Is sustainable development feasible? Can we elaborate sustainable development goals and carry them out in time? In this confusing and confused and distracted world, where the world is running very powerfully off course in many ways, climate change, the 6th great extinction, cities in danger, food supplies under threat, massive dislocations, widening inequalities of income, high youth unemployment, politics not working very well. Is it even conceivable that we can get on course? It’s not an empty question. It’s a very deep and real concern, and, some of the most important thinkers in the world have some expressed some very, very serious doubts. 3 authors have recently, all whom I tremendously admire, have in a way made me shutter in a way with their their pessimism. Jane Jacobs, who has passed away, was one of the worlds greatest urbanists. And champions of vibrant sustainable urban areas. In her last years of life, wrote a book called Dark Age Ahead. It was ooh, a troubling book to read from such a wonderful thinker who argued that we’re not making it right now and not only on the wrong track but that the tendencies continue to worsen. Communities are fraying public spirit disappearing. Higher education dysfunctional in what it’s really teaching bad science phony science that elevated and crowding out real science. Governments not responsive to real needs, but responsive to vested interests. A culture that is somehow distracting us from the central challenges that we face, all of the things we’ve seen and led Jane Jacobs what a marvelous and wonderful and influential thinker to this kind of very great pessimism. Who could rival the pessimism of the title of, of Martin Reese’s book. A great astronomer, Sir Martin published a book Our Final Hour, Will Humanity Survive the 21st Century? Well, the title tells it all, that this is a message, conditioned and saying yes of course there is a way out but how dangerous are circumstances. And the great ecologist the pioneer of the interconnectedness of global ecosystems, James Lovelock the inventor of the Gaea theory of the interconnections of the abiotic and biotic features of the Earth’s systems. Wrote in, in his recent book, The Revenge of Gaea, where he declared that we’ve already lost it, we’ve passed the planetary safety margins so far, that major parts of the world are doomed to disaster. Afterwards, he pulled back a bit and said maybe that is too pessimistic, too horrifying a thought. But I think we do make a mistake if we are glib, easygoing, saying that all of this is pretty straightforward. A small tweak here, a small change there and we’ll be on our way. Sustainable development is, simply speaking, the greatest challenge, the most complicated public policy challenge that humanity has ever faced. Climate change alone has that characteristic but add in these other challenges of a rapidly urbanizing world, of a great extinction process under way because of human domination of ecosystems, over extraction from oceans and land resources, the massive illegal trade that we talked about. These are science-based issues where there’s not enough public literacy worldwide in the scientific underpinnings. These are issues of tremendous uncertainty. Even the most refined models of climate are models of great uncertainty because there are many gaps in our understanding of how Earth systems work, and perhaps many intrinsic uncertainties in a perhaps chaotic non-linear underlying system. This is a multi-generational problem which oh, we’re just perhaps completely unequipped in tradition to think about. We have to think ahead many generations. We’re talking about parts of our economy like energy, transport, infrastructure. Food supply which go to the core of our economic life and they need major technological overhaul. There are powerful vested interests like big oil which I have referred to on many occasions which have hindered clarity and progress on implementation. There are long lead times in rebuilding our infrastructure because the life expectancy of the infrastructure of a power plant is a half a century, of our buildings, often a century or more. And we have very limited space left partly because we have, in a way, frittered away the last 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit. And one could argue we’ve been on notice for decades longer than that. We mustn’t give up hope. Partly because we have identified very specific ways through our backcasting and road mapping. Of which we’ve only touched the surface, but illustrated those two processes of how we can get from here to where we need to be. We have identified technologies that can decarbonize the energy system, and lead to tremendous energy efficiency. We have identified technologies that can economize tremendously on land, raise agricultural productivity, reduce the fluxes of nitrogen and phosphorous, and the kind of poisoning of the estuaries that they cause. We’ve shown how cities can plan ahead, and design infrastructure which makes for a much higher level of well being. In other words, these are opportunities within our grasp. Not pie in the sky, not fanciful science fiction of the 23rd century, but things that we know how to do where the costs are absolutely within reach. And in many cases such as wind power, for example, where the costs are already close to the alternatives of fossil fuels where we already have, as I’ve mentioned before with the term grid parody or near grid parody, with these renewable energy sources. So we can already see ways through the back casting and the road mapping, the identification of the pathways of how we could succeed in the sustainable development goals just as the world has made tremendous progress in the millennium development goals. I also believe that despite the cynicism, the darkness, the confusion, the miserable politics, in my own country and internationally on many of these issues, that we can make a breakthrough. Even though it looks as if the political systems are unresponsive, things can change. And the most important message that I would give is that ideas count. Ideas matter, and they can have an effect on public policy far beyond anything that can be imagined by the hard bit and cynics who say, that idea isn’t backed by the money. It’s not backed by the power, the influence, the insiders, the elites, so you don’t stand a chance. Because throughout history ideas have been trans-formative. And I think about some of the greatest movements in history of transformation of the last two centuries that have accompanied our journey of modern economic growth itself. First the end of slavery, which was a massive social movement. Perhaps the first of the social activist movements of it’s kind in modern history. In England in the home of the industrial revolution, led by William and by William Penn. The younger, the prime minister, who was also the classmate of Wilbur Force. And by other brave leaders, who took a campaign to end slavery that seemed completely, deeply embedded in the colonies of the British Empire. It took them more than a couple of decades, and there was a lot of cynicism, a lot of skepticism, a lot of dirty dealings, but in 1807 the British Empire abolished trade in slaves, and in 1833, abolished slavery in the British holdings, and ideas triumphed. It wasn’t economic interest. It was ideas and morality that in the end was the underlying force of change that led the way. We think about the struggle against colonial rule led by Gandhi and by many of his contemporaries in Africa and in Asia. And Gandhi was up against the British Empire. It seemed like an impossible struggle. And Gandhi also of course, invented and led the non-violent approach to social action and social change in a unique way. And one would’ve bet in 1910, or 1920, or 1930 that Gandhi would have been long forgotten by now and the British empire would have continued to rule over the subjects of India or of Africa. And of course, it is Gandhi’s leadership of ending the colonialism that we regard as the correct, moral answer for our age. And one that inspired the civil rights movement, the human rights movement and much beyond. And ideas played a role so powerfully that the interests were in the end completely overwhelmed. The human rights movement followed on. Eleanor Roosevelt in championing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we know that that wonderful document the moral charter of the United Nations does not exist in its full reality in the world we know that it is violated massively everyday. And that millions indeed billions of people live without the basic rights civil, political or the economic, social, and cultural rights that are theirs as human beings and reflected in the Universal Declaration. But we know that the Universal Declaration has changed the world and it has expanded the reach of human rights. It has expanded the recognition and cognizance of human rights, and those human rights ideas have empowered major initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals which have turned into real results on the ground, and so ideas, again, playing an enormous role. And those ideas of course inspired the civil rights movement and were at the 50th anniversary at the half century mark of the civil rights era in the United States and Martin Luther King’s remarkable leadership. Again, nonviolent, inspired by Ghandi, empowered by notions of human rights. As President John Kennedy said about the civil rights movement that it raises issues as old as the scriptures and as clear as the United States constitution. It was a moral issue and ideas and morality paved the way for great breakthroughs, not finished by any means, but important breakthroughs lead by ideas. And the women’s right movement and gender equality which is playing such a magnificent and crucial role in enabling the world to get on a path of sustainable development is another idea of our time. It’s been hundreds of years in the making, but it’s had great advance in recent decades. Often, in the least likely places in the world, because of the most brave people. And that brings us to the ideas of our time. The idea that we could end extreme poverty, now an official idea of an official system institution like the World Bank. And soon I think that will be at the core of new set of sustainable development goals. And the idea of sustainable development more generally as a world commitment to a safer and more prosperous and more just planet. Now to get there in all of these ideas there has had to be an underpinning of ethics, and when we talk about moving to global sustainable development goals. We’re talking also about the need for a shared global ethics. And it is heartening that many of the world’s religious leaders coming together already two decades ago in the Parliament of World’s Religions. And then in many meetings since then, have declared that the world’s religions share a common ethical underpinning, which makes it possible, even in a highly diverse world to think about the concept of a shared ethics that could underpin a shared commitment like sustainable development goals. Among those shared ethics is the one that I have emphasized: primum non nocere. First do no harm. This is sometimes expressed as: Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. The golden rule, or as it’s expressed sometimes in its positive way, do unto others which you would have them do onto you. That golden rule is the underpinning of all great religions. It is a measure of equality, of fairness, of process, of mutual responsibility. That can be an underpinning for a global, ethical effort that makes it possible for the world to take the ideas of sustainable development and to turn them into practice. Skeptics have said throughout the ages that ideas can’t win. But all of the examples that I’ve indicated have stressed the opposite. One of the darkest figures of modern history a mass killer in fact Joseph Stalin famously said in the 1930s when he was besieged by a French Diplomat to give more space for religious freedom for the Catholics in the Soviet Union. Stalin famously answered, the Pope? How many divisions has he got? And that was real politics of one of the most brutal practitioners of real politics in real history. But we know that Stalin and his system are gone. It was Pope John Paul II that played such a role in fact in the end of communism in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union and that made possible a rebirth of human rights in those regions. Stalin was given his answer. And another great action, half a century ago I think gives us a lot of practical example and inspiration today. And that was a quest of president John Kennedy in 1963. To make peace with the Soviet Union months after the world nearly came to nuclear annihilation in the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Kennedy succeeded in negotiating a peace treaty with the Soviet Union in the form of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty where both sides agreed to a major action to step back from the nuclear arms race. And more importantly to ease the tensions that have brought the two parties to the brink of nuclear war. And what is absolutely astounding for me and inspiring is that Kennedy used ideas, not power, but ideas to bring about this mutual accommodation and this advance of peace. And it’s worth listening to his words because thy can teach us today about how sustainable development can be achieved. President Kennedy gave a speech on June 10, 1963 which is called his Peace Speech. It’s a speech about values, human rights, and ideas. And the most important idea is the idea that humanity can solve its problems peacefully and can live together because what we have in common is so much more important than what divides us. Let me read you some of the message of Kennedy’s peace speech. And I quote, he says that no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Mans reason, and spirit, have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again. I am not referring to the absolute infinite concept of universal peace and goodwill, of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature, but on a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace; no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems. This is important. Sustainable development is a process, a way of solving problems. A way of solving problems peacefully and globally addressing our deep common needs using our science and technology, our know how, and our shared global ethics to get there. Kennedy was grappling with a divide between the United States and the Soviet Union, a divide of deep values, political systems, and nuclear arms pointed at each other. But his message was that because we have common interests, we can resolve our problems peacefully. And he had an absolutely magnificent way of describing those common interests that resonate today. He said, and I quote again. So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those difference can be resolved. And if we cannot end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal. Well, what a way to describe our fate on a crowded, shared planet. We are all breathing the same air. It’s now got 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. It is a threat to our well being, to our future survival. We all cherish our children’s futures, and we know what needs to be done. After Kennedy made that speech,he went on his final visit to Europe because he was assassinated soon afterward. Signed the Peace Treaty, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and few months later, he was gone. But when he visited Europe, one of his great stops was visiting his own family’s home country of Ireland. And he spoke magnificently in the Irish parliament. And he had words there that also are extremely important for us. He said to his Irish countrymen as it were, this is an extraordinary country. George Bernard Shaw, speaking as an Irishman, summed up an approach to life. Other people, he said, see things and say, why? But I dream things that never were, and I say, why not? It is that quality of the Irish, Kennedy goes on, that remarkable combination of hope, confidence, and imagination that is needed more than every today. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, says Kennedy, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not. Kennedy got his peace treaty signed, he set the world on a path for stepping back from the nuclear brink, the partial nuclear test ban treaty was signed 5 years afterward which was part of his idea of the practical step-by-step process. We are going to need that kind of practical step-by-step process. But we’re going to need, as Kennedy said, to look beyond the skeptics and the cynics. They have every reason to point out our difficulties. But we’re going to need to look forward to what needs to be done and to find that pathway to achieve it. In Kennedy’s last speech to world leaders, in the United Nations, in the fall of 1963, just after the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed. He ended his speech with absolutely remarkable words, which must be our words today. And again, I quote, Kennedy telling the world leaders assembled at the general assembly. Archimedes, says Kennedy, in explaining the principles of the lever, was said to have declared to his friends, give me a place where I can stand and I shall move the world. My fellow inhabitants of this planet. Let us take our stand here in this assembly of nations and let us see if we, in our time can move the world to a just and lasting peace. Now it’s our turn to see if we can move the world to sustainable development.
