Climate Pulse: Canaries & The Coal Mine at COP24

The climate canaries literally convened at the coal mine this month in Katovice Poland to update the global COP24 climate action efforts. Although I didn’t attend, I was keenly interested in how these harbingers of climate-impacts-to-come fared as they collaborated about the immense impact of human-caused climate change. The canaries are the scientific, political, and business leaders who show up from every country and the meeting place this time was literally at the heart of Poland’s considerable coal mine country. The key takeaways, from my reading, were mixed. We should all take note:


First, unfortunately, the latest IPCC’s Special 2018 Reportscientifically points to runaway feedback loops that are accelerating climate change more quickly than predicted. It’s likely that even this new 2018 analysis understates the quickening impacts of climate change and its escalating human, nature, and economic costs. If ever there was a clarion call from these educated “canaries” monitoring carbon (and related) pollution effects, this is it. Extreme weather, arctic melting, and human tolls previously expected in several decades are already appearing. Our urgency to act for a carbon drawdown economy must escalate rapidly in order to save our life support system.

As scientific, religious, and business leaders noted: “We need to act as if our lives depend upon rapid carbon drawdown with results showing rapid reductions within 5–10 years” according to the data. Unfortunately the last two years have shown accelerating carbon emissions globally despite the Paris Climate Accord. We are in some deep trouble here; urgent action is imperative at personal, local, and national levels everywhere.

Measurement Standards

Second, fortunately, an immediate aim of the international conference was achieved with progress on Key carbon footprint measurement standards. This is essential so that each country can monitor progress on an honest basis that can be totaled globally. Even allowing for legitimate criticisms of “watering down” and compromise, it’s gratifying to see climate action professional laying groundwork to accelerate decarbonization like this.

Invest Billions Now Or Pay Trillions Precipitously Later

Corporate Risk officers and the Insurance industry are taking increasing note of the immense and growing immediate climate costs and risks dramatically outweigh prevention. One of the failings of capitalism (and human intuition) is blindness to medium and long term threats that may be less immediate than a rock falling toward your head. But risk management professionals are paid to look outward and quantify looming threats & that’s now happening with human-caused climate change.

With accelerating impacts that will cost businesses $$ trillions in coming decades, the relatively much cheaper cost of investing in a “carbon drawdown economy” are becoming obvious and concreate. This trend will help us see that incenting a growth economy in carbon drawdown will actually create jobs and better lifestyles will cost on the order of 1/1000 to 1/10,000 of the amount of current runaway carbon pollution. The human and critter tolls have similar ratio’s depending up on when we stop carbon pollution, a phenomena that religious leaders like the Pope and Dalai Lama, amongst others, are already articulating in moral and spiritual terms.

“Climate Axis of evil”

Third, sadly, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwaitwere labeled at COP24 by the rest of the world as the “climate axis of evil” for their embarrassing and ignorant attempts to promote increased coal use and reject overwhelming scientific reporting on climate pollution causes and effects. Instead of jamming humanity’s wisdom in reverse, the climate response and action forces need galvanizing leaders who can create an atmosphere of pragmatic aspiration and escalating friendly competition to drawdown carbon by fundamental restructuring. The net effect of this shameful “climate axis of evil” is to delay catalytic leadership toward progress.

In summary, I am grateful for the “canaries” who showed up at the COP24 coal mine. They are heroic messengers and actors dedicatd to saving our delicate life support system here on Earth. While some despair that it’s too late & we should ‘give up’ (as if that was an option), their message is one of hope, possibility, great success stories, and paths to a better future. In fact robust, positive debate is increasing about which approach to carbon drawdown will work best/fastest: a green new deal, world war carbon, a substantial carbon tax/invest program, or some other creative construct. But its not others who are called to act now; we each must vote, consume, live, demand and advocate as if our lives depended upon massive, urgent Carbon Drawdown.

By COP25 next year (in Costa Rica perhaps?), public opinion needs to be far more strident and demanding of huge scale action everywhere, but especially in the “climate axis of evil” countries like mine (the U.S. and its ‘friends’). Perhaps the biggest COP24 takeaway is that NOW (not later) is the time for massive mobilization for carbon drawdown. The canaries have spoken.

Looking foward…