Science Has Spoken (Again) – Now What?
So the cycle goes around again. The International Panel on Climate Change produces its five yearly synthesis report on the state of climate change science and, instead of triggering an outburst of action, we get another rather dreary media debate between NGOs, climate change ‘sceptics’ and politicians of all stripes.
Given that the report says acting now will prove much easier than playing catch up in a decade, what do we need to do to get going? Here’s my happen’th:
1. Political Leadership: Obama is trying to make climate change a core plank of his second term, but seems to be hobbled by his own mediocre popularity rankings and the rampant, take no prisoners climate change denial of his Republican opponents. Our own David Cameron blows hot and cold. Other industrial powerhouses such as China and Germany are doing their bit, but hardly showing international leadership – that is to left to relatively poor countries such as the Philippines and the Maldives to tug at our heartstrings. Who is going to stand up and lead?
2. Business Leadership: as I’ve said many times, leadership is the difference between the best at sustainability and the rest. Sustainability leadership cannot be delegated to middle management – it must come from the top. And actions speak louder than words – let’s see some real ambition.
3. A Flexible International Framework: different countries will have different risks, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses, we need a framework which allows countries to thrive while cutting carbon. Action needs to be rewarded as much as inaction is punished.
4. Open Minds: the report concludes that no single mitigation or adaptation measure will solve climate change. We need every weapon in our arsenal – even some we may personally not like. This applies to economics as well as technology – we need economies of scale in clean technology which an anti-business mindset will hinder, not help. NGOs will have to learn when they are helping and when they are hindering and adjust aim their guns appropriately.
5. Smarter Communication: Different people respond to different words, phrases and visions and we need top not only accept that, but positively embrace it. A few weeks ago I praised David Cameron for his framing of carbon reduction from a centre-right point of view – green growth, not green tape. Centre left thinkers may respond better to a message around collaboration, regulation and community action. Which is right? Both.
6. Positivity: we must not let the scale of the task frighten us, failures stop us in our tracks, or those throwing abuse from the sidelines put us off. We have a goal, let’s go and do it – and have some fun while we’re at it!