"I was waiting for some theme music. I actually asked my staff what the theme music should be and this is going to date me and probably none of you will even know it, but my favorite so far is The Tide is High by Blondie. We have to make sure that tide goes down. I'll talk about that in a moment, talking about disasters.
Yes, one person can make a difference, absolutely.
If that one person is Mike Bloomberg and he's the Mayor of New York and New York City is losing jobs at an incredible rate on a daily basis at the peak of the financial crisis in April 2009. The entire economy of the city is up for grabs and he still decides he will push through new building regulations in New York that eventually, now, just 4 years later, have improved efficiency in buildings by well past the target he set. I think he achieved almost 30% efficiency from certain kind of buildings, and he did it in the teeth of a financial crisis. Yes one man can make a difference. But that person might be the farmer who decides to plant a different crop, or it might be you, it might be me. One person can make a difference.
Education? I think that one of the things that I see is that none of the solutions, and the solutions are at hand, the solutions are not unknown in many cases, but most of the solutions are multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary. And I think that that is still very difficult to get your head around or get an exposure to in the current education system. We tend to teach water engineers a certain approach to water. You can be an effective water engineer today then you need to understand pathways of urbanization, you need to understand climate science, you need to understand agronomy. I mean there is no one solution that one discipline will be able to find, and working across disciplines has been something that has bedeviled academe since it began and continues to bedevil it today. It's one of the biggest struggles that organizations like mine, is how do we work together in teams bringing in different disciplines.
If you're a small farmer, if you're a householder in a slum in a city somewhere, no one engineer is going to solve your problem for you. You're going to need an approach that understands how you are managing your budget, managing your land, managing your inputs, managing the weather, managing your family, managing the education expenses. Your life is complex and we're not really taking that into account.
How you educate media? I think one very big problem we have is how to communicate science. Most scientists, I'm not a scientist so excuse all of you who you are. The need to be specific, to hedge, the need to reveal probability. This is difficult to communicate. Just look at the communication over the last ten days since typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Can we say that that one storm can be attributed to climate change? No. Can we say that the ocean off the coast of the Philippines is higher than it was 20 years ago? Absolutely. That's measurable, we have the data. Can we say that the ocean off the coast area of the Philippines is warmer? Yes! Does that mean that the storm surge was bigger? Yes! Does that mean that if that same typhoon had hit the Philippines 20 years ago today it would have had a different impact. Yes! Is that due to climate change? Yes! But how to communicate trends, how to communicate scientific data is really important.
It's even more important in countries where science itself is being challenged, where science itself is seen to be up for grabs and there are certain societies where the role of science in informing policy is up for grabs. It will be your generation that has to turn back the tide.
We need science to inform policy and then we need good policy.
Short term narratives? Absolutely, and there are really good short term stories to tell. This is a negotiation about gases, it's about carbon, it includes methane, it includes hydrofluorocarbons. There are things we can do tomorrow to take methane out of the atmosphere, it's an accelerant of long term climate change, it's a short lived climate pollutant. You can get results within days, weeks, months. Not covered in the convention is soot, black carbon, the stuff that chokes children, the stuff that lies over crops and decreases their productivity. If we could take black carbon out of the atmosphere, which means changing people from bad cookings stoves to clean cooking stoves, which means getting rid of diesel engines, which means stopping forest fires. If we could do that we could have a huge impact on the speed with which we're arriving at 2 degrees.
So there are things that can be done that would give you a short term immediate climate benefit in terms of slowing greater change, but would also clean the air so that kids don't choke in the playground and they don't have to play inside. That mean you can commute to work without getting black on your face. That you don't take a selfie with your iPhone in a city in northern China and not be able to see yourself. These are short term impacts with what we call health benefits which have productivity co-benefits and will slow the rate of climate change.
And then you talked about not being able to tell the story of win-wins. The greatest win-win is agriculture but we're not even talking about agriculture. I don't know if you're following this, but the negotiations have punted, which is a tactic used by most English football teams playing Poland. Just kick the ball all the way up the pitch. We're not very good at ticky-tack in England as you know. But they've been punting the negotiations on agriculture from one scientific meeting to another scientific meeting, to another scientific meeting.
