Climate Revisited

Peter McKillop

When change isn’t happening fast enough for Climate Change, what needs to change and how can we change.

With the rise of extreme weather, we are experiencing an entirely new challenge to human civilization. Never before have we faced a quantifiable and scientifically proven race against time. Joseph Stiglitz and Lord Nicholas Stern have published a paper warning that policymakers from the United States and other countries are vastly underestimating the cost of climate change. If global mitigation efforts do not increase dramatically, we are on a global warming path of 3.5°C to 4°C rise, or almost double the Paris Agreement. That is not a world we can or would want to live in. Worse, a new study published in Communications Earth & Environment warns that the world has only a 5% chance of hitting the Paris Agreement target unless most nations double their carbon reduction pledges. 

It’s not that we don’t have solutions or the capital to back those problems. 2020 has seen a burst of optimistic climate-related announcements from companies, financial institutions and governments – There is optimism that we know how to arrive at a climate balance. Nothing is ever easy when confronting a global threat, but there is emerging technology, be it in energy, agriculture, consumer products, that each in their own way, are part of the solution. What we are also seeing is a new openness – fluidity – not only on how to meet both climate risk, and opportunity, but also a wholesale review of a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) footprint. It should be no surprise that the private sector is being nimbler and more strategic than many expected – the risk, and the opportunity is simply too great.

Sadly, standing in the way of all this high-minded technological progress is human foible — our growing inability to agree on anything.  Combating climate change cannot be solved by the private sector alone. Nor can one region, say the EU, succeed if we don’t see similar climate-focused efforts in the US, China, India and other emerging markets. Never before has the world found itself in a position where there can only be a global solution. Yet, if we are to meet the Paris Agreement limits, governments must display a fluidity that balances national and global priorities. And here lies the dilemma, particularly in the US. Even with a new Biden administration, government is at a stalemate, the opposite of fluidity. Climate progress, rebalancing economic inequity, and refocusing on social justice issues is the only way to break this political stalemate, but requires maximum fluidity in thought, belief and action if we are to address the underlying economic concerns that are driving political polarization impeding the building a new a sustainable climate economy.

The roadmap is clear. The climate clock is ticking – we have less than 30 years – some say 10 years – to begin a fundamental civilization course correction is we are to survive on a livable planet. It can be done. But not with traditional approaches to governance and authority. Old ideas, old processes, old strategies, old timelines – all must change, and continue to change if we are to accelerate climate action. The fluidity we are seeing in the private sector response to climate, must now translate into equally creative approaches by governments to meet these growing concerns. Everyone must become change agents, Fluids, if we are to overcome this great threat to mankind.