Maybe someone can help me out: why do some people insist on polarising climate change concern as a left-wing conspiracy? I’m writing this in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology and poverty. Commentators on Fox News have popped up to denounce his dangerous denunciation of the cost to the developing world of a global economy built on fossil fuels.
But it’s hard to see how Business As Usual is, well, good for business. Climate change brings unpredictable weather patterns, floods, hurricanes, rise in temperature. This brings uncertainty and, as I understand it, uncertainty is bad for business.
Some years ago I saw Al Gore deliver his Inconvenient Truth presentation at the BBC. I was sitting next to a representative from Swiss Re who said that insurers are concerned about climate change, because it means more big pay-outs. Insurers (like the 90% of scientists who concur that climate change is predominately man-made) are not generally characterised as hardcore marxists.
Swiss Re is now an Official Partner of Solar Impulse, for whom I am currently working (as a member of their Marcom team). You can look at any number of the project’s partners and you’ll find big companies whose main aim is to make a profit. But the CEO’s of these capitalist enteprises have thrown their weight behind Solar Impulse. Why? Because the message is by no means anti-business. On the contrary, we’re convinced that huge numbers of jobs can be created in the fields of energy efficiency and cleantech and we can construct growth models that favour less-polluted societies with a correspondingly healthier workforce.
But political will is needed to put in place a level playing field on an international scale, promoting renewable energy and efficiency solutions whilst ensuring that polluters pay. At this December’s UN conference on climate change, it’s hoped world leaders will finally have the nerve to agree to a binding commitment to massively reduce fossil fuel use worldwide. And already, in anticipation of this agreement, many of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies have contacted the UN to ask for involvement in the development of a global carbon pricing plan. Having seen which way the wind is blowing they’re adjusting their business plans accordingly.
A long time ago, back in the 1980s, a politician wrote “it is possible that with all these enormous changes – population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels – we have begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet”. And who was this tree-hugging Cassandra? Margaret Thatcher, that’s who.