Why? Well, some people have genuine political concerns that if we talk about agriculture in the climate negotiations we're going to start talking about putting emissions targets on the least developed countries at a time when the developed world has still not come through on what it promised. But if you leave the negotiations and you go into the real world, agriculture offers a triple win. It offers the opportunity to increase yield which is so important because we have to feed a growing population on, according to climate change, less productive land. We will need to use genomic research as we do today to produce varieties of different crops, increasingly food crops, not just wheat, maize and rice in order to feed that growing population with nutritious food.
We don't just want to fill stomachs, we want to fill stomachs with vitamins, minerals and proteins so kids can actually learn when they go to school. But climate smart agriculture offers the opportunity to increase yield, increase income,oh and by the way, if you intercrop between trees and fruits and trees and grains, if you use trees to protect the riverine, the river banks around your property, if you use drop for crop, new low tech irrigation technologies, you can actually reduce emissions from the way in which we are using the land.
In climate change most things are a trade off. Agriculture is a win-win-win and we're not even talking about it.
So I think you're absolutely right, we've got to find ways to bring these messages forward. Then you talked about solutions and the problem that it's still perceived as a development versus climate debate. I'm more optimistic. It was the case, in the World Bank we're a development financial institution. For years it was thought we should not be talking about climate change because we are a development organization, but increasingly we have understood and we are not alone that we cannot eradicate extreme poverty, extreme poverty, measured by an income of $1.25cents a day, unless we grapple climate change. Because while 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty over last 20 - 30 years, they will not continue to stay out of poverty, nor will their neighbors follow them out of poverty, if climate change means we are going to have intense droughts every 2 years rather than every 5 years in the Sahel. If we are going to have intense droughts in the Horn of Africa every 10 years as opposed to 20 years. If a country like the Philippines is going to be buffeted by category 5 storms rather than category 3 storms as frequently as it is, and lose percentage points of growth every year. Because when you lose that growth it will be the poor and it will be the vulnerable that suffer. So I don't think it's a trade-off any more, I think it's a case that you cannot guarantee long term development any more unless we grapple with climate change and by the way we will not be able to grapple with climate change unless people are empowered, and have access to finance and land so that they can choose to use the light emitting diode solar lamp rather than the kerosene lamp, which chokes them and makes their kids ill. So we have to have both.
We believe we can't solve climate change without poverty and we can't solve poverty without climate change. These two are inextricably linked and they are the moral challenge of this generation.
I was in Boston just a few weeks ago with the privilege of listening to Rob Sokolow speak. Professor Sokolow invented the wedges, so this idea that emissions come from wedges of energy, transport, agriculture, forests and land use etc. It is now the way we frame our journey for solutions. He's 75 now and retiring and he is one of a generation of scientists across the world who in the late 1960's came to the beginning of their professional academic careers as physicists and as chemists, at a point in time when the world, when that generation, the generation before me was becoming aware of environmental boundaries, of environmental crises for the first time. This in the US was the era of Earth day, this was in Europe it was the birth of WWF, the birth of Friends of the Earth, the birth of Greenpeace.
These scientist who are now 75 are now are turning around and saying "we're done". We have done amazing things in our lifetime in science, but now for all of those of you at the beginning of your careers, you have to think about what you're going to do in the next 50 years. So he was saying "look over 50 years this is what we've done," and he referred to a moment in 1969 when an elderly professor put his arm around him and said to him "over my lifetime we have stopped nuclear war but we have not found a way to produce energy from nuclear fission or fusion safely, this will be your challenge". The thing I'd like, if we're going to build a movement, the thing I'd like all of you to think about is what are the challenges you're going to solve in your generation in the next 50 years. And in 50 years time, as Rob Sokolow threw down the challenge to my students, Rob Sokolow said and you should be thinking in 50 years time as you are standing here or in the negotiating halls or reporting out, what will be the challenge that you throw down to the generation coming after you in terms of what will still be left undone?
But what you will have had to struggle for is that many of the challenges are still unknown, still to be decided within in the climate context. That is your challenge.
I just want to end talking about disasters and money because that's what is being negotiated across the road. How many of you born after 1985? Oh god, that's really depressing. In 1985 I was young. I was a student and in 1985 the world was transfixed by TV images of the drought in the Horn of Africa. Fionna, my colleague here, was running around as a radical journalist trying to mobilize the whole of the South Pacific and Australia around this issue. Since that date the cost of natural disasters have quadrupled. In your lifetimes the costs of natural disasters have quadrupled. Now we understand what CC is going to do to intensify natural disasters, we have to start asking ourselves how can we afford this, not just in terms of the tragedy of human lives, but how are we going to be able to afford this economically.