As you know by now, I like to consider, sustainable development as having four major dimensions. There are the traditional three; economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. But those three, require, all, in all cases, the underpinning of a fourth aspect and that is good governance. And so I’d like to put good governance alongside the first three as the total package that’s needed in order to achieve sustainable development. When we move to the sustainable development goals, good governance is going to play a central role in the achievement or the failure to achieve the sustainable development goals. So it behooves us to think clearly about what we really mean, by good governance. The first thing that I, I would emphasis is that governance is about the rules of behavior, especially in organizations, not only about our politics or our government, but about major organizations that are key actors in the success or failure of sustainable development. And that includes our companies. So, when I speak of good governance, I’m thinking about good governance of the public sector government, and good governance of the private sector, especially the large, multi-national corporations, so good corporate governance. It’s clear there are many, many kinds of governments around the world and many different rules of behavior, different constitutional uh,or sets of principles. And it would be futile and absolutely in any event unworkable to believe that there is one set of political rules for example that will dictate how the SPGs are to be implemented. The world’s governments in any event won’t have it that way. Nor uh,is it correct to think that there’s only one way or if there is that we would find it uniquely. Rather, we need a set of principles rather than a cookie cutter that says you must have elections on this date and it your Parliament or President or Prime Minister or, or or judiciary must be organized in the following way. That won’t fly. But what can work, I believe, is to emphasis certain principles of behavior for the public sector and the private sector. First is accountability. Governments and business need to be accountable for their actions. Businesses are in part accountable to markets, but they’re also accountable to the court of law and they need to be accountable to the court of public opinion as well. Governments are accountable to their citizens, in elections when they are democratically or democratically organized. Governments need to be accountable even in non democratic systems or systems that others would consider to be non democratic to the achieving of the objectives that they take on. So, by accountability, I mean not a specific set of election rules, though some are better than others. But rather the idea that government’s will adopt goals and they are responsible for following through and reporting, on being clear about the measures that are needed to achieve them. On public assessments of progress or failure of progress towards those goals and that should be true across all variety of political systems. That requires a second feature in my view also that transcends a specific pattern of voting or organization of the executive or the legislative branch of government. Or, similarly, corporate organization, and that is transparency. We, as citizens, we, as market participants, we, as human beings intent on achieving sustainable development Can only hold government and business accountable for their actions, if we can know what those actions are, know what the behaviors are. And that means that we have to resist secrecy. We have to resist the institutionalization of secrecy in the form of tax and secrecy havens around the world that allow politicians, political parties, governments, crooks to hide their money to hide their proceeds, to hide their behavior behind walls of secrecy. Even when they’re behavior has huge impacts On the success or failure of the globally desired objectives of saving the planet or ending poverty. So transparency is a core feature and governments of all different political systems have a responsibility in my view towards transparent behavior. Third is participation. The ability of citizens and of stakeholders, these of the business, to participate in decision making and here there are of course many different views about this and many different ways of participating. Elections are a kind of participation, but they must not be the only kind. The ability to participate through, public discourse. Through, public deliberations. Through hearings on regulation, are all extremely important. And similarly, businesses need to confront. Through institutional means and clear processes and rules, they’re stakeholders not only, the shareholders in a company, but also the workforce, also the suppliers, the consumers and good businesses have a multi-stakeholder approach. And in some countries like Germany where there’s a principle of co determination workers even when they’re not shareholders have a formal, legalized, right and responsibility for participation in corporate decision making. A fourth aspect of good governance that is part of accountability, I would say, but more specific is what’s called the polluter pays principle. And this is that all of us need to clean up after ourselves. When we are imposing costs on others not reflected in market prices. When companies pollute water ways, when they pollute the air. When any of us as individuals or as businesses put carbon dioxide into the air we need to bear that cost to internalize the externality as economists call it. But meaning in a more usable language that we need to reflect the full social costs of actions in our decision making. Consider a business, thats operating in a poor country and the poor country has very week environmental standards for example. Is it the quote,’ right of the business’ to pollute a local village even if it’s not against the law? Is it actually in so, some extremist views, I would say, the responsibility of the company to pollute that village because it’s not against the law and it’s the responsibility of the management to maximize the profit of the shareholders? Many of us would think that’s an outlandish view, but it’s actually a view that some free market purists mistakenly take, mistakenly in my view. Or would we say that it’s actually the responsibility of the business not to pollute the village even if it’s not illegal. Because there is a responsibility of, of polluters paying or bearing the social costs of what they do. It’s closely related to an, ancient and very important doctrine in Latin known as Primum non nocere. Primum non nocere in latin means, first do no harm. And a principle of good governance in my view is first do no harm. Even if the law, for whatever reason, allows you to impose costs on others It is a responsibility I would argue,not to do so because our higher responsibility is an ethical responsibility, First, do no harm. Don’t try to find every loophole or every escape valve that allows for pollution for imposing costs for destroying other species, destroying habitat. Because it is allowed because a company can make money from it. Finally I would say good governance includes in a general sense a commitment to sustainable development. A government that says after the STPs are elaborated. We don’t care. That’s not our agenda. That’s just the United Nation’s agenda, is an example of bad governance, if such an event happens. Governments have a responsibility to the planetary needs. National governments have a responsibility to the planet. It’s not good enough in an interconnected world, it’s not feasible, it’s not viable in an int, interconnected world, for politicians to say, I’m locally elected, it’s not my responsibility to undertake measures that maybe benefit others, but not my own. I, my own constituents. And so good governance I would also argue is a responsibility towards a sense of universal commitment and universal participation to sustainable development. If one government or another says we’re the only way to organize things you have to follow our constitution, we’re lost, because that will not happen. But if these basic principles of accountability of commitment to sustainable development of transparency, of the polluter pay principle of participation, of Primum non nocere, first do no harm, can be universally adopted in some approximate form, we can make important headway of governments working far more effectively together, and businesses playing a responsible role in their position in the world system.
