( Twenty-six minute read)
We have heard all of this over and over, but it is impossible to get serious about climate change, because it has been turned into a product to be traded.
The very words Climate Change, Global warming, Biodiversity, Sea levels, Natural disasters, Droughts, Melting ice, the list goes on and on as a result they are falling on deaf ears. For example “sustainable development”: a phrase at which many people quietly glaze over and switch off. Or “Global warming” is another of those deceptive phrases. It doesn’t sound that threatening.
So if words like “climate change” and “global warming” have become a turn-off for most ordinary people, maybe we should change the words. Perhaps we should talk instead about what those things actually mean:
Killer weather, a world under water, and a mortgaged future.
We have been told for over three decades of the dangers of allowing the planet to warm.
We all know this and we know that it’s urgent. The world listened, but it didn’t hear. The world listened, but it didn’t act strongly enough. It hasn’t been enough to change our behaviours on a scale great enough to stop climate change.
As a result, climate change is a problem that is here, now. Nobody is safe. And it is getting worse faster and faster, till one tipping point is reached causing a rolling coaster of from here to eternity.
There are many tipping points to choose from.
Here is mind. The Arctic Ocean’s ice cover melts.
This is a feedback loop with teeth.
Back in the 50s it was more than ten meters thick, reflecting as much as 3% of the sun’s incoming light back into space.
That light is now heating the Oceans of the Arctic and the Antarctic, both becoming the fastest places on Earth with rising temperatures. Which means a greater and greater release of permafrost carbon and methane, 20 times stronger than Co2.
The Arctic permafrost contains as much methane as all the Earth’s cattle could create over the next six centuries.
If released this fart would push the Earth into an irreversible tipping point at which point the sea level would be 110 meters higher than at present, with the global temperatures 5/6 degrees Celsius higher. At that point civilisation would be over.
One would think that such a scenario would be sufficient to make all of us pay attention but not so.
A big part of the reason is our own evolution. The same behaviours that once helped us survive are, today, working against us.
We lack the collective will to address climate change, because of the way our brains have evolved. We have evolved to pay attention to immediate threats. We overestimate threats that are less likely but easier to remember, like terrorism, and underestimate more complex threats, like climate change. Too much information can confuse our brains, leading us to inaction or poor choices that can place us in harm’s way.
Our brains evolved to filter information rapidly and focus on what is most immediately essential to our survival and reproduction.
In our modern reality it’s causing errors in rational decision-making, known as cognitive biases. “Cognitive biases that ensured our initial survival make it difficult to address complex, long-term challenges that now threaten our existence, like climate change.
- Hyperbolic discounting. This is our perception that the present is more important than the future. Throughout most of our evolution it was more advantageous to focus on what might kill us or eat us now, not later. This bias now impedes our ability to take action to address more distant-feeling, slower and complex challenges. While we may understand what needs to be done to address climate change, it’s hard for us to see how the sacrifices required for generations existing beyond this short time span are worth it.
- To address the issue of climate change it requires collective action on a scale that exceeds our evolutionary capacities.
- The larger the group, the more challenging it gets.
The future value is the value of it at some time in the future. The farther into the future we look, the fuzzier our view, but there will be no future unless we invest trillions and trillions into sustainability.
On a warming planet, no one is safe.
The air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat all rely on biodiversity.
Unfortunately, we have created a world where an asset from a business perspective, has no value unless it can produce cash flows in the future. The difference in value between the future and the present is created by discounting the future back to the present using a discount factor, which is a function of time that is running out right in front of our eyes.
The world’s ecosystems are capital assets that up to now have escaped valuation and have therefore been mismanaged.
Now they are being bought by rich privateers, together with financial instruments and institutional arrangements that will allow individuals to capture the value of ecosystem assets. For example, Sovereignty Wealth Funds. They buy environmental protection, but only by liquidating natural capital (for example, prairies, forests, fisheries) to generate the funds; even “information” economies are built in proportion to such liquidation. The reinvestment in natural capital never equals the amount liquidated because of procedural inefficiency and profit-taking.
The process of valuation in the short term might lead to profoundly favourable effects on the stock market, but the decision of how much to spend now to avert climate changes hinges on assessing how much it is worth to us now to prevent that future damage.
Since most of us would prefer money now, over money later, economists typically figure that we’re willing to spend only less than a dollar now to prevent a dollar’s worth of damage in a year, or in a decade.
The percentage less is called the “social discount rate.”
This implies that we either accept an assumption that many argue is economically unjustified (a near-zero social discount rate), or conclude that we should just accept climate change without much of a fight. (A third alternative is perhaps even less appealing to economists: accepting that their calculations simply can’t illuminate the question.)
We’re much happier to have good stuff now than later, so our short-term discount rate is high.
But we hardly distinguish between goods in the pretty far future and goods in the very far future, so our discount rate in the future is far lower to manage the essentials to life.
Now more than ever we must use the power of the law to fight those who would harm our communities, our climate, and the natural world we value so deeply.
We have an International criminal court, why not use it to fine this lot of polluters.
Company summary: Coal company
Based in: Missouri, United States
Emissions per capita: 2,231,818 tonnes – or, 449,057 return flights from London to Sydney.
