Friday 28th October 2016                 Change text size:

The 12 days of climate change myths: #1, Nothing can be done

The 12 days of climate change myths: #1, Nothing can be done

There is an air of fatalism amongst some climate scientists as the forces of denial outspend and outmanoeuvre climatologists in the court of public opinion. The battle is not really about science anymore. Simon Leadbetter suggests we need to win hearts, minds and most importantly the wallets of those that remain sceptical of the threat that exists. As Deep Throat (All The President’s Men – 1976) would say, “follow the money”.

We live in a material world, as Madonna sang in 1985.  Socialism was defeated in 1989, western capitalism won and we all lived happily ever after with inexorably rising living standards and investments, job security, early retirement, falling crime and clear blue skies. A nation truly at peace with itself in a world no longer under the cloud of mutually assured destruction…

Hold on…

This promised land did not transpire. We have lurched through two deep recessions, the most recent being the deepest and longest since the Great Depression. Living standards have been flat for the vast majority of the population, despite an unsustainable but extended period of GDP growth. Debt levels remain too high at a global, national and individual level. House prices and stock markets are highly volatile and unemployment creeps back up to 3m, with record levels amongst 18-24 year olds and many older people deferring retirement. And a force we trained and armed to defeat the Evil Empire (the USSR) turned against us in the form of Al-Qaeda, committing acts of terrorism in Madrid, New York, London and Iraq.

And what about the planet? We have continued to pump billions of tonnes of material that was historically locked away under the earth, into the atmosphere, despite papers as far back as the 1970s predicting global warming. As China, India, Brazil and the rest of developing world industrialise to levels we in the developed world have grown accustomed to, so we need to mine ever deeper for more materials to burn, ejecting ever more and more pollution into the atmosphere.

Many feel that nothing can be done or don’t believe an individual can make a difference. The capitalist system is simply too powerful. Many in the national press tell us constantly that there is no alternative to our Anglo-Saxon capitalism.  But there are many forms of capitalism: From unfettered American capitalism, which feels alien to Brits who visit the States; to Canadians who have concerns about their southern neighbour’s excesses; Nordic capitalism is profoundly different to our own; Europeans do something different with their capitalism; as do the Chinese (a repressive regime); Indians, etc.

Money is not the root of all evil, as is often misquoted. It performs a valuable function allowing for the free exchange of goods and services between people and nations without having to work out the exchange rate for a horse as you did under a barter system. Is it worth one or two bushels of wheat? Anyone?

But the love of money is the root of all evil, in politicians (e.g. MPs expenses/Cash for Honours), business leaders (Enron, Worldcom, Lehman Brothers), sports (Premiership salaries) and ourselves. The endless pursuit of financial gain, or the things that money can buy, has distorted the world economy, impoverished us all ethically and made us lose sight of what really enriches our lives; our integrity, our relationship with friends, families and neighbours, our health and our peace of mind.

This love of acquiring more money for money’s sake is wrecking our lives, putting our children’s future and that of our planet at risk.

But individuals are making a difference.

Many have found an alternative that pays the double dividend of a healthy return on investment and minimising the harm or maximising the good that their investment does.

As EIRIS reported in November last year that £11.5bn is invested in ethical funds in the UK, representing some 750,000 private investors, 500,000 more than in 2004. To get a sense of scale, only 11% of the adult population or 4.9million people have investments in stocks and shares. Many investors use our form to be connected with an adviser who can make their investments make a difference as well as pay a dividend.

In December Bloomberg New Energy Finance noted that investment in clean energy had overtaken investment in fossil fuel investment, and in October we took a look at the Ernst & Young’s Cleantech 100 which recognises the pioneers of cleaner technology.

One of the first stories we covered in our digital edition back in October was the news that the world’s largest investors, representing $20 trillion, were calling for more urgent action on climate change. World GDP is around $63 trillion so that’s a fairly large sum.

Every day thousands of individuals are choosing to invest and buy more sustainably, balancing the needs of the planet, its people and our future prosperity.  Every day engineers and scientists are finding new ways to create cleaner energy and more efficient ways of producing the things we consume.  Every day scientists explore the effects of climate change and how we can mitigate against its effects, adapt to them or, worst case, geoengineer our way out of the mess we’ve made. Every day companies are getting their house in order recognising that pollution and waste cost them profit and will increasingly threaten their survival. Every day Governments round the world are making decisions that put the future of the planet above narrow national interest.

A few hundred people may be protesting on the steps of St Pauls about how broken our model of capitalism is. 750,000 investors in the UK alone are trying to build a less harmful more sustainable form of capitalism for the next generation to benefit from.

This series of myths started with Skeptical Science taking on ten myths about climate change. Skeptical Science itself started as its creator, John Cook, was arguing with his father-in-law about global warming and wanted to answer unsubstantiated opinions with scientific evidence. The final two myths are core to Blue & Green Tomorrow’s mission. Yesterday we argued that we need to focus on issues that matter to people in the argument over climate change such as the damage pollution of all kinds is doing to us and our children and the risks of wasting finite resources. Finally today we suggest that it is investment that can make the biggest difference to our futures and many smart investors have already made the decision to make a difference.

We remain profoundly optimistic that something can and will be done. You can do something today. Simply pick up the phone to your IFA and ask them about ethical investment. If you don’t have one or your adviser dismisses the idea then use our form and we’ll connect you with one who will help.

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