.
T

here is no more questioning that climate change is real. The disruption to our lives, already evident, has begun and will get worse. The energy transition is critical and must be accelerated. 

At the same time, disagreement over the severity and pace of climate change remains. Governments the world over have adopted disjointed policies—at odds with one another and often with themselves. Economies still rely on more traditional fossil fuels to remain solvent or, in many cases in the Global South, to develop enough to provide their citizens with even what we would consider the most basic of necessities. We all continue to rely on legacy energy infrastructure, which was expensive to lay down, often has decades of viability left, and which needs to continue operating for those remaining decades for investments to be recouped. Investment in green infrastructure is uneven and being left largely to private enterprise, with a lack of public policy support and regulation lending uncertainty as to how and where investments can have the most impact.

Amid all this uncertainty—and in the backdrop of the urgency of climate change and the energy transition—how can we help the future to arrive well?

Disruption From Climate Change, Energy Transition Only Beginning

Climate change isn’t a problem for tomorrow or next year. Climate change is our current reality. Considering this sampling of events in 2021 which studies show are directly linked to anthropogenic climate change:

  • Severe flooding in Western Europe that killed hundreds. 
  • Wildfires in the western United States and Canada – with damages estimated at $70-$90 billion in the U.S. alone.
  • The “heat dome” in the US Pacific Northwest and west part of Canada, which likely killed more than a thousand.
  • Extreme flooding in southern India, killed dozens, left tens of thousands homeless, and destroyed wide swaths of cropland.
  • Rain, for the first time ever, at the Greenland ice summit.
  • In 2020, global economic losses from natural disasters were $268 billion (only $97 billion of which was insured). Aon’s annual report (linked above) links these rising costs conclusively to climate change.

The good news is that, in part because these effects are so immediately visible, there is now wide consensus – among populations, governments, and even leaders of polluting industries – that climate change is real, manmade, and an existential threat. 

We now have consensus that climate change is real, an imminent threat, and manmade—even from leaders of industries criticized for casting doubt on its severity. There are still some doubts about how genuine corporate and government strategies for fighting climate change are, but this is still progress. 

Incremental progress alone is not enough, however. Today’s climate disruptions are bad, but the latest projections from the IPCC tell us it’s going to get worse. Significantly worse. How much worse is up to us - how robustly can we address our emissions? But when we ask this question, we can’t neglect the follow on; how can we mitigate the painful disruptions brought about by our efforts to combat climate change?

Climate change means more extreme weather, ecological damage, economic pain, and the loss of homes and livelihoods.

The energy transition can disrupt our job markets, investment ecosystems, energy supplies, tax systems, and the development of poorer countries.

These are the threats. What can we do?

How W2050 is Helping the Future Arrive Well Amid Climate Change

Governments, corporations, and international institutions have laid out ambitious – if still somewhat undeveloped – strategies and targets for combating climate change. Saving Gaia—and ourselves—calls for more. Actions at a high level to increase investment and cooperation are wonderful – they should be applauded and accelerated. But we need something more. Something uncommon.

We know that we have to build better adaptation and resilience, and that to do so we need more and better cooperation among private and public stakeholders. A coherent vision for the what the future will look like is necessary for investments to have their greatest impacts and for us to find ways to resettle and employ those who’ve lost their homes and livelihoods. Those investments can fuel the innovation we need to not only meet the challenges of a changing climate and energy transition, but to thrive in a future which is fundamentally different from what we know today. 

This is where World in 2050 comes in. For all its ten years of existence, W2050 has been focused on uncommon collaborations, convening experts and stakeholders from a variety of spaces – corporate executives, leaders of NGOs, policymakers, academics, and entrepreneurs – who would often otherwise never get a chance to compare perspectives and experiences on shared challenges.  W2050 is also making it a priority to ensure our uncommon collaborations include experts and stakeholders from often overlooked regions and sectors. We believe that inclusiveness and a resolve to amplify often silenced perspectives is indispensable to mitigating disruptions from climate change and the energy transition – and it’s part of what makes our approach uncommon. 

For climate change and the energy transition, our approach includes three initiatives.

