Next month in Lima, Peru, negotiators from around the world will gather for the next round of United Nations climate talks. That will be an important moment on the journey to Paris in 2015, when all countries have pledged to reach a new global agreement on climate change.
But in many ways, the key moment of this important year occurred in Copenhagen last week, when scientists and national governments agreed on a report summarizing the work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The IPCC brings together hundreds of the world’s top experts on climate change, and they compress thousands of scientific studies into three working group reports and a final synthesis, each with a clearly stated Summary for Policy Makers.
From their standpoint, the science is clear: The warming of the Earth’s climate system is unequivocal, and it is 95% certain that human activities are the cause. These changes have already had widespread effects on human and natural systems. Continuing along our current path will increase the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”
That is a powerful warning – but we have seen this year that the world is ready to respond. Before the UN Climate Summit in September, 400,000 people marched in New York to show their support for climate action now. Within the halls of the UN, national leaders conveyed strong messages of urgency, and business and financial leaders committed to turning loose the powerful forces of the marketplace to transform the world’s energy systems and move away from coal and oil – the most important sources of climate pollution.
There is good reason for us to act – not only because of the dangers of disruptive climate change, but because a New Climate Economy will be better for business: It will improve our health, prosperity, and security, as well as our environment. That was the key message of the international commission led by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón in a major report it put out before the Climate Summit. That was also the key message of the Risky Business report issued earlier in the year by prominent U.S. business leaders, including former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
Ted Turner, the founder and chairman of the United Nations Foundation, likes to say that the transition to clean energy sources like wind and solar will be the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century. Many investors agree: They have plowed $280 billion a year into the area over the last four years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance – that’s more than $1.1 trillion!
New businesses, more jobs, cleaner air – what’s not to like? We are seeing the way to a better future for all of us. We have to move fast – we’re in a race with climate change – but it is a race we can win if we all join in. Buy renewable energy, cut out energy waste by fixing up your house, plant a tree, or keep your car parked when you can walk. These are steps we all can take to hurry us toward a brighter future – for ourselves and the world our children will live in.