Mother Nature seems to be in full revolt. A stone’s throw from the city of Oakland, where Global Footprint Network is based, the seasonal Diablo winds recently reached record intensity, fanning the worst fires that the famous wine-producing region of Napa has known, reducing to ashes vineyards and residential neighbourhoods, and pushing tens of thousands of inhabitants on the roads. Now Santa Ana winds are wreaking similar havoc in Southern California, causing more evacuations and burning more structures.
On the other side of the continent, the Caribbean islands most affected by the hurricanes of the last weeks – Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and Puerto Rico in front – face a tremendous reconstruction project, needing to rebuild access to safe water and electricity.
The time is not for discouragement or defeatism. More than ever, it is evident that every human community must do its utmost to keep pace with the planet that is hosting us. The time for transformation is now.
Humanity is not idle. The root causes are recognized. On December 12, we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, when world leaders came together to commit to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and strive for 1.5 degrees. Although President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the agreement, leaders around the world are standing firm. In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and UN Secretary António Guterres will gather at the One Planet Summit on December 12 to call for concrete action.
Similarly, I am among 31 Blue Planet Laureates who not only want to mark this important anniversary but also remind the world that the climate agreement is achievable and desirable. We have summarized our position as follows:
Planetary Prosperity Means Zero Carbon
The resource hunger of the human enterprise has become too large for our planet. The Paris Climate Agreement recognizes this. It aims to limit global warming to less than 2°C above the preindustrial level. This means ceasing fossil-fuel use before 2050, increasing ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, and improving human well-being.
We, Blue Planet Laureates, wholeheartedly and emphatically support this transformation. It is technologically possible, economically beneficial, and our best chance for a prosperous future.
Our planet is finite. But human possibilities are not. The transformation will succeed if we apply people’s greatest strengths: foresight, innovation, and care for each other.
Examples across the globe show positive results. Cities like Zurich, Curitiba, Malmö, Masdar, and Reykjavik have shown leadership. Regions have taken charge, including California, where Gov. Jerry Brown will convene the Global Action Climate Summit next year. China has made creating an Ecological Civilization in harmony with nature a priority in its latest 5-year plan. France and the UK have announced the end of fossil fuel cars by 2040, and Tesla surpassed General Motors earlier this year to become the most valuable US auto maker – without ever building a gasoline-powered car. Other companies such as Schneider Electric thrive on driving down their clients’ carbon emissions and costs. Achieving Paris is possible.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of this transformation is sparking the imagination of people around the world and making them realize that a zero-carbon world is much more likely to secure long-term prosperity than continuing our destructive path. We also need to start to recognize that this transformation primarily builds on foresight and innovation, not sacrifice and suffering. Even with the UN projecting world population growth of 13 percent by 2030 and 28 percent by 2050, flourishing lives on this one planet are possible through walkable cities that are renewably powered and sustainably fed. Encouraging smaller families and empowering women around the world will also produce immediate positive health and educational outcomes for those families. Such steps will also substantially reduce the carbon footprint and ease the resource budget for each country in the long run. Indeed, ‘family planning’ and ‘educating girls’ rank sixth and seventh in Project Drawdown’s ranking of solutions to reverse global warming.
We stand for one-planet prosperity. ‘One planet’ means that we recognize the physical context of our economies. ‘Prosperity’ means that we choose flourishing lives over misery. Will you join us?