So let’s talk about what last year’s IPCC report to world leaders means for our everyday lives from this point on. How will it affect our priorities for action and the actions themselves? And why are climate scientists suddenly so freaked out? They’ve been so restrained up till now.
From the news reports I’ve read it seems as if it’s the scale of effects on our habitat at this initial stage of warming that has led to the urgent call. They’re larger than expected, so they make all sorts of potentially catastrophic tipping points more likely at a lower degree of warming than the initial models predicted.
What Will The Humans Do?
To be honest I’m deeply disinterested in the death of corals or the retreat of glaciers, but humans fascinate me. How the hell are we going to make a 50% reduction in emissions in 11 years? And even if we do, what’s to stop us doing what so many dieters do and reverting to old habits in Year 12?
The only way to achieve this 50% reduction is for all of us to make important changes. But based on our efforts so far, it turns out we’re not very good at rising even to the small challenges. Just a little uncertainty and unbridled migration – only partly due to climate – and we begin to circle the wagons and reach for the autocrats.
That would actually be efficient if the autocrats we chose were deeply committed and enlightened pragmatists, who knew what they were doing. But a substantial minority of us are so much more comforted by ignorant charlatans and scapegoat-seekers. I guess that works for all the dark money denialists.
Life in 2030 – Unequal Effects
So let’s think for a moment about the climate due date of 2030 – and what our daily lives will be like. More of us will drive electric cars [I guess mobility scooters count]. We’ll use public transport more. There will be little, if any, obvious oil and gas in our lives. We’ll eat substantially less red animal meat and consume less dairy from cows and sheep [because they produce methane]. Our homes will be fully insulated.
It seems like something that many of us could do – a small price to pay for saving our habitat – as long as we’re not too poor to make that payment. These changes changes will profoundly affect some of our largest industries and employers. Inequality can also get in the way of change. With around 40% of New Zealanders on static or declining incomes, this is a real issue. The public purse will need to open wider if we want to make a fast, uniform response to the problem.
But on the other hand, affluent people tend to be higher volume emitters. The size and number of their homes leads to greater energy use and the height of their expectations drives higher carbon emissions for food, product and travel. Basically, the more you have, the greater the likelihood that a lot of carbon was emitted to produce it and transport it to you. Around 40% of New Zealanders travel overseas each year. But according to a recent news report, less than 5% of Air New Zealand customers use their carbon offset programme, so no moral high ground there!
The Real Front Line
So what about behind the scenes? What about at work? Do the products or services we produce cause harm? On holidays do we begin to stay home rather than fly overseas? Is it easy to drive long distances without petrochemicals? Where does our food actually come from? What is the carbon cost of producing it? How does it get to us? Are the ships that bring the electric cars and the technology powered by something other than oil and gas? Who’s responsible for ensuring that more trees get planted and no coal gets mined? Do vegetative sources of fuel or food make sense?
Changes at Work
The biggest challenges to our climate and habitat are in our working lives, whether we work in government or the private sector. Even today organisations of all sorts trade off environmental and economic concerns all the time. But to get where we need to be by 2030, every organisation will need to adopt a ‘first do no harm’ mentality, applying the same standard of care to the climate as doctors do to their patients.
And it needs to be about the CLIMATE! That’s the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. A big initiative like replacing single use plastic bags with multi-use plastic, paper or cotton bags doesn’t necessarily reduce carbon emissions, even if it does have other beneficial environmental effects. How products and materials are extracted, grown, manufactured and used all matters.
At Windshift we’re helping business and organisations to re-define success and make appropriate transitions towards this 50% reduction. Our job is to provide clarity and practical insights. We’re starting with current expectations of business success and working towards future scenarios where the narratives, mindsets and processes have shifted dramatically. Eleven years isn’t a long time, but when customer mindsets change it can happen overnight. Brands and organisations need to be ready for that.
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