Embrace climate change challenges and prosper

Professor Mike Hulme, a leading authority on climate change, has said society and business could benefit by rising to the challenges posed by the shift in the global environment.

Speaking at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership's annual conference on Thursday, June 15, the Tyndall Centre's Professor Hulme said we needed to find ways to manage the unavoidable consequences of climate change and avoid the unmanageable.

The professor said he had as little time for those who preach environmental Armageddon as for those who deny the existence of man-made climate change.

"On the one hand we have the President of the USA who comes across as remarkably complacent and on the other we have the likes of James Lovelock who, in his latest book The Revenge of Gaia, paints a doom-laden picture of the future.

"I'm equally unhappy with either of these two extremes - we need to be realistic about what we're doing to the planetary systems but also be creative and constructive about looking at the way we live on the Earth."

He said that while climate change was hardly to be welcomed, it might act as a catalyst which would help industry and society to take steps towards sustainability which they ought to have already considered.

"Humans are clearly interfering on a major global scale, not just with the climate but with many other components of our planetary habitat.

"And that means we've got to be a little bit smarter about how we develop our societies.

"That means adaptation or building resilience into projects."

Improved energy efficiency, more sensible use of finite resources, renewable and secure supplies of energy and water, reduced pollution and traffic congestion, addressing poverty in the developing world and a greater sensitivity towards the earth's biodiversity were all potential benefits of the coming crisis, said the professor.

Business also has the potential to reap significant benefits from the apparent problem, he says, as it offers to open up new areas of innovation and gives a chance for companies to make reputational and financial gains by staying a step ahead of competitors in their response to climate change.

But, warned Prof Hulme, we should still be making every effort to reduce our impact.

"There are limits to how much climate change our society can manage its way through," he said.

"And we need to build a low-carbon economy both here and internationally.

"The overall challenge is to decouple growth from energy consumption and while we have come a long way, we haven't progressed far enough, or fast enough."

Sam Bond



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