Convenings. In the past, W2050 hosted sideline events at major summits like the annual COP meetings and the World Economic Forum. COVID-19 disrupted this for us as much as you, but we spent 2020 and 2021 building new models for virtual and hybrid convenings that go beyond zoom. We’re very excited to be partnered with unleesh to host new series of iterative convenings, both virtual and in-person.

Innovation Olympics. W2050 has for several years hosted an annual Innovation Olympics, where we identified social impact entrepreneurships that have a proven business model and are poised to make a real positive difference. In previous Innovation Olympics, we supported winners by giving the access to Diplomatic Courier’s and W2050’s wide network of experts and by helping them to raise their profile and thereby attract investment. Moving forward, we are taking a more hands-on and proactive approach – but more on that later.

Research & Publications. In collaboration with our network of partners and experts, W2050 and Diplomatic Courier have promulgated an impressive body of publications – amplifying a broad spectrum of perspectives on pressing issues as well as novel blueprints for change. This will continue. Indeed, we are building up our capacity to get more publications in the pipeline than ever before and are exploring ways to get those publications to a still wider audience. In addition, we are working to identify exciting thinkers you probably wouldn’t usually hear from – like this report from DisinfoLab – to carry out research addressing gaps we’ve identified within each megatrend. 

We have a fourth initiative, Innovation Labs, which currently is focused on other megatrends but will expand over time. While we talk about and organize each of these separately, they operate synergistically. For example, Convenings (and our Innovation Labs) include not only our network of partners and experts, but winners of current and past Innovation Olympics. All three of these (Convenings, Innovation Labs, and Innovation Olympics) are informed and supported by our Research & Publications – but each of those three also provides source material for new Research & Publications. 

At World in 2050, we believe this uncommon approach is perhaps the most important element to ushering in a future that arrives well for all of us, and we’d love you to come along.

About
Shane Szarkowski
:
Dr. Shane Szarkowski is Editor-in-Chief of Diplomatic Courier and the Executive Director of World in 2050.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Surviving and Flourishing Amid Climate Change

Phot by Sander Weetelin via Unsplash.

February 11, 2022

Climate change already arrived, but the disruptions to our lives from climate change (as well as from actions we need to take to address climate change such as the energy transition) are only beginning. World in 2050's Shane Szarkowski discusses how we can thrive amid these existential challenges.

T

here is no more questioning that climate change is real. The disruption to our lives, already evident, has begun and will get worse. The energy transition is critical and must be accelerated. 

At the same time, disagreement over the severity and pace of climate change remains. Governments the world over have adopted disjointed policies—at odds with one another and often with themselves. Economies still rely on more traditional fossil fuels to remain solvent or, in many cases in the Global South, to develop enough to provide their citizens with even what we would consider the most basic of necessities. We all continue to rely on legacy energy infrastructure, which was expensive to lay down, often has decades of viability left, and which needs to continue operating for those remaining decades for investments to be recouped. Investment in green infrastructure is uneven and being left largely to private enterprise, with a lack of public policy support and regulation lending uncertainty as to how and where investments can have the most impact.

Amid all this uncertainty—and in the backdrop of the urgency of climate change and the energy transition—how can we help the future to arrive well?

Disruption From Climate Change, Energy Transition Only Beginning

Climate change isn’t a problem for tomorrow or next year. Climate change is our current reality. Considering this sampling of events in 2021 which studies show are directly linked to anthropogenic climate change:

  • Severe flooding in Western Europe that killed hundreds. 
  • Wildfires in the western United States and Canada – with damages estimated at $70-$90 billion in the U.S. alone.
  • The “heat dome” in the US Pacific Northwest and west part of Canada, which likely killed more than a thousand.
  • Extreme flooding in southern India, killed dozens, left tens of thousands homeless, and destroyed wide swaths of cropland.
  • Rain, for the first time ever, at the Greenland ice summit.
  • In 2020, global economic losses from natural disasters were $268 billion (only $97 billion of which was insured). Aon’s annual report (linked above) links these rising costs conclusively to climate change.

The good news is that, in part because these effects are so immediately visible, there is now wide consensus – among populations, governments, and even leaders of polluting industries – that climate change is real, manmade, and an existential threat. 

