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ExtraVirgin April 2010
Environment He’s the activist’s oxymoron – a boytjie from sunny South Africa who’s become synonymous with all things with an Arctic shade of cold. And as we speak, he’s trudging his way deep into the Himalayas for a high altitude dip in a glacial lake, so he can tell everyone how hot we’re making the world. Lewis Pugh sounds like he’s lost his marbles, but he’s still a great Sarf Efrikan export.

He’s also inadvertently giving us some property advice. So this month’s column should probably go under the real estate section.

Here’s the deal: Pugh’s swum the English Channel; crossed a bay off Deception Island in the Southern Ocean; taken a 1km swim across the North Pole; kayaked in the Arctic. And now he’s taking on his toughest swim yet, he says, to highlight the rapid melting of the Himalaya’s glaciers due to rising global temperatures associated with industrial greenhouse gas emissions. The mission: to cover 1km of near-freezing waters in the lake at Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest. It’ll be a gruelling 1 000m swim at nearly 5km above sea level.

Sobering, is that his trek along the flanks of the world’s highest mountain comes in the same month that a new report from the scientific community warns that some parts of the planet may become uninhabitable for humans within the next three centuries because of temperature increases. I know, 300 years isn’t in our lifetimes, but if you’re interested in long-term (think “inter-generational”) property investments, it’ll help to know where those really hot places are going to be... and then not buy there.

Until now, most of the climate modelling has looked at temperature increases expected around the globe within the next century. They’ve been pretty sobering – a projected average 1.4 to 6.4°C increase around the world.

For most of us, this doesn’t sound too bad, but mostly because we often confuse the day to day fluxes between max and min (which could be way more than 6°C in just a few hours) with what it means to have an increase in the overall average temperature.

To illustrate the point: the last time Earth was an average of 4°C warmer than it is today, there was no ice at the poles. Ouch.

So, some climate folks from the University of New South Wales (Oz) and Purdue Uni (in the US) decided to look beyond the one century mark, and their modelling suggests that if we carry on shunting carbon emissions up into the atmosphere at our current growth rate, we’ll push up temperatures by 11 to 12°C. It won’t be a blanket increase, but some places will get warmer than others.

This means some parts of the globe will become utterly inhospitable (think, today’s deserts or near-deserts) while other places might open up for new settlement (think, today’s tundra).

Where not to invest in long-term property development? Along most coastlines, or today’s favourite summer holiday places. Where to invest? Antarctica. Because it could become the next century’s Mauritius. Only problem is you’ll have to take all your own fruit and veg, because after hundreds of thousands of years of icecap, there isn’t much there to eat.

Virgin CSI