The sustainable development goals, in order to be achieved, are going to require a lot of investment. A lot of new infrastructure is going to have to be built. A lot of new kinds of power plants are going to have to be constructed. A lot of healthcare outlays will be required. A lot of education outlays will be required. Like anything in building for the future, investing is at the core of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And When investment is required that means mobilizing resources in order to be able to finance those investments. Who’s going to pay for the Sustainable Development Goals? How will they be achieved through effective financing? Well in the end we’re all going to pay in some sense because we have to pay for the goods and services that are part of our lives. We pay for them through our incomes, but we do it in one of two fundamentally different ways. One is we participate in markets as consumers and suppliers. Suppliers out to make profit. Consumers out to purchase goods and services. And in a market sector of our economy, of course it, it is the interaction of supply and demand, which both generates the economic activity and provides the motivation for financing. Businesses build factories because they anticipate that they’ll make profits from them. Those profits, to an important extent, will come by being able to sell goods and services to the public. The other way that we buy the things that we need is as citizens. Paying taxes so that governments can provide public services, whether it’s building roads or providing health care or public education or fire and police services or funding the national science foundations of our countries and the scientific research which underpins technological change. In this sense, one can say that sustainable development will be paid for by all of us one way or another. But tremendous fights, and sometimes very bitter fights ensue as to the proper balancing of financing between the market oriented profit-seeking investments of business driven by their sales of, of goods to consumers, and the financing that comes through the public sector. The free market philosophy says, let the markets do it. Government will waste the money or lose it or squander it in some way. Whereas advocates of public leadership say markets aren’t, taking on the investments in clean energy, and they don’t build the infrastructure, and they’re not providing health care for the poor. So we need a public approach. Of course, the truth is that these different kids of financing, public and private, and sometimes public-private partnerships are complimentary mechanisms to finance sustainable development objectives. Some things work very well through the private sector. Other things do not. At the core of our analytical understanding of these issues, it needs to be an analysis of where the right boundaries are. What are the most effective ways to allocate responsibility for financing between market-based, private sector financing and public financing? Well, we know that there are cases where the market has done brilliantly almost on its own. And I think the greatest example of this is the massive expansion of mobile telephony to all parts of the world. Here’s a great technological breakthrough. We all love our mobile phones. And in a short period of time, of, roughly 25 years, the number of mobile subscribers has increased from some tens of millions around 1990 to more than six billion subscribers today, including many of the world’s poorest people. This was not on the basis of a government program. This was on the basis of private providers looking for profit, making investments in base stations and other aspects of connectivity like fiber optic lines, and the consumers buying their phones and, and buying access to connectivity. So this is an example where markets have done it. Even though, of course, we should keep in mind that the underlying technologies that made this possible started with basic science, solid state physics, quantum mechanics, and then applied engineering, much of it of which was financed by the public sector originally and then taken up by the private sector. Now other kinds of activities in no way had the kind of dynamics of mobile phones. When it came to malaria control, when even markets plus subsidies were the preferred mode of organization for financing malaria control back more than a decade ago, the uptake was very, very small. When companies producing insecticide-treated bed nets were trying to market those bed nets to the public, they found that the poorest people absolutely were not consumers, were not customers for them, even though they needed those nets to stay alive. The fact of the matter is, they were so impoverished that they couldn’t afford them. And when it came to organizing the delivery of malaria control systems, community health workers, links to clinics, diagnostic services, outreach, availability and access to the right kinds of medicines, the private sector approach simply wasn’t delivering. Very, very poor people sick and dying of malaria were not customers. They were simply very poor people, and the systems did not emerge. Then came the global fund to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. The President’s Malaria Initiative stepped up public financing. Through budgets, tax revenues being collected, either in the US and then used as international assistance, or in the malarious countries themselves where domestic budgets albeit limited because of the poverty of those countries, contributed to the fight against malaria. Then much more comprehensive measures could be introduced, but not as a profit-based activity, but as a provision of social services. Well, economics teaches us a lot about where the right boundaries are, and let me mention some of the reasons why the private approach which we’d love to be the universal one if it actually solved problems, doesn’t solve problems in particular and very important cases. First, for the poor. Markets, one can say, are designed to ignore the poor. The poor have no money or very little of it. They’re not good customers in many, many cases. And markets in that case when they feel you can’t make a profit from that, pass over the poor and the poor, if it’s a question of access to healthcare for example, can die as a consequence. And that’s why we discuss the concept of merit goods, that there are areas of our economic life: health, education and other areas where government should provide services whether people can pay for them or not because these are meritorious goods that for a number of reasons should be universally accessible. So, that’s one place where public financing is essential. Public financing is essential in areas where, for other reasons, it’s very hard to recoup the returns on an investment in a direct cash sense. Consider investing in basic science. That kind of knowledge is freely available. Scientists need to publish their papers in, in journals that are read by everybody. The returns to science come in the broad improvement in society, in the uptake of that basic science, maybe by an inventor who then owns a patent. But the scientist doesn’t patent the basic forces of nature which the scientist is discovering or uncovering in her or his research. And so, basic science requires public financing because the profit motive by itself will not be sufficient. Fortunately many countries have recognized this, even for centuries, offering prizes or grants first from the kings and queens and princesses, now from our governments and voted by parliaments and congress, to agencies like the National Science Foundation, which support the basic science. And public finance we know to be very important for social insurance when people are left unemployed by shifts of global markets, when they succumb to other kinds of hardships that can’t be insured effectively in private markets. Government is there as a kind of social safety net. These are all reasons why public financing will be crucial for the Sustainable Development Goals. And, where for poor countries that don’t have a tax base, adequate to meet the SDGs in their own countries, international help from taxpayers from the high income countries will also play a vital role. Now there are many areas where the private sector is the natural way to finance advances. The big power plants that will be built will by and large be built by private companies in the future. But in order to give the right incentives, to have those investments, we know that we will need corrective pricing. For example a carbon tax, which shifts the investments of power generation companies to wind and solar power, as opposed to coal fired power plants for example. So even when the financing is within the private sector a proper regulatory framework and corrective measures, for example to put prices or taxes on social costs like pollution or carbon emissions, is very important to make sure that the private economy providing the financing is investing in the right areas, driven by market signals that are giving accurate indicators of overall social cost and social benefits. Now there’s been an ongoing debate, very emotional, I have to say, and very tense at some points, about one aspect of public finance. And that is when tax payers in one country help to provide public services in another country through official development assistance. Some have said this kind of aid as it’s called, ODA in the technical jargon, and aid in the day to day discussions and debates, is ineffective. There are harsh critics of foreign aid per se. There are others, and I’m among them, who say that that kind of tax payer financed approach where it’s tax payers in one country helping people in poor counties is vital and lifesaving and crucial for organizations like The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria or PEPFAR or other international development efforts aimed at helping very poor people. This debate about ODA or aid has been running pretty strongly during the whole period of the Millennium Development Goals, because MDG 8, the eighth of the Millennium Development Goals calls for increased official development assistance in order to implement the MDGs. Now, how is this debate posed? Let me try to put the sides out there clearly. One part of the debate, I’m in that camp, says aid can be useful, indeed, aid is vital in certain circumstances. Then there are the critics. And the critics come in a variety of areas. One camp says aid is unnecessary, let markets do it. I’ve just discussed why markets might not reach a lot of people, but the market optimists say let the markets do it, what happened with mobile phones can happen with other things as well. A second camp of aid skeptics says aid’s wasted. It passes through too many government bureaucratic hands and that it’s inevitable that it’s going to be wasted. A third argument is that aid is absolutely debilitating, not just wasted, but that it leads to a kind of dependency mentality which is demeaning. It takes away dignity and it takes away motivation. It creates a culture of handouts. And some few say what do we care about poor people. What do we care about what’s happening abroad. Just leave us alone. That’s not the dominant view among the aid skeptics. Most say well, if aid could work we’d be all for it but intrinsically it doesn’t work. Well, these camps have been duking it out, I would say, for quite a while. And I’d like to give, of course a view of why I have been in the camp that says aid’s important in view of these very often legitimate positions taken by the aid skeptics. So let me try as best I can to explain my position vis-à-vis these critical views. First, I want to agree with aid skeptics. Much aid is wasted. No question about it. I can’t stand some of the categories called aid. When cash bills in shoe boxes are given over to local warlords because somehow they’re friends in some conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan or some other place and that that’s categorized as aid. And this is part of our problem in evaluation. What is counted as aid includes many different categories of things, some of which I would agree with the aid skeptics right from the start. No way that that’s going to work. Keep our hands and our taxpayer dollars away from that. My argument is somewhat different. My argument is that aid can work and that it is vital in certain circumstances. It’s especially vital when people are very poor and facing challenges, often life and death, Malaria, AIDS, safe child birth, safe water, sanitation, growing enough food to stay alive, that can not be met by markets. Because these are not consumers that are going to give a profit. Not right now. And they can’t be met by the meager budgets of the poor countries. And so they need help. And then the question is, is it possible to help effectively without the corruption, the stealing, the inefficiencies of the bureaucracies. And my argument is yes if it’s done thoughtfully. We need to design the aid delivery systems in an effective way. Let me refer to my favorite example of this, two organizations. One is The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, which I’ve discussed. The other is The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. Both of them pool the aid from the richer countries, have an expert process of evaluating proposals for the use of the aid by recipient countries, and then monitor very closely whether that aid is effective. To my mind, that exemplifies the ways that aid can work. Pool the resources of many donors into a common pot so that the process is simplified, streamlined. Put it under careful scrutiny with expert review and with careful quantitative monitoring and evaluation. Check what’s being done. Don’t hand over that shoe box to a warlord, filled with cash. Rather, have a plan of action that a certain amount of money is going to be used to procure bed nets, anti-malaria medicines, diagnostics, emergency obstetrical equipment, and so forth. And then, monitor what happens afterwards by a close reading. The evidence in my view is quite strong; this kind of aid has worked. So, while there were huge skeptics ten years ago, The Global Fund and GAVI, in the case of the immunizations, have both delivered on their word. We’ve seen the results on the ground. There have been cases of corruption but because the system is closely monitored, because there are quantified targets, because there is follow-up even when there is money stolen, and there will be in any human system, it’s possible to stop, check, correct, and move forward. That kind of feed back system that is so essential. I believe we need more of those pooling mechanisms, more global funds in essence, for health, for education, for safe water and sanitation, for small holder farming, for access for all to low carbon energy sources, and to mechanisms to protect biodiversity. We have a global environment facility like that, that has been established under the Convention on Biological Diversity, a major step forward. Funding those global funds properly, managing them with rigor, professionalism, oversight, and therefore, efficacy is the hallmark of a successful official development assistance effort. The ideologues often say, it just doesn’t work. But all they’re doing, in my opinion, is lumping together the kinds of policies really doomed to fail with those that are compelling and likely to succeed, and blurring these differences, rather than clarifying them and saying let’s go in the direction in which success is very likely. Let me also say we need innovation in financing. We will need a lot more public-private partnerships, where private financing is linked also to public financing in a package, and to the right kinds of regulatory steps. We’ll need this to move to clean energy, to build safe infrastructure. We’ve had that kind of public-private partnership for technology development and for delivery of new technologies like anti-retroviral drugs, to fight AIDS. So the point is, official development assistance, to be effective, and public finance in general, to be effective, requires a serious process. Like anything we do. We need to be thinking, planning ahead, back casting and road mapping, monitoring, evaluating and updating our strategies. If we do this and if we provide an adequate level of public finance the Sustainable Development Goals are in a cost range of one to two percentage points of our national income for the kind of transformations needed. Maybe if the costs are on the high end, maybe two to three percentage points of our national income. They won’t break the bank. But they won’t happen on their own through market forces alone. A clear effective strategy of official financing of national budgets for national needs and of official development assistance for the poorest countries, in particular, will play a vital role in the success of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The world’s governments have called for sustainable development goals and they are being negotiated in the United Nation’s general assembly. But does it really make a difference? Will a new set of goals somehow help the world to do what it hasn’t yet been able to do? To shift from a business as usual and increasingly dangerous path of economic development to a path of true, sustainable development. Well here, we can look at some evidence, and I think it is pretty powerful evidence. And that is to ask, what have the Millennium Development Goals meant for the world? The UN adopted, in September 2000 in the General Assembly, the Millennium Declaration including the Millennium Development