We have finally entered the last 90 days of the 2010s. Starting Jan 1, 2020, the world and the planet will enter into a new era, an era that will be defined by climate change. If the 90s were famous for liberalization, the 2000s for the internet and 2010s for the world of smartphones and social media, 2020s will make a mark for climate change, global warming, environmental crisis, and plastic epidemic.
In many sense the world is coming around to the full circle, the 1920s aka the roaring twenties were all about exuberance and 1930s witnessed the great depression that plunged modern civilization & economies into despair. The 2020s will be the decade of reckoning. Every single action taken by every individual from their personal consumption to an investment decision, will determine our survival or not in the 2030s.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.” — Greta Thunberg, 23 Sep 2019, UN Climate Action Summit.
One of the biggest dissonances about climate change between the few experts or activists or scientists peer at data everyday and the rest of the lay population is the severity of crisis. Almost every individual today will recognize climate crisis, maybe except for a few grey republican heads. But yet for most of the population, it hasn’t really set it. There is no or low sense of panic. Greta is just another activist. Environmental news is just another noise. Some of us “do our bit for the environment” and glee over it, but more or less, we continue business as usual.
On Jan 25, 2019, Greta urges global leaders to act on climate with her words “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” Well, I want to redirect this statement and question to the laypeople, non-leaders, regular professionals, engineers, doctors, every capable men or woman, “You need to panic, you need to act, you need to act as you would in a crisis as if your house is on fire because it is”
Even personally, until as recent as 2017, I had not grasped the extent of the situation. In my mental calculations, the Climate crisis was coming in 2050–60. Climate change was going to kill about 700 million to 1.1 billion people. And being the educated, high-income person, I had low probabilities of being the dead one.
If these words sound harsh, just ask anyone some basic questions like “Hey !! When do you think Bangladesh would submerge and how many would vanish”, or “What do you think of the probability of life in 50+ C temperatures in Rajasthan, UP, Bihar”, or “How many days do you think a city like Bangalore or Chennai can survive without water”
Most of our political and business leaders haven’t panicked yet. Because most of them make a mental accounting of disappearance of a few million insignificant people. And again as crude, crass, but true as it sounds, truth be spoken, if you are the first world person reading this English language article, you have also made that mental calculation. Climate change is coming, the world will be a hotter, uninhabitable place, but it will not really affect me and my family.
But what if I told you it will. By 2050, Oceans will have more plastic than fish. Even today, you are consuming almost one credit card worth of plastic per week. And that my friend, is a sure-shot way to get cancer. If we thought that 2019 forest fires, in Amazon, Siberia, Alaska, and 2018 forest fires in California were extreme, we have not even entered 2020. Unless protected extremely actively, the decade 2020s will mark the end of majority forests as we know it.
The Paris Agreement of 2015 is a joke, and the warming of 2–4 C is absolutely certain. Even if stop all carbon emissions, every single car on the street, electricity in houses, plastic in our clothes and packaging today, a warming of 2 to 4 C is already locked in. And, unless we seriously change every single existing “business as usual” “status-quo” system in the 2020s, we will be looking at likely warming of 4 C by 2050s. Is human life physiologically possible in this scenario, most likely no?
What does all of this mean for the coming decade, what does it mean for each and every one of us? The 2020s can not be a decade of technological advancement, cool investments, political turmoil, or any climate discussion. The 2020s has to be about survival. The 2020s has to be about collective action like the one never seen before.
Starting with every global investor from a $2 million shop to $200 million to commit to strict sustainable ESG investing. As an entrepreneur on the fundraising side, and previously in the financial industry on the disbursing side, it cracks me today when people talk about returns, like seriously as if any of us will be alive. The global capital market has to seriously rethink and up their game, probably more than the political leaders.
“Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” Anna Lappe
To something as radical as employees resigning en-masse and investors divesting en-large from fossil fuel companies, from coal companies, from plastic manufacturers. In the 2020s, every single big philanthropic shop must commit capital for survival, for problems like education and health and poverty are all well important, but nothing will matter if we simply don’t live.
Though the reality is grim, and it is seriously grim. If anyone or your own mind is trying to placate it, seriously read numbers and statistics. The world of climate change scientists are not alarming in wane. You yourself witnessed Greenland melt, Amazon burn, and gigantic heat waves. But where there is a will, there is hope. If we did mark our journeys for the coming decade with a steadfast climate change focus, we can survive.