What a week. Not because I had gone out for a week (although I must admit that was really much needed), but because global temperature measurements had indicated an average global temperature that was unprecedented and (no surprises there) record-breaking. And while the week had just started, Monday's record was immediately overturned the next day. Such news makes me worry, but on the other hand it gives me strength, strength to continue with our mission (see below) and knowing I'm not alone as an entrepreneur.
No normal phenomena
We have observations of nearly 50°C in places where we don't expect it, we have droughts that lead to forest fires that burn gigantic areas to ashes, we have floods and storms whose damage runs into billions ... The list goes on and on. In recent decades, we saw phenomena warned about as early as the 1970s (I kid you not). Yet we still continue to pump massive amounts of fossil into the atmosphere and seem to prefer to look away rather than look in the mirror. And I keep wondering why, after 50 years of warnings, we still keep doing our thing.
Even now, when the planet is giving us a clear taste of what the new normal is going to be via rapid changes in climate, people don't seem to care. Yes, I am talking about the many reactions on social media to the above news of record-breaking average temperatures. I just couldn't resist consulting the coverage of a high global average temperature on social media. The reactions there are simplistically selfish and typically navel-gazing (I would almost say 'stupid'). What do people, who are exclusively concerned with themselves, need to have their eyes opened?
Play, repeat, pause
'This is normal as climate changes all the time, enjoy the hot weather', 'Yes! It means I will save energy in winter', 'Climate cycles are normal, to hell with climate activists and so-called scientists'. And the list goes on. It seems that we somehow have lost the ability to take a critical stance on the matter.
Also politicians seem to worry less or listen to lobby groups. Take our prime minister who recently suggested hitting the pause button on the European Nature Restoration Act as we have other more pressing priorities. Allow me to respond. We keep cutting down forests and draining mangroves and wetlands all over the world, while the very same nature is responsible for capturing carbon from the atmosphere. We keep pouring concrete or use the cleared land to grow crops for animals that in turn emit more CO2 than the crops that feed them. All this, of course, also affects biodiversity, which is declining at an accelerated pace. So we keep cutting off branches until there is nothing left. And we are thus prepared to invest billions in damage repair, while we could have absorbed/captured a lot with the introduction of more nature. More trees automatically means better groundwater retention or better water absorption during stormy weather. More trees mean more cooling through evaporation below the leaf surface. And there really is a lot of open area to fill. And yet we keep on going.
Setting goals at climate conferences and making promises in front of reporters always deliver good headlines and visibility, but now it's really about bloody time we start acting on them. Yes, investing in prevention and green initiatives costs money, but repairing the damage over and over again, will most definitely cost us way more. In the meantime the green economy keeps creating jobs and opportunities.
So what solutions should we consider then?
Stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry
Why should kerosine for airplanes or diesel for ships not be taxed or receive specific subsidies? As long as we keep doing that, the industry will not be pushed to look for alternatives. Not really proud of my country's ranking (Belgium) by the way. Use the funds to make electricity cheaper and give consumers a valid argument to move away from gas for heating, use fossil fuel funds to make public transport cheaper and more efficient and to make emobility a no-brainer.
Redefine subsidies for agriculture
Only increase agriculture subsidies to support farmers who explore new technologies, who experiment with new crops adapted to a changing climate, who invest in forestry, all in an effort to decrease land usage and water consumption by livestock. Livestock has a big impact on CO2 emissions worldwide. Pesticides impact biodiversity. Decrease subsidies for a status quo or any action that has a proven negative impact on climate and environment (I can imagine that certain parameters have already been launched related to the topic; would need to further investigate).
Give nature a legal status and representation
We change river beds, we cut forests for housing and industry, for growing palm oil and soy, we use vast open lands for agriculture and livestock, we keep using large quantities of pesticides killing necessary bee populations for pollination. We keep doing that with the idea that we as a species sort of 'own' nature or the planet. Yet, all of that is decided without giving nature a say in the process. Give nature therefore a legal status and have it represented when decision makers have plans that impact nature. Create legislation to make that possible and outline when nature is to be represented.
Entrepreneurs, companies and manufacturers to the rescue
When I pitched the idea of founding Watt's Next back in 2020, it was with a clear mission in mind:
- moving individuals and businesses towards a greener future (optimising energy consumption, energy storage, energy generation, e-mobility);
- participating in the social and public debate to accelerate energy transition;
- urging policy makers from an entrepreneurial angle to move stones and embrace innovation;
- writing and talking about climate and the steps we can take to safeguard future generations from a heavy carbon legacy from previous generations.
To be able to meet those goals I started using this medium (LinkedIn) to connect with companies, entrepreneurs and (car and charging infrastructure) manufacturers who had the same mindset. After all, why would I have had to start from scratch while so many people can together be a bigger voice. Well, I must say it was with some restraint and a cautious mind that I started approaching people, but boy, did my eyes open. While any reporting on climate seems to be doom and gloom, I meet people with a clear view, tons of knowledge on energy and climate topics and solutions who just like me keep advocating them, keep communicating and sharing that very knowledge and insights to advance, to move policy makers to take action. All in positivity and a strong belief we can make a difference. That's exactly the drive I need, the drive maybe you need to ensure that path we are paving right now, is the right and necessary one.
We're all in the same boat and need to face reality, whether you like it or not. So why not make the best of it and ensure that we, as entrepreneurs, as business managers, as manufacturers use our voice to at least pave the way for a different future? Naive? Well we need to start somewhere, so why not today?