I’ve just witnessed a child being bullied on social media and I am spitting angry. The victim is a young girl close to my daughter’s age. She has a form of autism called autism spectrum disorder or ASD. What makes this particular act of social media bullying so despicable is that the perpetrator is a man in his 70s. ASD symptoms include being awkward in social situations and difficulty in making friends; ammunition that the troll used to inflict maximum hurt in his tweet. Lucky for us, other ASD symptoms are that sufferers exhibit a bloody-minded focus. And it is this bloody-minded focus that may just galvanise enough of us into saving our planet.
That the bully in question is a sitting president of the United States is of course appalling. That his petty trolling of Greta Thunberg is believed to be in response to his missing out on being named Time Magazine person of the year, an accolade bestowed on Thunberg this year, is yet more evidence of the POTUS’ (President of the United States) own narcissistic mental health issues.
What should be worrying us is that the Trump administration holds the future of the planet in its hands. What they do, or don’t do, affects all of us, no matter where we live. The USA is now the biggest emitter of CO2 in the world and, aside from ditching the Paris Accord, the US is also dodging responsibility for any likely damage to smaller countries in the direct line of fire from climate change.
Sadly, the 2019 COP25 conference did not deliver much in the way of a clear way forward despite delegates working days over the scheduled time limits.
Trump’s climate change denialism may well see him go down as the biggest villain in history and it is easy to see who has bought his view on climate change. Take a look at the dirty energy donations pouring into his 2020 re-election campaign coffers.
It’s not so much that a climate tipping point will be reached at some future date. Globally, climate scientists say irreparable damage has already been done. Capping the rise in the planet’s mean average temperature to below 2°C isn’t to avoid any change to our climate. It’s too late for that. Capping the mean average rise in temperature to below 2°C is a Hail Mary attempt to prevent a global catastrophe. It’s no longer a matter of asking a friend if they believe in climate change. There is no question. Climate change is real. Insurers and the layer of reinsurers behind them are already paying the price. Or not. There are areas in flood- and fire-prone regions where homeowners can no longer obtain insurance for their properties.
One would think this would prompt the insurance industry to hedge their bets on climate change; to reduce their risk as best they can. But it’s not. While forward-thinking European insurance and reinsurance companies are putting their money where their research is, a report by the USA-based Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) studied 80 of the globe’s biggest insurance companies (with a combined US $15 trillion assets invested) and found that those companies invested less than a single percent of that money in low carbon investments. And of those 80 insurers, only three have any plans of dealing with climate-related financial risk.
What are we to do? I was listening to a TED Talk podcast in the car the other morning. Jane Fonda, health guru, actor and activist, was being interviewed. Ms Fonda has been getting herself arrested quite frequently for civil disobedience. At 81, she is doing her bit to drive the climate change message home, it appears quite forcefully at times. Not that we’re suggesting you take up civil disobedience in the name of climate activism, of course. Ms Fonda said something during the interview that hit home. “Oh, I’m so lucky that I am healthy and living in a decade where we who are alive can actually make the difference. We can make the difference as to whether there’s going to be a liveable future or not. What a glorious responsibility we have. We have to step up to the plate.”
To answer the question: what can I do? I would suggest learning as much as you can on the climate subject.
Munich Re has some excellent resources here: https://www.munichre.com/en/risks/climate-change-a-challenge-for-humanity.html
And Swiss Re here: https://www.swissre.com/risk-knowledge/mitigating-climate-risk.html
When people in your circle hold opinions that are not based in fact ‒ like when POTUS went on TV a few months ago complaining that “wind turbines are killing thousands of birds and they are piling up in heaps under the blades” ‒ you can explain with some authority that wind turbines do kill birds and bats but not nearly to the extent traditional power generation does. Or the extent that infrastructure like roads power lines and fences do. Or open-pit tar fields, fracking and even domestic cats. According to National Geographic, it is estimated domestic cats slaughter between one to four billion birds in the USA each year. Four billion; and hundreds of millions of small reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
The point is: if we don’t do something, those birds POTUS was talking about (and possibly us) will die anyway.
Join Greta Thunberg’s Friday protests. Or Jane Fonda’s. Educate yourself or influence your company’s investment strategy if you’re able. Most importantly, spread the word. This next decade is critical.
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