Goals. And as we have talked about it at some length, those eight goals became the centerpiece of the development effort for poor countries around the world. Did they really make a difference? The answer seems to be yes. That there has been a marked acceleration of poverty reduction, disease control and increased access to schooling and infrastructure in the poorest countries of the world, and especially in Africa, as a result of the Millennium Development goals. They helped to organize a global effort. Why do goals matter? I think that the answer has many different aspects to it. First, goals really are critical for social mobilization. The world needs to be oriented in a direction, to fight poverty or to help achieve sustainable development. But if we don’t enunciate for ourselves that that’s important, it’s very hard in our very noisy, desperate, crowded, congested, overwhelmed world to mobilize a direction and a consistency of effort to achieve any of our common purposes. And so, stating the goals helps all over the world, for individuals and for organizations and for governments to say, yes we’ve agreed, that’s a good direction. There’s a second aspect that the MDG showed and that is peer pressure. When the MDGs were adopted by all governments, governments had to show we’re doing something. And even if they were not necessarily so inclined innately or deeply, to take on this effort, by being international goals they knew that progress was going to be reported, or the failure of progress, even worse, was going to be reported. And peer pressures came in where leaders at summit meetings, for example, or at the UN General Assembly, would say, how, how are you doing on the millennium development goals? What steps have you taken, what progress? I saw you didn’t make so much progress these past years. That kind of dynamic has been absolutely real. A third way that goals have mattered is in mobilizing what I’d like to call epistemic communities, or knowledge communities, to be little bit more prosaic about it. Epistemic communities are networks of expertise, knowledge and practice around challenges like growing food or fighting diseases or designing and implementing city plans. And when goals are set, those communities of knowledge and practice come together. I’ve watched how the goal to fight Malaria, for example, has helped to organize the world’s malariologists, that is, the scientists and practitioners who, as a career, and as a life calling, in many cases, have taken on the challenge of fighting malaria. By virtue of having that goal, that community rose up, said, we as a community of expertise and practice, need to do something about it. That’s extremely important because governments by themselves polit, politicians, elected officials certainly do not have the expertise that exists in these epistemic communities to guide action. And these knowledge communities can make critical recommendations of what actually to do. The MDGs mobilized epistemic communities in malaria control, in HIV AIDS, in safe health, in primary education, in access to water, in access to energy. How do I know? I watched it happen and I participated in some of it. When I was a director for, then UN secretary general Kofi Annan, we had the Millennium Projects under his auspices, which mobilized about 250 experts from around the world, of these various epistemic communities, to think through much, in much more detail, how the various millennium development goals could actually be achieved. And finally, goals not only mobilize knowledge networks, but they mobilize stakeholder networks as well. What’s a stakeholder network? By that I mean that if you’re fighting malaria in Ghana or in Tanzania or in Uganda, you need to get around the table community leaders, politicians, Ministry of Health, the scientific community, leading non-governmental organizations. Perhaps church groups that have a major presence and participation in the Public health sector, International organizations, Donor organizations, Foundations. It is a roundtable of constituents that needs to be pooled together. And that kind of multi-stakeholder process is essential for the complex challenges of sustainable development and of the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease, more specifically. That has happened by conscious design in area after area of the millennium development goals. And it is one of the clearest ways that the merest statement of goals, leads to improved outcomes. By bringing together these multi-stakeholder processes. I believe that to summarize all of this no one has ever put it better than President John F Kennedy. 50 years ago, in one of the greatest speeches of the modern presidency, which I will refer to shortly at somewhat greater length, because I think it is a, a, a model, also, for us. But in his famous Peace Speech in June 1963, President Kennedy had a word to say about setting goals, because he was interested, in that speech, in setting a goal of peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Kennedy said, by defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it. That’s the essence of the importance of goal setting; helping people to see the goals. And by making them more manageable and less remote. By spelling out how they can be achieved, people can be led to move towards it and as President Kennedy said on that occasion, to move irresistibly towards the goals. So, what have been the accomplishments of the Millennium Development goals and what have their, been their major weaknesses. Probably the biggest accomplishments have been in the area of public health. Remember that three out of the eight millennium development goals are about health: reducing child mortality, maternal mortality, and the control of the epidemic, communicable diseases. And in all of those cases, the MDGs have made a very big difference. Why were they so effective in those areas? First, MDGs four, five and six could be stated in terms of specific, quantifiable targets. Reduce under five mortality by two thirds. Reduce maternal mortality by three fourths. You can measure. You can count. You can assess. You can compare outcomes with targeted pathways. And so, the ability to state goals clearly is very, very important. Second, you could make those goals seem more manageable and less remote by saying, here’s how malaria can be fought. Not just out of good will but out of long lasting insecticide treated bed nets. Under the deployment of community health workers. The use of rapid diagnostic tests. The use of Artemis and in combination therapies. In other words. That panoply of technical innovations that underpin a practical path to success. Third, there were specific funding mechanisms attached. Most importantly was the arrival of the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which was agreed in 2001, one year after the MDGs were adopted and put into motion in 2002. Pretty quick turnaround time. No doubt in my mind, my experience, I was there helping in that process, the MDGs made a very big difference to the birth of the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. And many individual countries, and I’m happy to say the United States the leader among them, also took on national efforts motivated by this new will to solve these problems. The U.S. adopted in 2003 the PEPFAR Program, which was the emergency program of response to AIDS, where the U.S. has put in billions and billions of dollars to the fight against AIDS in Africa. And in 2005, the United States adopted PMI, the President’s Malaria Initiative. Also, motivated by this new public health will to achieve the millennium development goals, and PMI has played a major role alongside the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, in reducing the malaria burden. Finally, the MDG succeeded in those areas because of monitoring, measurement, evaluation and feedback to program design. Now, the MDGs did not work as well in certain other areas. In areas like sanitation the MDGs are lagging behind. There hasn’t been a global fund for clean water and sanitation the same way as there emerged the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. And where the international funding was not elaborated and increased, where the goals were not made to seem more manageable and less remote, through specific detailed plans of action. Where the epistemic communities did not organize quite as well or where the political leaders were more neglectful, the MDGs tended to lag. Public health, that came very high on the agenda. Education, surprisingly, not quite as high and not as well financed and with not the same dramatic progress as in public health. Agriculture, even a bit further behind, despite some nice words about fighting hunger while progress has been real, the mobilization of global efforts have not been as effective and the real change of, of policies and politics have not been as dramatic as public health. What this shows is that there’s nothing inevitability, nothing inevitable I should say, about stating a goal and having the good results achieved. Stating a goal, helping to make it seem more manageable and less remote, is the first step implementing a plan of action. Taking the feedback is the real, long-term, importance, of what goals can achieve. And that kind of feedback mechanism is shown here in this very, very simple flow chat. The point that I want to make in this flow chart is that one starts with a set of goals and then with a way to address those goals. Next is to design policies that can implement that program of action. Next is that when the outcomes occur, to measure the feedback, and from the feedback to rethink, adapt the strategies in a continuing loop of policy, feedback, all under the, pressures and the motivation of a set of goals and a set of time tables. Now, when we turn to sustainable development, our agenda is even harder than the millennium development goals. And I can tell you the millennium development goals of fighting extreme poverty is pretty tough and very hard to get results in certain areas. But sustainable development goals will include not only the continuation of the fight against extreme poverty, but also the integration of that goal with several others, including environmental sustainability and social inclusion. So, we’ve got an even more complex set of challenges. And there are at least two aspects of sustainable development that make the problems yet more complicated. First, the natural time horizon for results is longer term. Decarbonizing the energy system is going to be a 30 to 40 year effort, even if we’re moving as fast as we can. Making our cities more resilient is a decade or more. Remember that our roads, our buildings, our power plants have a lifetime of of many decades. We’re often talking about power generation facilities that have a lifespan of 40 or 50 years. And therefore, there’s tremendous inertia in this system and there’s also, therefore, a tremendous need to be able to look forward, not to two years or five years but to 20 years or to 30 years. In setting the kinds of frameworks to actually achieve those ten sustainable development goals or their equivalent. There are two specific tools that will be important for translating SDGs into reality. The first of those tools is called back casting. I’d mentioned it before. Rather than forecasting what’s going to happen in 2040 or 2050, one backcasts to say, in 2050 we need to be in such and such location. We need to have such and such level of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, instead of trying to predict or forecast, we’ll start at our target and then move backwards to say how are we going to get to that target? How are we going to cut emissions by half by 2050? Back casting is quite different from prediction. If you look in the news papers, listen to a stock analyst. They’re, they’re guessing about the future. There not designing the future. Backcasting, even though it sounds backward, is about designing the future. Because it is starting at a future date and then working backward from the future date to the present to say, how can we get from here to there? It is setting that path. The second tool, closely related, is road mapping. Road mapping says, okay, we know where we want to be, we know where we start today. We can see the kind of trajectory. What does that terrain really look like? What are our big challenges? What are our technological barriers to overcome? If we are on a hike, we may have to cross a mountain range. If we are on a pathway of sustainable development, we may have to cross a technological mountain range. We have to get over the hump of intermittency of power. We have to get to power storage, we have to overcome the high costs of certain alternative energy possibilities. We have to pass the mountain range of a grid that connects North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, or connects the Dakotas and the Eastern seaboard of the United States, or the Mojave Desert and the population centers of California. In other words, we also need a road map for passing through difficult terrain. Now, this may seem to some people, especially to those steeped in free market economics, as a kind of planning that is impossible and is contrary to the market process. That is not correct. Why? Because in high technology industries, there is, as a norm of behavior in sophisticated industries, exactly that kind of road mapping taking place. And the most successful of all should be kept clearly in mind, it’s a great example and a great motivator for us. And that is the road mapping of Moore’s law. Remember Moore’s law because Moore’s law has created our world today. It is the information technology principle that the capacity of integrated circuits is doubling roughly every 18 to 24 months. Gordon Moore, who back in the 1960s when he enunciated Moore’s Law, was the CEO of Intel, the leading company in integrated circuits. And he noted at the time that for the past ten years or so, the number of transistors that could be packed into an integrated circuit was doubling roughly every eighteen months to two years. And that was doubling the capacity of, processing, the ability to store and, and, soon to transmit data. And cutting by half the cost of doing that because of the doubling of the capacity, in essence. And Moore, back in 1965 when he enunciated Moore’s Law said, there’s some headway ahead. This could go on another decade or two decades, more doubling, doubling, doubling. And of course that means a tremendous increase of the information capacity of central processing units or storage, or ability to transmit enormous volumes of information. All of that has transformed our world. The powerful point is that Moore’s law has continued roughly for half a century since Gordon Moore first enunciated it, and we’ve had roughly a billion fold improvement in the capacity to process, store and transmit information. And therefore, we live in a world of inter connectedness of information that was unimaginable at the time that Gordon Moore first enunciated this principle. But how was it suc, achieved? How did the industry succeed? Well, part of it was individual brilliance and genius of engineers and scientists. Part of it was the competition in the industry, but part of it was industry-wide road mapping. That’s the conclusion that I wanted to emphasize. And one of the aspects of that road mapping is a formal process called the international technology road map for semiconductors, where leaders in the industry got together and said, what are our mountain ranges to cross in the future in getting the continuation of Moore’s law. How do we push ahead another two decades of this doubling of capacity of the integrated circuitry every two years? They road mapped the steps that were needed. They did it brilliantly and we know that they did it successfully. And that has transformed our world, but it also should tell the skeptics about looking ahead. It is possible to look ahead, not to know the future, but to plan on how to overcome certain obstacles to think ahead. To be prepared for the problems that will come and to take measures so that one can pass through the mountain passes and get to the next range, the next difficulty, because we know where we want to go in 20, 30 or 40 years. The final point of sustainable development that will be absolutely crucial is that like the millennium development goals, the SDGs will be a multi-stakeholder process. We need engagement across the public sector, the private sector, civil society, individuals and their own motivation, scientists and engineers in academia. In research centers, foundations, this is all a hands on, this is an all hands on effort this is the kind of challenge where humanity from every part of society is going to have to get involved. It may seem fanciful. We don’t want those planetary boundaries staring us in the face. We don’t want these risks coming so intensively and so rapidly, but that’s where we are. And that’s why the speed of action is so important. And why the multi-stakeholder approach, that mobilizes all parts of society, will be so vital. That’s a big round table. It’s a lot of discussion, it’s a lot of harmonization of different approaches. Some for profit, some not for profit. Some basic science, some very applied decision making. Some on the ground in communities all over the world, some training and educating the leaders of the future. But all of these interconnected parts of the global social network will need to be brought together in effective problem solving, decision making and implementation of the sustainable development goals.
