This article is the first in a growing collection around the potential positive impact that can take shape as the general population starts to vote with its environmental & social conscience by financing more sustainable infrastructure. Highlighting this message can cut both ways, ie. “impact investors” are happy to learn that nudging infrastructure in a more sustainable direction is a large part of what we are up to. However, many people have been hard-wired to believe that investing in assets with explicit sustainability objectives tends to come at a financial cost, though this view is fading as the profitability and longevity of sustainable asset classes becomes better understood. As global climate-related carbon markets start to reignite, it felt timely to bring this message to the surface.
(Author’s note: if it’s troubling to read the somewhat dark narrative below, feel free to skip to the last paragraph, and do be sure to have a look at the exciting and encouraging upsurge in value placed on climate-related environmental financial products. Take European emission allowances over the past 18 months as an indicator: https://markets.businessinsider.com/commodities/co2-emissionsrechte. Feels a lot like it did in 2004/2005, when a small team of us launched one of the earliest and most prolific carbon asset managers, acting to help fulfill objectives set under the Kyoto Protocol)
On to the article…
Weather can change materially over short time scales, prompting us to move into the shade, or go for a swim, or huddle for warmth, or play in the rain. Weather changes seasonally, driving us to swap air conditioners for heaters, or to rotate crops, or to manage against storms or drought. This is all underpinned by a global and regional climate structure that shifts much more slowly, on time scales of millennia or longer. Even slow and small changes to climate give rise to critical questions like, what kinds of crops will grow here a few decades from now? How can we best heat, cool and power our communities? Will water supplies be stable? And potentially, as the cross-border effects of climate change, mitigation and adaptation become more severe, how will human flourishing be expressed and under what new rule of law? Many human civilizations and animal populations have had to confront these questions in the past…
However, the pace at which climate patterns are shifting over recent decades (cooler, warmer, wetter, dryer altogether less predictable), driven by record-breaking increases in global average temperatures, is unprecedented in our modern age.
Here’s the somewhat dark bit…
There are wide-ranging visions of how things could unfold in the coming decades if global average temperatures continue to increase as they have been. Precisely how climate change plays out is really just the backdrop, it’s the socio-political scene that gets particularly troubling. The scene could potentially be one of administrators/engineers/law enforcement officials remaining cool-headed, taking organized charge of things, allowing the rest of us to settle into a redefined mode of “comfort” and more or less carry on. However, at least for some (perhaps for most), an adapting world will involve mass migration, rationing of food, lots of water bottles and no gas or power for homes/schools. Forget luxury vehicles , yoga mats, wellness clinics and high fashion. When resource availability becomes highly unpredictable and cross-border disputes arise, how long will it take for governance to fall away and for organized migration to precipitate into more desperate annexation of land and resources?
Yes, our climate changes naturally, and yes humans have accelerated that (and continue to do so), and yes, being proactive and persistent actors, as individuals, corporations, and governments, in climate change mitigation and adaptation will be the path of longevity, profitability and general human flourishing.