Monday, June 29, 2009

BUT WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?

A good friend Mark Fowler sent me a recent Wall Street Journal article (29June 2009) which talked about the climate change change . It detailed the views of a rising number of skeptics in the climate change debate while ignoring the recent concerns of the Copenhagen group of concerned scientists. This so called reasonable scepticism they argue provides a rationale for many conservatives to oppose governments finally trying to tackle the climate. The science they maintain just is not there and therefore its OK just to go on doing what we are doing. Although I personally believe that the debate on man made climate change is well over its the ‘do nothing’ argument that bothers me the most. However the reality is that if we exclude climate from the debate for a moment and look at the global issues – many of which are also carbon related- of water use, energy, air pollution, excess consumption, waste and the devastation of the commons most of humanity are using too many resources to produce too little value and creating a series of rather unhealthy global interdependencies.

All of this points to a humanity disconnected to its environment. Thus we must confront a deeper question; are we at a point where the the age of progress (using resources without thinking) is over if we are to maintain control over the key systems that support us? You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that energy on demand, clean air, easy access to fresh water, available food on a generationally equitable basis, strong biodiversity AND A CLIMATE WE CAN LIVE WITH are all part of what makes sense to survive beyond this century.

Controlling the use of carbon is I suggest an easy and first step in tackling this far deeper more systemic problem of being disconnected to the environment. Legislative signals which control its use – and by proxy how we use many resources- will not only slow down the rate of climate change already locked in but will stimulate a range of innovations that will push us into the post carbon era quickly. Thankfully everywhere we are seeing businesses and regions investing in new technologies and deploying better business models that will radically change the competitive landscape leaving those that fail to do so to replicate the history of ‘rust belt’ cities. But it is not sufficient to leave this to chance. I for one worry that the climate change sceptics are asking us to play a game where the stakes are at an all time high and the consequences of failure are potentially catastrophic. How we deal with these reckless card players will be the greatest challenge of the next decade and how they justify themselves to future generations will be interesting.

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