The time for action is now
It’s best to avoid slipping into the easy bad habit of being the bearer of bad news. Yet to face up to adversity, you first have to be able to recognise its nature. To fight it, you have to know where it is. To land some punches on it, you need to understand how it behaves; to overcome it, you need to know how to predict its movements; and to put it out of harm’s way, you need to have discovered its secret weapons.
The adversary we are taking on is global warming. The extreme temperatures that have been hitting large parts of the northern hemisphere this summer remind us that this is not just some nonsense from climate change naysayers or dreamers nostalgic about the past. Global warming is now well established in the reality of our daily lives, especially during the summer.
The recent heatwave has killed thousands of people and yet again, global warming has failed to inspire politicians to take any bold, dynamic decisions on the climate. Whole forests are disappearing in fires, and yet it is as if this is just the norm. Global warming can strike where we do not expect it – who would have thought, not long ago, that Sweden would be on the red list of its victims?
The real question bugging environmental fund managers such as BNP Paribas Asset Management is to know when the world is going organise itself to fight global warming as it should, with all the means demanded by the scale of the damage it is causing and will continue to cause.
Who will take charge? Who will fire the starting gun? Who will agree to admit that the efforts made so far to combat global warming have been nothing more than temporary sticking-plasters? What will it take before we all say “enough is enough, we have waited too long, we need to take action”?
What will it take for us all to understand that the time horizon for not exceeding the much-quoted threshold of 2°C is not 2100 AD, but 2040 AD if nothing is done? And who will thus be able to convince the world that it is not about stabilising the level of greenhouse gas emissions, but reducing them very quickly, globally and vigorously?
Who on the world political scene will have the guts to explain the huge challenges of the threat that faces us? Not only to explain, but also to take the necessary measures so that the fight does not remain wishful thinking? Who will admit that the solution lies partly in the inevitable change in lifestyles, in agreeing to economise, in adhering to the principles of solidarity and responsibility?
Who will win the support of the majority and take this issue beyond individual self-interest – for example, to have people understand that limiting their use of aeroplanes would be part of the solution? Do we have to wait for those who suffer from global warming, such as farmers, to become more powerful than those who profit from it, such as the industrialists who exploit and use fossil-based fuels?
Who will accept that tax proceeds should be heavily reinvested, not in tiny doses as now, in the financing of the energy transition? Who in local government will decide, in order to avoid future water shortages, to incur the costs necessary for the installation of complete wastewater recycling systems – as is practised in Israel? Recent examples of rationing measures, taken or about to be taken in Rome and Cape Town, demonstrate that this is no longer hypothetical or improbable.
Who will dictate that the price of carbon today really reflects the future cost of the impact of global warming? Who will push for restricting car usage, at the risk of creating, perhaps only temporarily, public disquiet and alienating car-using voters? At the same time, who will deploy the means necessary to establish a true public transport network that is flexible and rapid and that could replace the car?
Or must we believe that humanity, set in its ways and given its characteristics and its wealth, is running to ruin? Is humanity choosing a tragic future over any questioning of its current power? Are we prepared to sacrifice our children on the altar of the comfort that we enjoy today?