What to do. The world has a major problem and that is that we are way off course in our goal in achieving sustainable development. We have had a 40 year run so far. Dating back to the first global conference on the environment and development in Stockholm in 1972, and the simultaneous pubication of limits to growth which correctly pointed out for the world that the challenge of combining economic development and environmental sustainability was still an unmet challenge and in unmet conundrum how can this be done. 20 years later, the world met at the Rio World Summit and adopted 3 major treaties that we have discussed on climate change and biological diversity and on combating desertification.
20 years later in June 2012, the world met for a third time on these great issues. Leaders came together from all over the world and took stock and what they realized was a very unsettling and powerful set of truths. On the one side, all of the evidence pointed out that the diagnosis first made back in 1972 was fundamentally correct that the problem of combining economic growth with social inclusion, and especially environmental sustainability, was a challenge that was so far, unaddressed and getting worse. Second, they concluded that the major actions which were hailed at the time as historic breakthroughs, at the Earth Summit in 1992, had not succeeded.
I’ve already noted on several occasions the Three Fs on the report card given by Nature Magazine to the Earth Summit. The F for climate change, the F on biological diversity, the F given on the treaty on combating desertification, not one of them delivered as promised. So with that in mind, world leaders at the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012 resolved once again to join this battle and that’s where we are today. What are we to do with the world that is going in one direction with very strong momentum. Some good, of economic growth spreading to many places of poverty being reduced in many parts of the world, but a lot that is seriously awry, and getting more and more dangerous. High inequality, some parts of the world still trapped in extreme poverty and cycles of violence and poverty and hunger and disease. And with the growing crisis, of the global environment, whether it is climate change, the sixth major extinction of species on the planet, the dangers to our cities of pollution, overcrowding, lack of infrastructure, we now need as the leaders realized at Rio Plus 20, a new and dramatic approach. Well what did they put on offer, how should the world respond? The first thing the world leaders said is we absolutely must not give up and quoting from the final outcome document of the conference called The Future We Want, the world leaders said, and I quote, we commit ourselves to re-invigorating the global partnership for sustainable development that we launched in Rio In 1992. We recognize the need to impart new momentum to our cooperative pursuit of sustainable development, and commit to work together with major groups, and other stake holders such as business, NGO’s, Universities in addressing the implementation gaps. They also noted something very important and that is that the most urgent task of all in all of the interconnected challenges of sustainable development, of economic development, of social inclusion, of environmental sustainability is the task that the world did take on in the year 2000. When world leaders adopted the millenium development goals, and that is the fight against extreme poverty. We’ve talked a lot about extreme poverty. We should recall, why it is the highest priority, and the most urgent priority and that’s because it is a matter of life and death in the absolute present conditions. One could even define extreme poverty as a condition in which survival is a daily struggle. Remember the people living in extreme poverty, are wondering when their next meal will come from, whether the next drink of water will carry pathogens that could threaten their lives, whether the next bite of a mosquito might transmit malaria to them. In other words, the challenges of extreme poverty are here and now and life and death. And since 7 million children are dying every year before their fifth birthday of conditions that are completely preventable or if not completely preventable essentially fully treatable. We have this crisis, the opportunity, the moral challenge in front of us. And so when the world leaders met at Rio Plus 20, they also noted right at the beginning of the future we want, something that I regard as completely correct. They said, and I quote, Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Unless we tackle the end of extreme poverty, we are not going to complete the challenges on the other aspects of sustainable development either. Quote, In this regard, we are committed to free humanity from poverty, hunger as a matter of urgency. We reaffirm our commitment to make every effort to accelerate the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals including millennium development goals by 2015. So in 2012, the world leaders said we have 3 years left of the 15 year period on the millennium development goals. Let’s use those to accelerate progress. Let’s remember that the millennium development goals called for cutting extreme poverty by half, something already accomplished if we take the developing countries as a group, but not accomplished country by country or region by region. And so a lot of work left to do to 2015. But then continuing on after 2015 to complete the job, now here’s where I think the leaders made the single most important step at Rio Plus 20. They said, and I quote, we recognize that the development of goals could also be useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development. In other words, they looked at the Millennium Development Goals and said, that was pretty good. That helped to mobilize world efforts on fighting poverty. We need a similar approach on mobilizing world efforts on sustainable development in all of its complexity. And I quote, we further recognize the importance and utility of a set of sustainable development goals, or SDGs. These goals should address and incorporate in a balanced way, all 3 dimensions of sustainable development and their inner linkages. I would summarizeit as saying that the world leaders agreed to make the transition from MDGs to SDGs, from millenium development goals, to sustainable development goals. Taking a leaf from the millenium development goals, the world leaders also made some points about what these new SDG’s should be. And I quote again from the future we want, we also underscore that SDG’s should be action oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national politics and priorities. We also recognize that the goals should address and be focused on priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development, being guided by this outcome document, The Future We Want. Governments should drive implementation with the active involvement of all relevant stakeholders as appropriate. Well here you have it, what I think is a potentially historic decision to move to a new global agenda with a set of universally applicable, sustainable development goals and to have those goals help guide the world, rich and poor countries alike in a new era, giving new impetus, new power, new social mobilization, new resources, new political will to a challenge that’s been more than 40 years somehow in our awareness, 20 years under international law, but to date not successfully causing a change of direction for the world. Now, in the outcome of Rio Plus 20 and the call for putting sustainable development at the very core of the international development agenda U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon honoured me and gave me a, a good challenge also which was to help create a global network of problem solving. And I’d mentioned before this new sustainable development solutions network, the idea that we need not only new goals, new political motivation and will, but we need an era of intensive problem solving, of the kind that we’ve been discussing in each of the areas of health and education and sustainable agriculture, sustainable cities, sustainable energy systems, conservation of biological diversity, and all the rest. The SDSN guided by its leadership counsel took on a challenge to advise the United Nations and the Secretary General in particular on what the new sustainable development goals might be, because these will be negotiated to the year 2015, and then be operational beyond. And so the Sustainable Development Solutions Network proposed a concise set of 10 goals that could be a framework of action. These are an illustration of course, because the governments’ meeting in the United Nations, in the general assembly, will ultimately be the ones to choose the goals. But I want to discuss what the STSN proposed, because I think that it shows the power, the range, and the kind of orientation that the SDGs should have and can have to guide us after the year 2015. So the SDSN group said, 10 goals maximum and I think that that’s a reasonable number. It’s pretty hard to get all of the objectives of economical development, social inclusion, environmental sustainability and good governance within a list of 10 goals, but to have more than that would take away the concise power of a limited clear easily understandable set of universal goals. So here are the 10 proposed by the sustainable development solutions network.
Goal number 1 – End extreme poverty including hunger and the more specific definition is End Extreme Poverty in all its forms, in other words, complete the Millennium Development Goals including hunger, child stunting, malnutrition and food and security and give special support to highly vulnerable countries. The basic idea of goal number 1, and it’s goal number 1 not by accident, but because it is the highest priority, is to complete the task started by the Millennium Development Goals of ending extreme poverty. Now, one thing to keep in mind: the World Bank, in its leadership group voted in 2013 to take on this specific objective for the bank, to contribute to ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. So the idea that completing the millennium development goals in the sense of ending extreme poverty in all its forms – income, hunger, disease, lack of access to basic infrastructure can be accomplished by our generation is becoming official policy.
SDG number 2 – Achieve development within planetary boundaries. Now, this ought to make sense by now. It says in the subtitle: All countries have a right to development that respects planetary boundaries, ensures sustainable production in consumption patterns, and helps to stabilize the global population by mid-century. So, the idea is to give support to continued economic growth, especially in the developing countries, to give support to convergence, that developing countries and developed countries should converge in living standards by the developing countries being able to raise their living standards, but for this to happen within the planetary boundaries. And we know through all of our discussions that that means changes in the way that we use energy, produce energy, changes in the way that food is grown, changes in the way that cities are designed and built and so forth.
SDG number 3 – Ensure effective learning for all children and for youth for their lives and their livelihoods. So this is the education goal. It is not stated simply as children in school, though that’s important. It’s stated as effective learning, so that children are imparted with the skills that they need to be productive, to be fulfilled in their lives to be good citizens, and to be able to find decent jobs. We know that as technology is changing, the pathways to decent work also require decent skills and good education. And SDG3, as recommended by the sustainable development solutions network, puts a focus on that.
SDG 4 – Achieve gender equality, social inclusion, and human rights for all. The point is clear. We know that sustainable development rests on one core dimension of justice, fairness, social inclusion, and social mobility and we’ve seen that gender discrimination, discrimination against minority groups, discrimination against indigenous populations are huge barriers to full participation in economic life and to a life satisfaction that is attainable if we honor human rights, if we live up to the universal declaration of human rights.
SDG Number 5 – Again as recommended by this sustainable development solutions network achieve health and wellbeing at all ages. So the subtitle of this is to achieve universal health coverage at every stage of life with particular emphasis on primary health services including reproductive health to ensure that all people receive quality health services without suffering financial hardship. All countries will also promote policies to help individuals to make healthy and sustainable decisions regarding diet, physical activity, and other individual or social dimensions of health. We saw that it is possible to reduce child mortality dramatically, to reduce maternal mortality dramatically, to raise life expectancy, to control many diseases at very, very low cost.
