In this month alone, the world has experienced hurricanes that have ravaged the Caribbean coast, earthquakes flattening entire towns in Mexico and floods causing devastation in Florida, Texas, India, Bangladesh and Nepal (to name a few). According to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration), since 1980, the US has experienced five and a half “weather and climate disasters” per year, each costing $1 billion or more.
Climate change is not a new phenomenon, yet rather than being a catalyst for action humanity has systematically ignored the signs. Paul Polman (CEO of Unilever) recently stated “we are more focused on the next quarter than the next generation”. The actions of President Donald Trump and his recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord illustrate this worldview and a mentality more interested in short-term gains than in the wellbeing of the planet.
Climate change had been described as a problem that is both too near our consumption driven lifestyles and too far from our everyday experience for us to take seriously. Leading activist, George Marshall describes climate change as “a perfect and undetectable crime everyone contributes to but for which no one has a motive”. When confronted with the awful reality of rising sea levels, desertification and mass migration we tend to look away rather than take action.
Yet climate change also offers a massive opportunity for innovation and positive advancements. Environmental instability calls for an overhaul of ‘business as usual’. We have to dramatically rethink our consumption-driven business models and carbon hungry industries. This gives us the occasion to change our priorities and advance policies that better serve people and the planet. Access to renewable energy promises independence for developing nations, a fresh perspective on service design and a shift towards a sharing economy that promotes community and social engagement. While carbon tax offers a way of holding big business accountable for resource usage. Equality, sustainability and social responsibility are not just essential for lowering emissions; they are also good for business.
However, as Naomi Klein writes in her book This Changes Everything ‘before any of these changes can happen- before we can believe that climate change can change us –we first have to stop looking away.’ The uncomfortable reality of climate change is upon us and now is the time to take action.