Our system doesn't work - here's how to fix it.
Hi, I'm Tariq! I used to be the Chief Investment Officer for "Sustainable" Investing at BlackRock, a financial services firm that has over $9 trillion (yes, that's trillion with a T!) in investments.
After trying make Wall Street more 'green' from the inside, I realized it won't work.
Read this Byte to find out what does!
Same Same But Different: Covid-19 & Climate Change
Let's start with what the science is telling us to do:
COVID-19: Flatten the infections curve!
Climate change: Flatten the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) curve!
Both COVID-19 and climate change are what are called "systemic" crises - in which everyone in society contributes to it and is harmed by it, requiring the collective action of all of us to solve.
What are the Similarities?
We all contribute to the curve and have a shared interest in flattening it
Everyone's daily behaviour must change
We must invent new technologies to help
We don't have unlimited time and must act quickly to address the threat
What are the Differences?
Closing international borders blocks COVID-19 but not GHG emissions
COVID-19 disproportionately threatens the health and finances of older generations (i.e., Baby Boomers) more so than younger generations (i.e., Gen Z)
What is another critical difference between COVID-19 and climate change?
World leaders don't believe science
COVID-19 is worse
Climate change moves slowly
Science isn't sure about climate change
How Did We Beat Covid-19?
While COVID-19 is still spreading in much of the world, rich countries seem to be slowly emerging successfully from the crisis. How did we do it?
First, flatten the curve
Restrict international travel
Close high-risk venues (bars, schools)
Make masks mandatory indoors
Second, find an escape plan
Rapid, emergency vaccine approvals
Public funds to big pharma for R&D
Guaranteed preorders from multiple vaccine makers, so they all work on it
What if people don't cooperate?
Some are tempted to ignore the rules and continue as normal, causing all our collective efforts to fail. So democratic governments stepped in and used their special powers:
Mandatory: Rules were mandatory, not voluntary - with non-compliance subject to fines and penalties
Systemic: The rules applied to everyone in society equally - no exceptions
This meant that young people, who were least at medical risk from COVID-19, missed over an entire year of regular schooling - damaging their education and future prospects.
So How Do We Beat Climate Change?
While both of these crises are too big to solve at the individual level, with climate change we have yet to enact reforms that drive significant collective action.
Incubation period: weeks
Response quickly led by government, enforced through laws and penalties
Compliance is mandatory & systemic
For Climate Change
Incubation period: decades
Governments avoid systemic rules and leave it up to corporations to lead
Compliance is voluntary & individual
Asking nicely doesn't always work
Climate change is what economists consider a market failure.
Because those who release greenhouse gas emissions do not have to pay the costs of the pollution they cause on society, they continue to burn dangerously high levels of coal, oil, and natural gas.
We currently allow business activities that damage the planet and the public over the long-term, disproportionately hurting the youngest and the poorest in society today.
No double standards: Let's use these tools to avoid a climate catastrophe
Imagine we adapted the COVID-19 playbook for climate change?
Here's a look at how governments can use their special powers to address another potentially disastrous systemic crisis.
What is a proven playbook we can apply to the climate crisis?
Leave it to the free market (do nothing)
Voluntary pledges to be net zero someday
Ask companies nicely to save the planet
Flatten the curve, invest in solutions
But It's Really Up To You
We acted aggressively to flatten the curve of a crisis that science told us affects the financial and health interests of older generations most.
Why wouldn't we do the same thing when it comes to something that's a greater threat to younger generations?
World leaders know what to do to address climate change: we've known since the 20th century that levying a tax on carbon would help.
But our current economic system has a very short-term outlook. The average CEO stays in their role shorter than ever before and gets paid more than ever before , and politicians usually focus no further than the next election.
They know what we need to do. Let's remind them to do it.
So how can we apply this understanding to improve our planet's fate?
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