What's being discussed over at the convention is loss and damages and who's going to pay for it. What we have been doing is bringing to the conversation evidence that you can reduce the cost of loss and the cost of damage by investing in resilience. This comes back to the point you made about short-termism and long-termism. It's like buying life insurance or health insurance when you're in your 20's and young and you can drink 16 pints of beer and still get up the next morning for a lecture. I can't do that anymore. You put off till tomorrow what you don't need today.
We need to invest in resilience today. And the cost of that is going to have to come from development finance, from your taxpayers money when you pay in a developed country for overseas assistance. It's going to come from climate finance which s going to come out of taxes in a developed country and increasingly from other countries. And it's going to come from humanitarian assistance. When you pick up your cell phone and you type 55505 in response to a disaster call. So you're paying for this and you are going to pay more and more for it unless we build what we know about resilience into the way in which countries develop. We know that for every dollar that you invest in early warning systems, the sirens go off there's a tsunami coming, the sirens go off because a typhoon has changed course. For every dollar invested in early warning, you can save up to $35 in the cost of reconstruction. I would put it to you that you have an absolute material as well as moral interest in how we sort out loss and damages, and that's just on building resilience, that's not even addressing the question of who is going to compensate for entire societies when they have to move because their agriculture systems can no longer grow effectively or be productive at 4 degrees centigrade or 4.5 degrees centigrade, or 5 degrees centigrade and that's being discussed.
I think that for your generation and my generation and for my kids, climate change is redefining what it means to be in solidarity. I think climate change is redefining what it means to be generous.
Because if we're going to pay for all of this with some line items in our budget, wouldn't it make sense to do things which mean those line items are not going to get bigger and bigger and bigger? And that brings us back to the obligation to mitigate and the obligation to reduce emissions and what I see happening at the negotiations is this mitigation adaptation on the one hand and on the other, the debate is now becoming a much more difficult discussion around who pays, in what way, when and how?
Which brings me to the final finance discussion. Making development resilient, raising the road up so it will be above the flood line, building schools so they don't wash away, putting a water treatment plant somewhere other than a flood plain is going to cost about 25% more. We estimate that every year a trillion dollars could be invested in infrastructure. That's the gap, the infrastructure gap. If you're going to make it resilient then you're going to make it a trillion and a quarter, and of course you want that infrastructure to be green infrastructure as well, you want to be building geo-thermal power plants and not coal fired power plants where you can, or if you're going to build coal fired power plants you want to do them with carbon capture and storage, which is very expensive and technologically still not sound.
Making the world resilient costs more up front, but as I've just said it will save money over time because you will save lives and you will save money from that resilience. The costs of mitigation are also very expensive. And it will be us and you who are going to pay for this. We can pay for it now and pay for it smartly, we can use public money to leverage private investments, we can agitate with our governments to put a price on carbon, either through taxes or a price on carbon through a market trading system. We can do it whichever way, I don't care, but we'd better put it on now because every day we do not price what is bad we are simply storing up trouble for ourselves financially down the line.
If you live in a European country in the European Union, the probability that about 10% of your pension is invested in the oil industry and coal industry is pretty high. What will happen if the value of that asset starts to decline in the middle of the next decade. What's going to happen to your pensions? The sooner we act now, the better we'll be off financially in the long run
This is about building a movement, you are the movement.
As you said at the very beginning every one person can make a difference. If you look at the example of the women's movement, the gay rights movement, of the movements that have transformed within a generation not just what is happening in the world, but the way in which young people think about what their lives might be then every single person has made a difference. I used to work for a woman who had grown up at a time when she could not go to law school, she had grown up at a time when as a Jew she could not get access to certain buildings, she'd grown up at a time when she was stoned and had vegetables thrown at her for defending black men, who were civil rights heroes in the south of the United States.
I've learned form a women, who when she was pregnant and defending a black man in the civil rights movement, had to sleep on a bench in a railway station because no hotel would let her stay there. And she said to me, "Rachel, you will face moments in your life when you'll stand at a fork in the road and you will have a choice to do the brave thing, the courageous thing or the other thing." If you want to make change you're going to have to take the brave fork in the road. That's your challenge.
Thank you very much."
Photo: Ryan Rayburn/World Bank