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Australia’s Fires May Cause Record-Setting Damage to Its Economy

Source: Fire Information for Resource Management System, NASA

A NASA project using satellite imagery shows “near real-time active fire data.” This image captures active fires between December 5, 2019, and January 5, 2020: Each pixel represents 1 kilometer, and contains at least one active fire. 

While some sources estimate the damage to be around $280 million, the Insurance Council of Australia estimates “damage claims from the fires to [be] more than AU$700 million [$480 million], with claims expected to jump when more fire-hit areas are accessible,” according to Reuters, which adds that “insurers have received 8,985 bushfire-related claims since November 8.” 

The economic damage on Australia’s eastern seaboard is “likely to exceed the record $4.4 billion set by 2009’s Black Saturday blazes,” according to economist Katrina Ell in The Guardian. Air pollution and “direct harm to industries such as farming and tourism,” will significantly damage the economy, the article cites, with “tourism bodies say[ing] it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild.”

Funding for Startups with Female Founders Grew by 70 Percent Last Decade

Source: PitchBook, 2020

Venture capital funding grew exponentially for startups that had at least one female founder, finishing the decade at 12% of all funding, up from 7% 10 years prior. The tech industry took the lion’s share, pouring $27 billion in the same period into U.S. startups with female founders.

Still, the pace of funding for female-only founded startups is still hovering below 3%. Despite more than $1.5 trillion invested in VC deals worldwide last decade, the portion of funding going toward female-only startups in the United States only grew from 2.6% in 2009 to 2.8% in 2019. 

The incline trend should continue, nonetheless, with greater inclusion of female entrepreneurship and persisting high volumes of capital funding — 2018 and 2019 saw a surge in VC funding that has yet to lose steam.

More Employees Want CEOs to Speak Out on Social Issues

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer Report 2020

Major companies are being increasingly measured by the public positions they take on social issues, by both consumers and employees. According to the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer report, a company’s ethical positions are three times more important to building trust with consumers than competence.

And the vast majority of employees surveyed, across 28 countries, want their CEOs to be catalysts of positive social change, with income inequality, diversity, climate change and immigration topping issues of significance to employees.

This comes as low trust in government and media persists, particularly in developed countries. Out of the four institutions measured — government, business, media and NGOs — only business was seen as competent by survey respondents. This perception lends to increased pressure on companies to take the lead in positive change where governments are failing.

Banking Industry to Step Up Investment in Fraud Mitigation

Digital theft in the retail banking industry is increasing in sophistication, with the number of victims doubling each year since 2014. And the banking industry is responding by upping its investment in digital tools to prevent fraud.

According to the Kount-sponsored survey, 52% of financial institutions plan to invest in additional measures to secure existing accounts. The drawback, however, is that increased focus on fraud mitigation is preventing the banking industry from seeing its full digital potential in terms of improved user experience and functionality.

“In the face of stringent regulation and customers who are more and more aware of the risks to their identity, financial institutions simply cannot afford to let feature sets outstrip fraud-mitigation tools,” the report says.

One-time passwords, delivered through a text message, email or standalone app, are the most prevalent means of step-up authentication in financial services. Unfortunately, they are prone to interception, with criminals having years of experience finding workarounds to this authentication method, the report notes.

Oceans Are Hotter Than Ever — and a Key Reason for Extreme Weather Patterns

Source: Cheng, L., and Coauthors, 2020: Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019. Adv. Atmos. Sci., 37(2), 137−142, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00376-020-9283-7.

Notes: Vertical section of the ocean temperature trends within 1960 to 2019 from the sea surface to 2000 m (60-year ordinary least-squares linear trend). Shown are the zonal mean sections in each ocean basin organized around the Southern Ocean (south of 60°S) in the center. Black contours show the associated climatological mean temperature with intervals of 2°C (in the Southern Ocean, 1°C intervals are provided in dashed contours). IAP gridded data are used.

Expect more catastrophic fires and devastating hurricanes, scientists warn, as excess heat in the Earth’s oceans continues to disrupt weather patterns. Ocean temperature readings from both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed 2019 to be the warmest on record. 

Scientists look to ocean temperature as a key indicator of global warming, as oceans store 90% of the planet’s excess heat. Not only are ocean surfaces warming, but — as illustrated in the above graphic taken from a recent Advances in Atmospheric Sciences article — heat is penetrating oceanic depths.

The impacts of ocean warming are significant and devastating. Warmer oceans “reduce dissolved oxygen,” harming sea life, while increasing evaporation in the atmosphere, which “nourishes heavy rains and promotes flooding.” The remaining 10% of the Earth’s excess heat manifests in the atmosphere, causing a melting of ice and drying of lands.

“It is one of the key reasons why the Earth has experienced increasing catastrophic fires in the Amazon, California and Australia,” the report says.

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