We now have consensus that climate change is real, an imminent threat, and manmade—even from leaders of industries criticized for casting doubt on its severity. There are still some doubts about how genuine corporate and government strategies for fighting climate change are, but this is still progress. 

Incremental progress alone is not enough, however. Today’s climate disruptions are bad, but the latest projections from the IPCC tell us it’s going to get worse. Significantly worse. How much worse is up to us - how robustly can we address our emissions? But when we ask this question, we can’t neglect the follow on; how can we mitigate the painful disruptions brought about by our efforts to combat climate change?

Climate change means more extreme weather, ecological damage, economic pain, and the loss of homes and livelihoods.

The energy transition can disrupt our job markets, investment ecosystems, energy supplies, tax systems, and the development of poorer countries.

These are the threats. What can we do?

How W2050 is Helping the Future Arrive Well Amid Climate Change

Governments, corporations, and international institutions have laid out ambitious – if still somewhat undeveloped – strategies and targets for combating climate change. Saving Gaia—and ourselves—calls for more. Actions at a high level to increase investment and cooperation are wonderful – they should be applauded and accelerated. But we need something more. Something uncommon.

We know that we have to build better adaptation and resilience, and that to do so we need more and better cooperation among private and public stakeholders. A coherent vision for the what the future will look like is necessary for investments to have their greatest impacts and for us to find ways to resettle and employ those who’ve lost their homes and livelihoods. Those investments can fuel the innovation we need to not only meet the challenges of a changing climate and energy transition, but to thrive in a future which is fundamentally different from what we know today. 

This is where World in 2050 comes in. For all its ten years of existence, W2050 has been focused on uncommon collaborations, convening experts and stakeholders from a variety of spaces – corporate executives, leaders of NGOs, policymakers, academics, and entrepreneurs – who would often otherwise never get a chance to compare perspectives and experiences on shared challenges.  W2050 is also making it a priority to ensure our uncommon collaborations include experts and stakeholders from often overlooked regions and sectors. We believe that inclusiveness and a resolve to amplify often silenced perspectives is indispensable to mitigating disruptions from climate change and the energy transition – and it’s part of what makes our approach uncommon. 

For climate change and the energy transition, our approach includes three initiatives.

Convenings. In the past, W2050 hosted sideline events at major summits like the annual COP meetings and the World Economic Forum. COVID-19 disrupted this for us as much as you, but we spent 2020 and 2021 building new models for virtual and hybrid convenings that go beyond zoom. We’re very excited to be partnered with unleesh to host new series of iterative convenings, both virtual and in-person.

Innovation Olympics. W2050 has for several years hosted an annual Innovation Olympics, where we identified social impact entrepreneurships that have a proven business model and are poised to make a real positive difference. In previous Innovation Olympics, we supported winners by giving the access to Diplomatic Courier’s and W2050’s wide network of experts and by helping them to raise their profile and thereby attract investment. Moving forward, we are taking a more hands-on and proactive approach – but more on that later.

Research & Publications. In collaboration with our network of partners and experts, W2050 and Diplomatic Courier have promulgated an impressive body of publications – amplifying a broad spectrum of perspectives on pressing issues as well as novel blueprints for change. This will continue. Indeed, we are building up our capacity to get more publications in the pipeline than ever before and are exploring ways to get those publications to a still wider audience. In addition, we are working to identify exciting thinkers you probably wouldn’t usually hear from – like this report from DisinfoLab – to carry out research addressing gaps we’ve identified within each megatrend. 

We have a fourth initiative, Innovation Labs, which currently is focused on other megatrends but will expand over time. While we talk about and organize each of these separately, they operate synergistically. For example, Convenings (and our Innovation Labs) include not only our network of partners and experts, but winners of current and past Innovation Olympics. All three of these (Convenings, Innovation Labs, and Innovation Olympics) are informed and supported by our Research & Publications – but each of those three also provides source material for new Research & Publications. 

At World in 2050, we believe this uncommon approach is perhaps the most important element to ushering in a future that arrives well for all of us, and we’d love you to come along.

About
Shane Szarkowski
:
Dr. Shane Szarkowski is Editor-in-Chief of Diplomatic Courier and the Executive Director of World in 2050.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.