the issuing court. This order restricts the ability of a party to bring any application before the court, related or unrelated to the proceedings in which it is issued.

Submitting further applications that are deemed completely without merit can result in the revocation of the right to appeal.

The severe consequences of CROs underscore the judicial system’s serious stance on vexatious litigation. Individuals subject to these orders not only face significant restrictions on their access to justice but also are listed on an online register of vexatious litigants, marking their abuse of the legal system.

© Lawrence Power 2024

Navigating The Deepfake Dilemma

Ethical, Legal, and Societal Implications

As you settle into your usual routine of scrolling through emails, you stumble upon a video that sends a chill down your spine. In disbelief, you and millions of other users on the internet watch a video of yourself crying and confessing to crimes you never committed. Shocked and confused about what you just witnessed, your phone starts buzzing with notifications from family, friends, colleagues, employers, and officials, all seeking explanations.

Welcome to the era of deepfakes.

Deepfakes are a form of synthetic media generated through AI techniques, primarily deep learning algorithms, to create or alter visual and audio content so convincingly that it appears genuine. As we navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape, we are confronted with an unsettling reality: what we see and hear may not always be what it seems.

In recent months, headlines have been dominated by chilling accounts of victims falling prey to meticulously crafted illusions. Yet, the threat of deepfakes goes beyond financial fraud or celebrity scandal. With the looming spectre of deepfakes over the political landscape, the very fabric of our governing system hangs in the balance.

One critical question emerges: Should creating deepfake content without a person’s consent be illegal?

It is a question that challenges us to confront the ethical dilemmas posed by rapidly advancing technology. We must unravel the complexities of deepfake’s impact on our society and consider the pressing need for decisive action in an age of deception and uncertainty.

Recent incidents involving Taylor Swift demonstrate the continued evolution of deepfakes. The circulation of sexually explicit deepfake images of Swift, reaching millions of views before being removed, highlights the alarming ease with which the manipulated content can be disseminated online.

The Biden administration has condemned the spread of deepfake content, calling on social media companies to take more responsibility. But is mere condemnation sufficient at this stage? Especially when deepfake technology has evolved to the point of reaching a much larger, mainstream audience.

Consider the current situation in Hong Kong, where an employee fell victim to a deepfake video conference call impersonating senior officers. Deceived by false replicas, the employee unwittingly transferred millions of dollars to fraudsters. This incident spotlights the vulnerabilities inherent in remote communication platforms, which are only becoming more prevalent. Instances of deepfake fraud can have far-reaching consequences for businesses, investors, and the economy at large.

Deepfake manipulations risk causing market instability. False information spread through deepfake content could trigger panic selling, resulting in significant losses for investors and destabilising the broader economy. As investors lose confidence in the integrity of financial markets, capital flows may be disrupted, thus potentially hindering economic growth and development.

This incident emphasises the growing threat to political integrity and democratic processes. Synthetic media leads to a distrust in the political process and corrupted electoral outcomes. It’s become far too easy to spread a fake video of a politician engaging in unethical or criminal behaviour. This technology’s capacity for misinformation, propaganda, and polarising narratives poses significant risks to international relations and societal cohesion.

All instances of deepfakes so far have been inherently negative, spread by malicious actors working for their personal gain while wreaking havoc on the rest of society. There are, however, arguments that support deepfakes.

Just like other technological developments, deepfakes were not created with malicious intent. The scope for positive gains from deepfakes is expansive. For example, deepfakes can create realistic digital doubles of criminal suspects using forensic evidence, thus streamlining the investigation process. Prediction models can also be improved upon, emergency scenarios can be simulated, and it can improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities by enabling the creation of synthetic speech, sign language interpretation, and facial expressions.

Ultimately, deepfakes are a tool. A tool with far too much power to be left in the hands of any individual who utilises it for their own gain. Policymakers and regulators face the daunting task of addressing the unique threats posed by synthetic media. Should this technology be banned altogether? Should we consider the potential benefits that can come from the regulated use of deepfakes? New legislations are in the works, such as the Digital Imprints Regime which requires AI-generated content to have an imprint when uploaded. This is a step in the right direction, but will it be enough? It may prevent misinformation but what about violation of privacy rights or defamation?

Perhaps focusing on regulation by outlawing misinformed deepfakes is a strong first step. Nonetheless, the impacts of deepfakes are intertwined and intricate. Only by working together, across sectors and borders, can we confront the challenges and opportunities posed by deepfake manipulation while ensuring that our rights and values endure for generations to come.

© Lawrence Power 2024