The only way we can save humanity from climate change is if we all pull together. But that’s not likely if bankers keep insisting on aircon, hedge funds keep looking for profit and cows keep … doing what cows do
It’s a strange fact that something as apparently harmless as the cow could play a big role in mankind’s demise. But bovine flatulence is a key contributor to global warming. Our taste for beef and milk means that we breed these methane producers in such quantities that perhaps turning to vegetarianism is the only answer. Although methane is methane, regardless of the producer, animal or human.
The issue of climate change is core to all our futures. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is grim, but states that it is not too late to reverse the dangerous trend that 20th-century consumption has created. If humankind all pulled together, we could save our species from the ultimate destruction anticipated to occur in less than 100 years. The IPCC says that it is probable that in our lifetime we will witness the disappearance of the Arctic polar ice cap entirely; what else do we need to be told to understand that things are going horribly wrong?
But it’s hard to conceive of humankind all pulling together, even when it comes to ensuring its own survival. Alan Murray, writing in the Wall Street Journal, described the IPCC update as “mostly a yawn … rehashing old findings”. When the US, the world’s major culprit for ignoring global warming, treats the subject with such flippancy, what hope is there for progress?
“If Congress seriously wants to enact legislation capping carbon-dioxide emissions, this is the time to act,” Murray continues. “The coal industry, the oil industry and a few others may drag their feet, but most of the business community will go along … And while President Bush will not be leading the parade, he is unlikely to block legislation that has substantial business support.” Who said the Americans don’t appreciate irony? Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.
And now, US hedge fund Free Enterprise Action Fund is demanding that General Electric drop its green policies because they could unlawfully compromise shareholders’ right to value – infantile or what?
At a recent conference in Paris, John Richards of Hammerson successfully defended the long-term benefits of social responsibility. However those controlling hedge funds take a very short-term view, usually just long enough to determine what bonus will be created for them by their efforts at the end of the year.
We all have to play our part in changing the way we live. Unless we make this change, we will need three planet earths just to keep the equilibrium. It is all too easy to say turn the air-conditioning down a degree or two, or even open the windows on hot days as we can in temperate Britain. But this is a global problem and there are many places in the world where it is too hot, or too humid, to work without air-conditioning (even if only for the computer rooms).
When the US, the leading culprit for global warming, treats the subject with such flippancy, what hope is there for progress?
Institutional funders, a very conservative breed by nature, need to feel confident in the desirability of the buildings in which they invest. Those lacking what are currently considered top quality facilities will not be their first choice – and brokers from New York and Hong Kong, accustomed to air-conditioning, will not consider opening a window or putting on a sweater to be “top quality”. New and untried cooling technologies will take time to develop and they are necessary so that we can build user and investor confidence.
The same technological challenges apply in the home. Consider refrigeration. Our present food distribution and retail system depends on refrigeration. Just visit your local supermarket and look at the chilled and frozen sections all of which need efficient refrigeration to meet our daily need to eat. Think what will happen as the middle classes emerge in China and India and buy themselves fridges and freezers, think of the transport and logistics in delivering chilled and frozen food across India and China.
The possible 6°C temperature by 2100, as suggested by the IPCC, would quite simply end the world by 2050 if we carry on as now. The Amazonian rainforest could start to burn and turn into a desert. Ash and smoke would fill the sky, blanking out the southern hemisphere with the obvious effect on all life forms.
While we must all do our bit we also have to start a global wave to recognise the problem and try to bring about a global solution.
The solutions proposed by the IPCC report in typical understated parlance are: regulations, economic instruments, voluntary agreements and international co-operation.
Think about it and then do something to start the wave.
Richard Steer is senior partner at Gleeds