Kuwait Petroleum Corporation
Company summary: Petroleum company
Based in: Kuwait City, Kuwait
Emissions per capita: 2,133,248 tonnes – or, 445,354 return flights from London to Sydney
Company summary: Crude oil and natural gas
Based in: Texas, United States
Emissions per capita: 1,464,423 tonnes – or, 305,725 return flights from London to Sydney
Company summary: Oil and gas company
Based in: California, United States
Emissions per capita: 900,218 tonnes – or, 187,936 return flights from London to Sydney
Company summary: Petroleum and natural gas company
Based in: Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Emissions per capita: 750,126 tonnes – or, 150,930 return flights from London to Sydney
Company summary: Oil and gas company
Based in: Texas, United States
Emissions per capita: 559,412 tonnes – or, 116,787 return flights from London to Sydney
Company summary: Oil and gas company
Based in: London, United Kingdom
Emissions per capita: 485,306 tonnes – or, 97,647 return flights from London to Sydney
National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC)
Company summary: Government-owned national oil and natural gas company
Based in: Tehran, Iran
Emissions per capita: 407,542 tonnes – or, 82,000 return flights from London to Sydney
Royal Dutch Shell
Company summary: Oil and gas company
Based in: The Hague, Netherlands
Emissions per capita: 384,939 tonnes – or, 77,452 return flights from London to Sydney.
Chevron topped the list of the eight investor-owned corporations, followed closely by Exxon, BP and Shell. Together these four global businesses are behind more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965. The worst offenders are investor-owned companies that are household names around the world and spend billions of pounds on lobbying governments and portraying themselves as environmentally responsible.
The top plastic polluting companies
|Company||Examples of products Number of countries plastic was found in||Pieces of plastic found|
|Coca-Cola Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite 51 13,834|
|Pepsico Pepsi, Lays, Doritos 43 5,155|
|Nestlé Nescafé, Kit Kat, Nestea 37 8,633|
|Unilever Persil, Cornetto, Sunsilk 37 5,558|
|Mondeléz International Oreo, Cadbury, Milka 34 1,171|
|Mars Mars bars, M&Ms, Snickers 32 678|
|P&G Tampax, Pantene, Ariel 29 3,535|
|Philip Morris International Parliament, Merit, Marlboro 28 2,593|
|Colgate Palmolive Colgate Palmolive 24 5,991
Colgate, Ajax, Palmolive
|Perfetti Mentos, Chupa Chups, Fruittella 24 465|
It’s important to remember that, as a consumer, you do have the power to change the future of these polluting companies. As more people switch to renewable energy, cut down on plastic, and live a little more sustainably, these polluting companies will have no choice but to change their habits to stay on trend.
Economists develop new methods to quantify the trade-off between spending now and spending later.
To figure out how much we should spend fighting climate change, economists have some questions for you:
The health of the planet may hinge on the answers.
Most economic analyses of climate change have concluded that we should be spending only small amounts to combat climate change now, ramping up slowly over time. This conclusion mystifies most climate scientists, who argue that immediate action is the only way to forestall dreadful consequences. And at the heart of the disagreement are these very questions, about the value of future generations’ welfare in monetary terms.
The worst consequences of climate change are likely to unfold only over decades or centuries — in other words, in our children’s or grandchildren’s or great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren’s lifetimes, not ours.
The higher the price payed, also equates with a higher level of risk, which generates a higher discount and lowers the present value of any action. The higher the level of risk is represented as beta in the capital asset pricing model, means a higher discount, which lowers the present value of nature.
Discounting is the primary factor used in pricing a stream of tomorrow’s crises. .
By reiterating the importance of the world’s natural capital to the human prospect, the next step, is to focus on stabilizing the scale of human economy. This requires taking on the advertising industry that is promoting consumption. It should be illegal to advertise any product that is not sustainable in their manufacture. Put restrictions on all advertising that is in contradiction to health of not just us, but the earth. It has become a voracious top predator across the entire globe.
It is the variety of life on Earth, in all its forms and all its interactions. Bio means living, and diversity is the variety of life on earth. It represents different relationships (like ecological, cultural, or evolutionary) between several types of organisms on this planet. All living beings on from human beings to the tiny creatures like microbes combined to form Biodiversity.
Starting with genes, then individual species, then communities of creatures and finally entire ecosystems, such as forests or coral reefs, where life interplays with the physical environment. These myriad interactions have made Earth habitable for billions of years.
Wildlife is not something you watch on television. The reality is that the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat all ultimately rely on biodiversity.
It represents the knowledge learned by evolving species over millions of years about how to survive through the vastly varying environmental conditions Earth has experienced. We all interdependent with one another. Hence each species plays an essential role to boost ecosystem productivity.
Some examples are obvious: without plants there would be no oxygen and without bees to pollinate there would be no fruit or nuts.
Humans and our livestock now consume 25-40% of the planet’s entire “primary production”, i.e. the energy captured by plants on which all biodiversity depends.
The intricate jigsaw of life, constructed over hundreds of millions of years, has been thrown into disarray in the last 10,000 years by humans relocating species around the world. These invasive species can devastate ecosystems that have never developed defences – from rats devouring albatross chicks in their nests to snakehead fish decimating native species.