SDG Number 6 – Improve agricultural systems and raise rural productivity and in the more elaborate statement, it says improve farming practices, rural infrastructure, and access to resources for food production to increase the productivity of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, raise small holder income, reduce environmental impacts, promote rural prosperity, and ensure resilience to climate change. We saw the challenges facing small holder farmers, we’ve seen the problems of depletion of fresh water, depletion of fisheries, the impact of climate change. The need to create new technology based, and information based systems for small holder farmers to help raise the most impoverished of these families out of poverty, and to ensure that farm systems are resilient to the changes that are coming, and more productive. So SDG 6 recognizes the centrality of sustainable agriculture and as part of that, the sustainable, sustainability of the food supplies.
SDG 7 – Empower inclusive, productive, and resilient cities.With the longer statement to make all cities socially inclusive, economically productive, environmentally sustainable, secure and resilient to climate change and other risks. Develop participatory accountable and effective city governance to support rapid and equitable urban transformation. We’ve talked a lot about the urban challenge and we have seen using the illustration of New York City how cities can plan in detail for their sustainability on many dimensions and be recommended as SDG 7 calls on cities all over the world to take on this challenge.
SDG 8 – Curb human-induced climate change and ensure sustainable energy. Clear. And the longer statement of this goal is to curb greenhouse gas emissions from energy industry agriculture, the built environment, and land use change to ensure a peak of global CO2 emissions by 2020 and to head off the rapidly growing dangers of climate change to promote sustainable energy for all. We know that we need to cut approximately by half, world emissions by 2050 even as the world economy grows perhaps threefold between now and then. This means the decarbonization of the energy system while at the same time, ensuring that electricity and modern energy services are available for all. A huge challenge, it can be done, but it will require much faster action than we have been taking to date.
Goal Number 9 – Secure ecosystem services and biodiversity and ensure good management of water and other natural resources with the text saying that biodiversity, marine and terrestrial ecosystems of local, regional, and global significance should be inventoried, in other words, measured, managed, and monitored to ensure the continuation of resilient and adaptive life support systems and to support sustainable development. Water and other natural resources are managed sustainably and transparently to support inclusive economic and human development, in other words biodiversity. Maintaining ecosystem services, maintaining the biodiversity that is vital for the functioning of eco systems.
And Goal Number 10 – Transform Governance for Sustainable Development. The public sector, business and other stake holders should commit to good governance including transparency, accountability, access to information, participation, an end to tax and secrecy havens and efforts to stamp out corruption. The international rules governing international finance, trade, corporate reporting, technology, and intellectual property should be made consistent with achieving the sustainable development goals. The financing of poverty reduction and global public goods including efforts to head off climate change should be strengthened based on a graduated sets of global rights and responsibilities. Bottom line, 10 goals to orient the world in clear, specific ways, measurable ways, concise and understandable ways, so that the world can make the shift from our business as usual and increasingly dangerous course, to a trajectory of sustainably development for all. These are the recommendations of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It’s up to the world’s gov?ernments, following the mandate given at the Rio Plus20 Summit, to choose the sustainable development goals and set a sustainable development agenda for the post 2015 period, to make the transition from MDGs to SDGs. Can these SDGs be achieved? Can this huge effort succeed? Let’s take a look.
Some are indirect, for example, riding on the climate control effort, as feeble as it is, through red plus the initiative to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. There have been treaties of course limiting some kinds of trans-boundary pollutants that, that threaten the oceans. There have been agreements of some sort, though often quite weak, on global fisheries. In addition to those, there have been at, at least two direct important attempts to focus on biodiversity through direct international treaties. The most important of these is the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. Whose core purpose is to slow, to stop, to reverse the loss of biodiversity. The second is CITES, a treaty that predates the CBD, or the convention of biological diversity by a couple of decades to try to restrict trade in endangered species.
Both have experienced ups and downs. It’s important for us to have a look at what’s being accomplished, what isn’t to understand what we’re going to have to do. think the most important point to emphasize time and again, is that the pressures of the global economy are so strong that even when treaties or regulations are put in place, vested interest often give a powerful counter force to these measures.
And control mechanisms are often at the mercy of illegal activities, at bribery, at corruption of other limits of enforcement. So the weight and the force, and the momentum of the world economy is often so powerful that it just runs roughshod over attempts at regulation. Well CBD, the Convention on Biological Diversity, is at least a valiant attempt to try to get under control, the human threat to biological diversity. It is one of the three great multi-lateral, environmental agreements MEA has reached at the Real Earth Summit in 1992. You’ll recall that the other two are the UN Framework Convention on climate change, and the UN Convention to combat the desertification. CBD is the third of the three. And I would say that it has had a rather unhappy history. It’s accomplished a bit, but it has not accomplished at all its core purpose of heading off the massive loss of biodiversity.
So what is the CBD, the Convention on Biological Diversity? It, it says, and I’m quoting from the preamble, that affirming that the conservation of biological diversity is a common concern of humankind. It put, as the core of the convention. And I quote, the objectives of this convention to be pursued in accordance with its relevant provisions are the conservation of biological diversity. The sustainable use of its components and the fair, and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Nothing wrong with fair and equitable sharing. But what was thought about at the time in 1992 was an incredible bonanza that was expected at that point in what was called bioprospecting.
That scientists would enter the world’s forest regions and one after another would identify new blockbuster drugs that would not only be of profound value in the, in and of themselves but a profound income stream. And the question was how to make sure that the host countries rather than say the pharmaceutical companies would, would get that. It’s not completely fanciful by any means, that idea. Nature does have in its store houses still to be discovered chemical compounds of profound benefit. One of the greatest that I see in my everyday work is a, an herbal ancient remedy for fever in China. The wormwood plant called in Chinese [Xing-kuah-Soo] which became the source of the modern molecule artemisinin used to fight malaria. So nature offers wonderful products, but a lot of the driver in 1992 and a lot of the mishaps with the convention on biological diversity. Since then came from the notion that we should be focusing our efforts on who’s going to get rich out of bioprospecting rather than how we should control human activity in order to prevent a collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity for our much deeper, longer term well-being.
The treaty has accomplished a certain bit but it fell far short of what it should be doing. And one of the main reasons for that is the disgraceful behavior of the government of the United States. I of my own country. Already during the negotiations of the treaty, even though US scientists and some politicians were leading movers of the treaty negotiation itself. The right wing in the United States started to lobby against the treaty. And by the time the treaty was finalized for the Rio Earth summit, President George Bush Sr. in 1992 decided on the basis of members of his own party, not to sign the treaty. The next year President Bill Clinton came to office, signed the treaty, and submitted it for senate ratification which in the United States system requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. The senate committee looking at this treaty gave it its approval. But the senate never ratified the treaty then, and up until today. What happened is that, so called free marketeers said, why should we our activities?
Why should we agree to equitable and fair sharing of biological products our, its our drug companies, let them go make a profit. Isn’t this going to call into risk, they said, intellectual property of the pharmaceutical industry? One suspects that powerful industrial lobbies were having their say at the time. And then more and more senators, especially from Western states in the US where there are a lot of federal lands that private developers crave. Give us those lands so we can mine on them, so we can create ranches and so we can drill for oil or hydrofrack for Shell gas and so forth, said this treaty is going to be a menace to our property rights. It was a startling the kind of free market sentiment that arose that is so misguided because markets are to serve human purposes. But when markets, don’t take into account the profound externalities of individual behavior, such as the loss of biological diversity, or driving species to extinction, free markets are not our friend.
They become the enemy of human well-being, the antagonist of human well-being. And an ideology that says, leave me alone, I have perfect right to destroy species is obviously an ideology that can create havoc. And it is as odd as it sounds, an ideology of tremendous political and economic force in the United States and in other parts of the world. Here’s what senator at the time from Montana said about the treaty. US environmental laws are currently encroaching on our property rights. Provisions like the endangered species act and wetlands laws are dictating what private landowners can and can not do with their own land. This treaty, in other words, the Convention on Biological Diversity could give a panel outside the United States the right to dictate what our environmental laws should say. That is wrong. He and his colleagues prevailed. The treaty was never ratified and the US while an observer to the treaty has been conspicuous by its absence of responsibility. Of providing required and adequate financing under the treaty, and of taking the steps as a signatory in enforcing the treaty. CBD is hardly known to the United States a, as a result. I, I don’t think people of the street have the slightest idea of what the convention on biological diversity is. And when the convention signatories signed back in 2002, a commitment. A pledge to reverse the loss of bio-diversity to slow it and reverse it by the year 2010. Making a global goal to get the loss of biological diversity under control. It’s fair to say that that global goal had, I don’t know if it’s fair to say, no impact at all. I, but I think it’s probably right to say no discernible impact in actually slowing the loss of biodiversity. Well, those three multilateral environmental agreements were reviewed 20 years later at the Rio+20 Summit. And when the world went off to Rio in June, 2012, to review progress that had been made, or the lack of progress.
