Leadership is the single most important factor in tackling the enormous number of environmental challenges we face. In particular, we need leadership in every sector of society to bring about the wide-ranging changes required to confront the threat of Climate Change.
We know we are facing an environmental crisis, and we have the science to understand the nature and scope of the crisis. There is almost complete consensus amongst scientists that climate change is a major and dangerous threat to both humanity and the ecosystems of the planet (Union of Concerned Scientists). We do not need more research or evidence, we need leadership to provide solutions.
Rajendra Pachauri who heads the IPCC panel that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore said in November 2007 â€œIf thereâ€™s no action before 2012, thatâ€™s too lateâ€¦What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.â€ (as reported in the New York Times 11/18/2007).
We have the knowledge and resources to tackle the problem. There is already a wide range of available technologies, tax instruments and policies that could help to mitigate climate change and eventually reduce the threat. Strong leadership would greatly accelerate their implementation and effectiveness.
We also have the financial resources to implement the necessary reforms. Indeed, the irony is that spending money on alternatives to fossil fuels would reduce dependence on oil from areas of high risk and conflict, which would in turn save money and reduce the risk of war.
The potential cost of global warming is staggering. In 2006 the most comprehensive report on the economic impact of climate change was published in the UK. The Stern Report suggested that the total cost would amount to $9 trillion. This was followed in 2007 by the University of Marylandâ€™s research report on the Economic Impacts of the cost of Climate Change to the US. Environmental Leaders are urgently needed to provide the vision, the will and the ingenuity to divert resources to dealing with climate change.
There is strong public support for such initiatives. A recent BBC poll of 22,000 people across the world found that 83% of respondents would be prepared to make personal sacrifices to address climate change. Most surveys show strong popular support for action. A recent CNN poll shows that 62% of Americans should do what it takes to reduce global warming. A Yale study in 2007 found that 63% of Americans see environmental threats such as global warming to be as serious a danger as terrorism. Again the absence of leadership has meant that such support has not been mobilized into specific policies.
Finally, it is unlikely that we can bring about change if we rely exclusively on our own efforts as individuals. The scale and intricacy of the required changes are beyond individuals to bring about on their own; our behaviors are intricately embedded in complex socio-economic systems dependent on fossil fuels. Leadership is required in business to develop low-cost renewable energy; in government to provide the incentives and regulation to promote renewable energies and reduce carbon emissions; and across society to encourage new values and behavior which ensure we change our lifestyles and adopt renewables. Indeed, leadership is the most important element in making progress on all fronts to save our planet from potential catastrophe.