Leaders in the climate change arena

by Darren Willman

MONDAY 25 MAY 2009 – With the latest computer modelling returning daunting results, we certainly need help on reducing our emissions, being more energy efficient and having a more environmentally conscious and sustainable perspective.  We need leadership.  But where will it come from?

SustainabilityOn Tuesday 19 May the most recent modelling of the Earth and its changing climate was released by renowned US University Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Using a computer simulation, they ran 400 ever-so-slightly different models to determine the state of the world in 2100.  The simulation is unique in that it is the only one that covers detailed changes in human activities, such as the degree of economic growth and its associated energy use.

The results were published in well-respected peer reviewed journal, Journal of Climate.  They find that by 2100 that Earth’s surface will rise by 5.2ºC, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 ºC to 7.4 ºC.  In 2003, their study found a rise of 2.4 ºC [1].  This is compared to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fourth Assessment Report, which estimates a 1.1 ºC to 6.4 ºC [2].

Range of predictions in global temperature rise by 2100 (%)Given the tough situation that would leave society in – natural disasters, migration, huge economic cost being a few consequences – who are the leaders to help us out of this mess?

China
In 2020 their energy consumption will double, they are the largest consumers of coal, and the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases worldwide [3].   China has a lot to lose from inaction, in the past 25 years they have been had the highest number of natural disasters, and it has cost them the most [4].

China shows promise; the government has shown more certainty and confidence that they are addressing the issue as against major Western economies.  They are also undertaking good projects: investing in renewable energy and carbon storage.  China has a growing role in geopolitics, economics and trade.  They will be called on more and more to talk a leading role in the global issue.

Dissecting the Obama stimulusBarack Obama
Locally, Obama has a climate bill coming through the Congress and an enormous economic stimulus plan heavily weighted towards energy efficiency projects and stimulating the green economy.

But it is how the US is a role model to other countries that will be more significant.  International climate change talks have been slow and frustrating for all involved.  Journalists and representatives have said that momentum will build once the US takes leadership over the talks and clarifies its status.  The world seems to be waiting for the economic power of the last 50+ years to set an agenda and direct the discussions into an outcome.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

A quick visit to Springwise.com, the online hub of new business ideas, will show how quickly the world is embracing sustainable solutions.  New business ideas in the green economy are emerging with simplicity, speed and creativity.  The “GREEN” consumer trend is too lucrative to miss, and the industry is a very supportive one, since the goal of profits is secondary to positive change in our approach towards the environment.  And not to mention the fact that most economic stimulus packages from the world’s top economies are supporting energy efficiency and green economy projects (like the US – coincidence?)!

Green innovationHow is the growth of the green economy?  It is battling through the economic downturn and growing at decent rates.  For example, organic food is set to buck the downward spiral most industries are going through.  For individual companies, take Siemens, who last year sold € 19 bn of environmental products, and have a forecast to grow to € 25 bn by 2011 [5]!

As the governments of the world meet in Poznan, Bonn and Copenhagen to try and come up with a worldwide consensus on terms, discussing and debating, it is the entrepreneurs and consumers who are taking action.

The role of youth?

Our political and business leaders are mostly over 50 years, so they will not even see half of whether the MIT predictions see reality.  Our entrepreneurs are 30-40, they will just scrape half way.  It’s today’s youth, 18-30 year olds, who will be facing this vulnerable climate for the next 60 years.  The world’s youth have a vested interest in this topic.  What are they going to do about it?  Will they continue the green consumer trend until it forms part of natural behaviour?  Will they launch more green economy start-ups?  Or will true active youth activism return to its strengths of the 1960’s?

References:
[1] http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/roulette-0519.html
[2] http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tp-climate-change-water.htm
[3] http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/17963/; http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/china-coal-fires-climate-change.php; http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/05/china-clean-energy.php
[4] http://www.emdat.be
[5] http://en.cop15.dk/climate+consortium/news/view+news?newsid=1183

AIESEC Web 2.0 links: button_twitterbutton flickr

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