Nature Magazine, one of the two great English language scientific journals weeklies in, in the world, gave an in-depth analysis of what had happened under the various treaties. And they gave a report card, and you’re looking at the report card, that nature magazine gave on the convention on biological diversity. And you see main assignment. Reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. Grade an F, total failure. This treaty has not slowed the loss of biodiversity. Other assignments. Develop targets, a D. Protect ecosystems a C. We’ll look at why at least there was a passing grade for that though not a very high one. On and on, recognize indigenous rights, provide funding. A D, for recognizing indigenous rights, something we’ve already seen, indigenous communities the world over continue to face massive discrimination. And lack of recognition of their rights. Financing to offset the loss of biodiversity a solid F. The one high grade that was given was creating a regulatory framework around genetically ma, modified organisms. Whether that serves the human purpose, or chokes off the benefits that advance to genetics might give for seed breeding, for example, remains to be seen. The only other passing grade, decent grade of, it’s not even decent, but of, of a C given on that report card was of protecting areas. One of the provisions in the convention on biological diversity was to set aside protected zones and this graph shows you the cumulative protected areas in the world. National parks and national reserves, protected wildlife refuges, marine protected zones and so forth have been on the increase for decades. We see the rise in protected areas and the rise in particular of marine protected areas. [This is a contribution we, we can say of the convention on biological diversity. It has some effect, but overall that verdict of F as the overall grade on the main goal of the treaty stands and gives us a fair warning. Now, another very important treaty preceded the convention on biological diversity by a couple of decades. That is, the convention on international trade in endangered species which was signed in 1973 and went into effect soon thereafter. The idea of CITES is to reduce the pressures and dangers of species’ extinction by regulating trade specifically in endangered species. And the way that the treaty works is that the treaty takes a classification of endangered species. Species that are not yet endangered with extinction but could become so unless trade is reduced, and a third category of species whose trade indirectly imperils the species in endangerment of extinction. And with those three categories, CITES covers around 34,000 plant and animal species right now. The main idea is to stop or to ban, trade in endangered species to, and to regulate trade more generally. To head off the endangerment of species and, and of course to prevent their extinction. This treaty has an effect, but again like all international law, the real forces of the world economy can sweep aside what’s on paper and often lead to consequences that are absolutely devastating even if illegal. An example of this is the recent surge in trade, illegal trade in rhinoceros horns, and the massive kill off of rhinoceroses because of this world soaring demand. Most of this demand, virtually all of it, comes from china where rhinoceros horn is a treasured part of the pharmacopoeia of traditional Chinese medicine. It’s sometimes said that the rhinoceros horn is coveted as an aphrodisiac. Apparently that’s not the case. the, rhinoceros horn is ground into powder, and used to fight varies, diseases, in traditional Chinese medicine. And it as a extraordinarily valued commodity. But the black rhinoceros is an extraordinarily endangered species, and the numbers have fallen precipitously. One can say that the populations of the black rhino have plummeted in recent years as demand has soared for the rhinoceros horn. It’s not surprising why when you take into account that the market price for a rhinoceros horn estimated to be around $50,000 per kilo is just about the same as the price of a kilo of gold. This is a commodity worth it’s weight in gold, literally and such a commodity is bound to give rise to tremendous pressures at every part of the supply chain. Bribing local game park officials. Bribing people at port facilities that are supposed to be monitoring trade. Bribery and corruption all the way along the supply chain until the final market. Thanks to a very important recent study by Professor Lenzen at the University of Sydney and his colleagues. We find that trade in rhinoceros horns or in elephant tusks and the dangers that they pose are a pervasive problem not specific to a couple of headline areas, but involving thousands and thousands of endangered plant and animal species. Professor Lenzen and colleagues looked at thousands of threatened species. And millions of bilateral trading patterns between countries, both source countries of these products and destination countries demanding products that are using these endangered plants and animals as inputs in the production process. And their results are stunning. A very significant proportion a third or so of the endangered species that they looked at are part of important global trading chains. Meaning that it’s not good enough to stop local pressures say small holder farmers entering into a forest area. Or to think about the endangerment of an ecosystem based on local economic forces and local economic incentives. We’re talking about essentially the full weight of the $80 or $90 trillion world economy, which is providing the fuel for this massive loss of biodiversity. In this graph from the Lenzen study, you see a differentiation of species threatened by net importers, and by net suppliers of the species. So, net importers are rich countries. Like the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, U.K., and so forth. And the net suppliers are countries typically poor or middle income tropical countries that are supplying the, the tropical hard woods, or the forest products, or the other plants and animals coming from the tropical ecosystems. Cameroon, Cambodia, Russia, Thailand, Sir Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Indonesia All places that are net exporters of this endangered of these endangered species in large numbers. One of the useful graphics from the Lenzen study is the ability to trace the world wide supply chains. This is shown by this illustration from the study of two parts of this worldwide supply chain. One are trades in species where Malaysia is the supplier, and that’s shown in orange in this global map. And then our, the trade in species where Germany is the net importer, the demander. So you can look at these supply chains of endangered species, both from the suppliers side and the demanders side. And the, the main point of this graph without having to go into detail is that we’re talking not only about pervasive trade influences on the loss of biodiversity, but we are talking about global supply chains. And not simply one point to the next, but multiple countries engaged in multiple threats as consumers. And of course many, many countries engaged in threats to biodiversity as suppliers to those consuming countries. What’s our conclusion? Our conclusion is that global efforts stretching over many decades have not yet come to grips with the sixth extinction wave on the planet. Humanity is the power of influence over ecosystem functions, and its endangerment of biodiversity is so vast and coming from so many different directions. That we still lack the comprehensiveness and the weight of our politics, and our public awareness as well as our economic incentives, to get this right. When the world met at Rio plus 20, 20 years after the Rio world summit. And they had that report card of an F on implementing the convention on biological diversity, an F on implementing the UN framework convention on climate change, an F on implementing the UN convention to combat desertification. They knew that something, something different needs to be done. And we’re going to look at what the prospects are for the breakthrough of policy to a true age of sustainable development under a set of sustainable development goals. That at least have the potential to energize our actions and raise our awareness, our understanding and our motivation to take hold of these forces and make sure that we move from the very threatening business as usual path, to a true path of sustainable development.
Forests remain one of the major parts of terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. e know that forests cover something around 30% of the total land area.
And we also know that forest cover used to be a far higher proportion of, the earth’s land area, before humanity got to it.
Humanity’s been in the business for thousands and thousands of years of clearing forests. And we read accounts of the massive deforestation in ancient Greece, or in the Roman Empire, or in ancient China and India thousands of years ago. This is an ancient story, but we continue to lose a lot of rainforest, and a lot of other forest areas today, because of the increasing populations and pressures on the planet and the forces of international trade. So what has been going on from ancient times, continues and in some ways, intensifies, till today. When we lose forests, we degrade ecosystems. We also lose a tremendous amount of biodiversity. Our rainforest areas, the three great rainforest areas of the Amazon basin, the Congo basin, and the Indonesian archipelago, are home to countless species and much of the greatest biodiversity on the planet. And as those rainforests are being depleted right now, or are at threat of massive deforestation and degradation, we are also losing huge amounts of biodiversity as well. This map gives us suggestion of the extent of past deforestation, and some of the challenges of current deforestation. Every area shaded in this map, is an area that originally had forest cover.
The very light shaded areas, let’s say in western Europe or across China, or across Russia and, the Eurasian land mass. The light shaded areas in the eastern half of the United States, are areas that were original forest cover that have been deforested. So western Europe, much of the eastern half of the United States, essentially all of China, lost its original forest cover to human activity. In the case of China, hundreds of years ago that process was already complete. India as well having lost a huge amount of its original forest cover. Europe having lost a huge amount of its original forest cover hundreds and in some cases thousands of years ago. Today, most deforestation is taking place in the fast growing tropical and subtropical regions. And notably in the rainforests where population densities were low traditionally.
But had been rising and where these rainforest regions are increasingly being encroached for human provisioning, for tropical log woods, or for clearing, for farm land, and for pasture land. Or for provisioning of peasant small holders who go into the forests for fuel wood, or for bushmeat or for other needs of people living on the margins, of the forest. And the result is that while temperate zone areas were deforested in historical time, it’s now the tropical areas that are under the most direct force of deforestation today. Not because there’s something intrinsic about tropical deforestation, but rather, in a way, from a historical point of view, because it’s coming last in line. It’s a, set of ecosystems that were relatively less disturbed previously, but now are facing major disturbances in human impacts. Some of that human impact is internally driven by growing populations within countries, within Brazil or within Central Africa for example, or in Southeast Asia. But, a huge amount I’m going to want to draw our attention to, is coming from international trade.
From demands halfway around the world for these forest products and this is very, very difficult to control because it means high levels of demand, often from rich countries or rapidly growing economies like China. Even overwhelmed local protective services. It’s easy to bribe. It’s easy to engage in illegal activities even when they are on the books under legal control. This map that you’re looking at now shows us the current patterns of deforestation. It emphasizes that in areas that were traditionally deforested, say, the eastern part of the United States or western Europe, or northern Europe, there is some reforestation taking place in those areas. That’s a very healthy point. But the red areas shown on this map are areas that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment identified as being areas under a current intensive process of deforestation. And that includes parts of the tropical rainforests I’ve mentioned. Large regions in Southeast Asia. Of course the Andean region as well. Many parts of the world where there are remaining forests find those forests under threat. Forests are major providers and regulators of ecosystem services, and this means that the threats to these forests are threats to human well being. And it’s worth listening to the words of one of the great scientists of our age, James Lovelock who is the creator of the Gaia theory which is basically the theory of the interconnectedness of the world’s ecosystems and the interconnected regulatory processes of those ecosystems. Lovelock more than, most earth scientists, 30, 40, 50 years ago, emphasize the interconnectedness of the climate regulatory functions. that, and other natural flux functions of energy heat dissipation nutrient flows, and so forth, played by ecosystems. Emphasizing that when we degrade one ecosystem, we impede or undermine the functioning of ecosystems in other parts of the planet. So here’s what Lovelock says for example about the deforestation of the tropical rainforests. He says, and I’m quoting, no longer do we have to justify the existence of humid tropical forests on the feeble grounds that they might carry plants with drugs that cure human disease. Because he’s saying that was one argument that conservationists were emphasizing. Maybe the main one. Don’t cut down the rainforest, there maybe a lifesaving medicine there. There’s proof to that, but what Lovelock is saying is that’s not the only proof. Gaia theory forces us to see that they offer much more than this. Through their capacity to evapotranspirate vast volumes of water vapor, they serve to keep the planet cool by wearing a sunshade of white reflecting cloud.
So the rainforests have cloud cover above it. A lot of that cloud cover reflects the incoming ultraviolet radiation, sending it out into space, rather than having it hit the earth, warm the earth, reradiate as infrared. And so, the changing reflectance of the planet, caused by the existence of the rainforests is a regulatory feature of climate. Not intuitive, not of our everyday nature, but recognized by an interconnected earth systems science. So, Lovelock concludes their replacement by crop land could precipitate a disaster that is global in scale. The point, the point is that when we degrade large ecosystems such as tropical ecosystems, the impacts can be far more then we would recognize in the absolute direct impact of the loss of the local ecosystem services. Earth systems science teaches us that the interaction of the ecosystems in their global regulation of climate, water cycle, other nutrient cycle, nitrogen fluxes, are also of huge significance for planetary balances and for human well being. Well, the extent of degradation is enormous. The pressures are vast, and the pressures are coming from many different directions. Have a look at the island of Borneo, which is shared in the present day, by Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia, with its two states of Sabah and Sarawak. And Indonesia with the state of Kalimantan. This island is absolutely under the most incredibly rapid and deep transformation, because one of the most diverse, wondrous ecosystems of forest area is essentially being cut down and replaced by monoculture, for palm oil production. Palm oil is in huge demand, since palm oil is a very versatile product. It commands a good market price. It’s used in many home products. It’s used in cooking and for for home use. And it’s soared, in demand in recent decades.