If money is a measure, the services provided by ecosystems are estimated to be worth trillions of dollars – double the world’s GDP. Biodiversity loss in Europe alone costs the continent about 3% of its GDP, or €450m (£400m), a year.
From an aesthetic point of view, every one of the millions of species is unique, a natural work of art that cannot be recreated once lost. “Each higher organism is richer in information than a Caravaggio painting, a Bach fugue, or any other great work,”
The extinction rate of species is now thought to be about 1,000 times higher than before humans dominated the planet, which may be even faster than the losses after a giant meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs 65m years ago. The sixth mass extinction in geological history has already begun, according to some scientists.
The results are scary.
Humans can’t have power over nature in nature.
Despite the fact that natural resources are limited and take millions of years in the formation, the human is exploiting them for their endless greed and comfort.
Species extinction provides a clear but narrow window on the destruction of biodiversity.
The huge global biodiversity losses now becoming apparent represent a crisis equalling – or quite possibly surpassing – climate change.
Billions of individual populations have been lost all over the planet, with the number of animals living on Earth having plunged by half since 1970. Abandoning the normally sober tone of scientific papers, researchers call the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” representing a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation”.
Humans may lack gills but that has not protected marine life. The situation is no better – and perhaps even less understood – in the two-thirds of the planet covered by oceans. Seafood is the critical source of protein for more than 2.5 billion people but rampant overfishing has caused catches to fall steadily since their peak in 1996 and now more than half the ocean is industrially fished.
Even much-loathed parasites are important. One-third could be wiped out by climate change, making them among the most threatened groups on Earth. But scientists warn this could destabilise ecosystems, unleashing unpredictable invasions of surviving parasites into new areas.
Today, 75% of the world’s food comes from just a dozen crops and five animal species, leaving supplies very vulnerable to pests or disease that can sweep through large areas of monocultures. Add in the falling yields expected from climate change, and the world’s growing global population faces a food problem.
Locating the tipping point that moves biodiversity loss into ecological collapse is an urgent priority. This being the only living world we are ever likely to know, let us join to make the most of it.
Could the loss of biodiversity be a greater threat to humanity than climate change?
Yes – nothing on Earth is experiencing more dramatic change at the hands of human activity.
Changes to the climate are reversible, even if that takes centuries or millennia.
That call is more urgent than ever. Our posterity is running out of chances.
But once species become extinct, particularly those unknown to science, there’s no going back. To put the matter as concisely as possible, biological diversity is unique in the evenness of its importance to both developed and developing countries is beyond any technical advances.
To spread technical capability where it is most needed, arrangements can be made to retain specimens within the countries of their origin while training nationals to assume leadership in systematics and the related scientific disciplines. Science is the best way to establish links with other cultures because it is concerned not with ideology but with nature and humanity’s relation to nature.
Cognitive biases that ensured our initial survival now make it difficult to address long-term challenges that threaten our existence, like climate change.
It is already clear enough that the missing ingredient is political will.
Recognising the power of small groups.
Humans are more likely to change behaviour when challenges are framed positively, instead of negatively. In other words, how we communicate about climate change influences how we respond. To get people to act, we need to make the issue feel direct and personal by focusing the issue locally, pointing both to local impacts and local solutions: Like moving one’s city to 100% renewable energy.
The key is having a large-scale, organised effort – but one supported and understood by hundreds of smaller groups and communities.
It’s true that no other species has evolved to create such a large-scale problem – but no other species has evolved with such an extraordinary capacity to solve it, either. If academia, business, government, and citizens act together toward this common goal, we can create a pollution-free energy system; form a prosperous, adaptable and resilient society; keep human, animal, and plant life flourishing; and create a better world for ourselves and generations to come.
We can’t undo the mistakes of the past. But this generation of political and business leaders, this generation of conscious citizens, can make things right. This generation can make the systemic changes that will stop the planet warming, help everyone adapt to the new conditions and create a world of peace, prosperity and equity.
The world is now experiencing the early effects of climate change.
The overall effect of inadequate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is creating a human rights catastrophe, and the costs of these climate change related disasters are already enormous. The Colorado river in the USA is drying up, the ice shelf is the Antarctic is melting, the glaciers in the Himalayas are melting five time faster. Somali is no the threshold of a Famine.
If we don’t act, who will?
We have evolved to be able to stop human-induced climate change. Now we must act.
The risk that without intervention we could cross a threshold leading to runaway climate change. An inconvenient truth.
To save natural resources and to bring a change we have to change our habits that exploit our natural resources and directly or indirectly.
If you could ask one question of Global Leader.
What is the main motivation of your leadership?
Which competencies do you see as instrumental to develop in global leaders in order for them to thrive in this new world?
The key to multicultural leadership is in understanding the difference between intent and impact, as well as engaging in supportive interactions that cultivate a nurturing environment.
Sitting in Davis/ G20 ivory tower’s ONE cannot develop global mindset.
“The secret to success is sincerity. Learn to fake that, and you’ve got it made.”
Feel free to add your question.
All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.
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