The Inevitable Risks of Climate Change Become the Immediate Impacts for Some

Posted by | November 20, 2013

As is so often the case, real time global events offer inspiration and motivation for the work being done by Portfolio 21 and undoubtedly for efforts being made by our clients as well.

Over the course of two weeks this month, government representatives from around the world are meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland. This meeting and an ever elusive resolution on this topic are essential because humans are in the process of changing the global ecosystem in ways that are already causing deaths around the planet. This situation is obviously getting worse. Today I find both hope and despair as I track some of the material being presented and proclamations being made, both to and by conference participants.

The United Nations Climate Change Secretariat has put out a press release under the heading, “Poorest countries finalize comprehensive set of plans to deal with inevitable impacts of climate change.” This is a clear message: climate change is here, it is happening, and it has a much harsher impact on people in poor countries than it has upon people who are not poor. As if we needed a reminder this particular week, when today the Philippine national disaster agency raised the death toll in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan to near 4000. While much of the conference is geared to facilitate policy level solutions to mitigate the contributors to climate change, there is an increasing tone of inevitability and immediate risk associated with climate change.

The conference is also a time during which many non-governmental organizations release scholarly research on critical areas of concern related to climate change. The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) just published the Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers. This report details the damage being done to the world’s oceans as a result of fossil fuel burning, the release of carbon dioxide, and the resulting change to ocean water chemistry. It also presents some likely scenarios in a high carbon future. The IGBP uses a total system approach to analyzing the changes to the world’s ecosystem caused by human activity, as well as the interaction between the ecosystem and socio-economic systems.

Today, humans are quite literally managing our planet’s ecosystem. This is primarily being done out of the self interest, often backed by a profit seeking motive, of individuals and the corporations they have created.

Collectively, the activities of humans are changing the ecosystem in ways that are unpredictable and therefore increase risk of a myriad of types. As a rule, the negative changes in terms of the ecosystem’s ability to support human life are felt first, hardest, and last on the part of the world’s population that lacks the financial power to escape the change. Environmental issues are social issues and issues of social justice.

Broadly stated, this is a primary motivator for me to do the work of Portfolio 21.

Finally, this takes me back to The Great Acceleration, a publication and presentation the IGBP originally published in 2004. Check it out and I’m certain you’ll feel the urgency to foster positive change.



John Streur is President of Portfolio 21. He has 25 years of experience in the field of investment management. 

Post categories: climate change, energy, environmental justice, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, natural disaster, weather

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