The Two Big Issues for 2015: #2 – Global Warming
This is the second of two blogs on the Two Big Issues for 2015. I speak to and work with many business and other audiences. We explore trends – technology, society, demographics, global dynamics, energy, and so on. And of course we discuss economics and the environment. These last two turn out to be hard to explore with many audiences. Why? Because the objective trends do not seem to match pre-conceived notions about how the world is or should be. And because the issues have become so polarized as we live in our media bubbles that any open minded discussion is difficult. But I try to creatively raise these two big issues for 2015, specifically income gap economics and climate change, because I believe they are the two most fundamental long-term issues facing us if we want to shape a preferred future. Earlier I addressed income gap economics. In this blog, let me say a few words on climate change or global warming.
NASA, NOAA, and the The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently ranked 2014 as the hottest earth year on record. WMO noted that 14 of the 15 hottest years recorded have occurred in the 21st Century, quite a feat when the century is just entering its 16th year. While the Northeast U.S.A. was consistently cold last winter, and this winter, elsewhere, for example here in Seattle, frequent high temperature records are set month by month.
I do think that the world is gradually moving toward recognition of the issue of global warming or climate change – the insurance industry certainly is taking it seriously. But I still find a great deal of skepticism and discomfort about the issue. There are scientific reasons – satellite data does not always agree with earth based data. And yes the earth has been warm in the past, before civilization was producing carbon and other greenhouse gases.
But as with income gap economics, it is vital that the issue be confronted. The way I usually approach it is in the context of a trend toward sustainability and resilience among industry, communities, consumers, and, last in many cases, public policy. I use these not as code words for climate change, but because they are the observable trend – an expectation of and in many cases demand for greater sustainability and lower carbon intensity in the way we do things. The long term fate of civilization may depend on how we deal with climate change, doing what we can to slow our contribution to it, and responding with resilience and foresight. The good news is that so many of the actions that could help slow climate change are also good in terms of efficiency and cost savings. The rapid drop in cost of solar energy is but one example.
I first addressed global warming in a 1987 speech. I said then that dealing with it will represent the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st Century. I still think that is true. Watch for energy companies to transition to a new era with increasing urgency in the next thirty-five years.