It's time for climate consciousness

Jan 25, 2019
In advance of its annual general meeting last week in Davos, the World Economic Forum published its Global Risks Report 2019, highlighting key global risks. To no great surprise, climate change has emerged as one of the most significant global risks both in terms of likelihood of occurrence and global impact. The report specifically describes this as the impending climate change catastrophe. 

The questions I have to ask are: how many more signals do we need to tell us we are sleepwalking our way to disaster with consequences beyond our wildest imagination? Why is there not panic on the streets, and why are governments not implementing emergency plans to accelerate mitigation measures? And, finally, why are we continuing to conduct our daily routines as if nothing has changed? The reality today is that we are not implementing solutions or developing policies quickly enough. We are not innovating sufficiently and we are not mobilising enough capital to work in the areas where it is most required. 

Our natural inclination is to blame governments, whoever they might be. We look to the people we have elected to take actions so that we can continue with our daily lives. However, until the general public accepts that climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, we will not see sufficient concrete action to affect change with the degree of acceleration that is required. What we now need is to grow climate consciousness and emphasise the full extent of this crisis, hammering home the point that this is going to impact all of our lives before too long. With this appreciation, society will push governments to take the necessary policy decisions.

Don’t get me wrong – there is some really great work being done around the world on innovation and mobilisation of capital agendas. Many governments are reacting in a positive and constructive manner. Some governments have already recognised the seriousness of the issue but until their electorates respond with appropriate pressure and concern, the degree of policy change we require is not going to happen. Therefore, I think it is incumbent on all of us who are active across the climate change agenda to redouble our efforts to create an environment of climate consciousness. I see two key actions:

More effective communication 

There needs to be more conversations around the reality of climate change and the impact it will have on our daily lives in a non-scientific manner. People need to see the impact this climate crisis will directly have on them. This conversation should include people of all ages, from the young to the very old.

Cost discussion and investment

We need to deal with the question of cost. There is a cost to fighting climate change. Significant work is already being done to reduce this cost, like the incredible reduction in the cost of renewables in recent years. However, if we allow the question of cost to dominate this debate, progress will be considerably delayed. Again, work needs to be done to demonstrate that the cost today is nothing compared to the cost we will all have to bear as the problem grows in severity. There needs to be greater investment in innovation. Greater investment will come with greater awareness.

There is hope on the horizon. I believe we have solutions to fight climate change. There is now a willingness to collaborate on a global basis. However, without dealing with the climate consciousness agenda and creating the framework for a new policy environment, we can only do so much and we will continue to run into policy barriers.

The reality is that unless we address this issue now, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will face its most serious challenge.

Michael Hayes is the Global Head of Renewables in KPMG Ireland.