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!

Photo of Tariq Fancy

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!

Sound similar?

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.

X All The Y

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?

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

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Flaticon Icon

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

Meme: So you're saying I don't have school, but I have to learn everything anyway

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.

For COVID-19

  • 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?

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?

But That's None Of My Business

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.

Take Action

So how can we apply this understanding to improve our planet's fate?


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