And the maps that you’re looking at produced by UNAP, both show the actual decline of forest cover on the Island of Borneo. Up through the year 2005 and then projections that were made under a business as usual trajectory for 2010 and 2020. What you’re observing here essentially is deforestation to replace a highly biodiverse rainforest area with a monoculture of of palm oil. Now palm oil in limited production is okay and when it’s carefully monitored and measured and kept within certain boundaries, it can make sense. But if it sweeps the island of Borneo and as is similarly taking place in Sumatra and Indonesia, if you get a massive replacement of a diverse ecosystem with a monoculture, the losses will be phenomenal. The losses to regulatory functions of these ecosystems. The losses to biodiversity in the specific context of Indonesia, Malaysia.
Huge threats to the loss of, again, one of our closest Great Ape relatives, the orangutan whose habitat is precisely in these rainforest areas, whose numbers have declined, and whose habitat is under tremendous threat. And unless we take into account what is a sustainable harvesting of tropical forests. What is in the same way that we need to take into account the sustainable harvesting of fisheries, and other ecosystems. We will, before we know it, have lost these ecosystems. They will have fallen into an irreversible collapse. There’s an attempt to do something about it of course. In fact there are several attempts. One that is notable, is to link the conservation of the rainforests, and forests in general, with the climate change agenda. Because remember that perhaps 15% of the total carbon dioxide emissions each year are coming from land use change especially from deforestation. And so, the idea was taken several years ago that as part of the mitigation effort, not only should we be reducing our carbon footprint in the energy sphere, but also the carbon emissions coming from deforestation. And the project that has grown up from that is called REDD Plus, R-E-D-D Plus. Which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. And so, it’s both the thinning of forests and the clearing of forests that are the target of the REDD Plus Initiative. The idea, and it’s a good one, is to give financial incentives to farmers and to communities and to forest communities in general, often including indigenous populations. To protect the forests and to replace part of the income that in the short term they would lose from their over exploitation of the forest products, with a sustainable flow of income of other kinds including a top-up of income being provided by donor countries. Norway for example, has offered a billion dollars to Brazil. In a REDD Plus Initiative to slow or stop the deforestation of the Amazon, [COUGH] and to use this funding to create financial incentives for forest communities in the Amazon to play the role of protecting the Amazon rather than facilitating its loss. The map that you’re seeing here are the participating countries. The countries in red are countries that are actively receiving from the United Nations, support for developing REDD Plus programs. Other partner countries are shown in blue. It is a, an important effort. The funding by some countries like Norway has been extremely generous. But, it’s still a small counter pressure to an overwhelming force coming from the global marketplace for the products, either directly off the forests themselves, or for the products that are grown. The meat products or the soy beans or others that are grown, when the for, and palm oil, when the forest are cleared and replaced by other kinds of economic activity. Let’s look in more depth at programs like REDD Plus to see what the international response is to the loss of bio diversity. To see how that response is functioning to date, and to make a kind of assessment of how we might and need to strengthen that response, if we are to reverse the very powerful wave of species extinction and ecosystem loss that now is engulfing so much of the planet.
 http://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/science-2013-global-forest, http://www.earth-policy.org/indicators/C56/forests_2012.
As we’re putting pressure on ecosystems of all kinds, polar, alpine, tropical rain forests, dry-land areas. We’re of course, also putting tremendous pressures on our marine eco systems and the oceans.
We know that we’re changing basic ocean chemistry. We know that we are poisoning the oceans with the pollution of coming from huge oil spills and other disasters and we are also degrading the biodiversity in the oceans through human activities, especially through the over fishing and over harvesting of marine life.
The oceans cover three fourths of the Earth’s surface area. And we know, of course, as we discussed many times that, our huge cities around the world hug the oceans, depend on the oceans for trade, for economic activity, for our food supplies, for our proteins, and, Invaluable, nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids from, our fish intake. Back in 1950, the estimate is that the total ocean catch measured, in total metric tons was somewhere, around, 20 to 30 million metric tons of fish catch. By 1990, that had become around 90 million metric tons that perhaps a factor of three or four increase globally in how much we were taking from the oceans.
And that is even an under estimate of the true effect, because those numbers, as conventionally reported, don’t measure what we discard and throw back in the oceans. When fishermen catch fish in the nets, they also bring in a lot of bi-catch, or unintended catch, of marine life that they don’t want. And that’s not counted in the, harvesting of the fish, but it is an absolutely core part of the actual, over harvesting of marine ecosystems. You’re looking here at a fascinating graph which has a very important message and reality to it. The blue area shown here is the capture from the oceans, it’s the amount of fish taken, and marine life taken, in metric tons year by year. And it rose sharply, as I said, up to the 1990s. And then more or less leveled off. You might say that’s a good thing. But in a way it was force majeure in the sense that, that leveling of reflects the collapse of many fisheries around the world that had increased the takes so much that they had driven the fisheries to depletion, to crisis.
So that the amount that could be taken out was, was limited, increases were no longer possible and in many cases such as the, near, my former home when I was a professor at Harvard university up in New England. A complete closure of the cod fisheries because of the collapse of the cod fisheries after so much heavy fishing for so many decades. So that leveling off is a reality that came from the enormous pressures being put on ocean fisheries. It doesn’t mean that we’ve reached an equilibrium because many fisheries around the world continue to be driven towards depletion. And our, in a situation of crisis. Now on top of that is another green area of rising production of aqua-culture. This is going to managed fisheries, not in the open sea catch, as in a traditional fitching, fishing, but in raising fish industrially either on the coasts in many cases or in inland areas that are suitable for growing fish. China is the world champion of aquaculture. And as the limits to the marine catch have intensified, the markets for aquaculture have expanded. And that has permitted a continuing overall rise in the metric tonnage of fish that are consumed. That’s a good thing overall, because, of course, this is, a reflection of the fact that, fish are highly desired in our diets, and highly nutritious as well. But it also poses a whole new chapter of risks, for us, because aquaculture itself has huge impacts on ecosystems. The cultivation of fish in managed locales at the coastline or in fish farms in in the interior Can lead to spread of disease, can lead to excessive nutrient flows of many kinds, can threaten the biodiversity of wild fish through escaped varieties from managed fisheries in aquaculture and so forth.
But what the diagram shows is that we are hitting limits of the open sea catch, and compensating in part and on the whole, in a desirable way, through aquaculture. But only if that aquaculture itself is operated in a responsible matter, and that is a complex challenge given all the things that can go wrong with aquaculture. Now, how did this massive increase of catch occur? It came from a massive increase of fishing activity. Shown here, comparing the intensity of fish fleets in different fisheries around the world in 1950 and in the early years of this new century. And what you see is a massive expansion in the magnitude of the fleet coverage in this period. There were huge technical advances in the use of massive long line nets, which allowed for much greater capture, in the use of all kinds of remote sensing, satellite imagery and other kinds of sensing to identify where the fish are located in the use of ocean bottom trolling. to, that just scrapes up the fish on the ocean floor and other marine life, often completely devastating those highly complex, highly bio diverse marine ecologies as a result of all of this. And so, the consequence is that technological advances, as is often the case, has not been the friend of biodiversity and of ecosystem sustainability.
It has led to a huge depletion of fisheries, a huge loss of biodiversity, and a huge threat to the productivity of these marine ecosystems. One measure of how big the catch is, is an innovative measure that has been developed, that looks at the amount of photosynthesis needed to produce primary food products for the amount of fish take that is being and marine catch that is being harvested from the oceans. And so, one looks at the amount of primary production implied by the fish take as a fraction of the primary production in that fishery area as an indicator of risk. In other words, how much photosynthesis is being appropriated for the fish catch. Just as we looked when Professor Vetusak asked how much of the terrestrial photosynthesis is being appropriated for the human species. And we found the shocking number that it’s 40 to 50% of the net primary production. Well, the same thing is true for the amount of fish that we’re taking, so this is, again, human appropriation. Of net primary production, but indirectly, in the form of the fish take, and what you can see in these red areas, shown on this map are fisheries where the amount of net primary production associated with that amount of fish capture is already an endangered zone. 30% or higher in many cases of the total net primary production being, taken, in fish catch each year, implying that we are harvesting at a rate that is completely unsustainable for these fisheries.
Now, one implication of this is not only are we driving the abundance of fish down to levels that threaten their very survival, but we’re also changing the structure of the ecosystems as well. It’s called fishing down the the trophic chain or fishing down the food chain. Because the first fish to go are the high trophic fish, the large blue fin tuna, and others that are the big prized carnivorous or pacivorous fish that eat other fish, that eat other fish, that eat the plankton. And the net primary producers weigh down the trophic level and what, the fish ecologists, have done is to measure the average trophic level of the fish that are caught. Meaning, are we mostly harvesting fish that are the first, on, on the first line of eating, the photosynthetic output or are we catching fish up the food chain that are the, predators of the fish lower down. And what we find in, from the evidence provided by, the ecologists, is that over time more and more of the catch is lower and lowered down the trophic chain. And the reason is that humanity is very good at eating those prized fish, way up the food chain.
The predators of the predators of the predators and we value those fish, we catch them, we deplete them, they’re smaller in number and they’re highly valued and then, later on, we go to smaller fish and lower down on the food chain. And this is shown by these two downward sloping lines which measure, over the years, the average trophic level of the catch that is brought from the fisheries. The top blue line in this chart is for the marine fisheries and the red line lower down is for fresh water fisheries. And what’s superimposed on this is aquaculture where we’re growing fish that are higher up the trophic level. Now that is also complicated.
When we grow, in agriculture, fish that are high up the fish chain. It means those fish have to be fed smaller fish. Or fish meal and that means that that kind of aquaculture requires massive open sea fishing to provide the fish meal. To feed the, the growing aquaculture, and so, in this way, aquaculture maybe doesn’t substitute for the open, open sea excessive harvesting, but actually can exacerbate it if we are feeding piscivorous fish in the aquaculture. To the extent that the aquaculture is for fish that are that, that eat photosynthetic output rather than other fish, herbivorous fish. Then we don’t have that phenomenon. And, those kinds of aquaculture. For instance, tilapia, us, is a substitute rather than, a, an amplifier, of the, the, pressures on the open sea fishing. Now, the, the basic framework that fisheries ecologists use is a framework that asks how much can be taken sustainably. And they calculate or try to calculate a complicated concept of maximum sustainable yield of a fish type. And the question that they’re asking is, how much tuna can be taken from this fishery or how much anchoveta can be taken from this fishery or how much cod can be taken from this fishery without depleting the fish stock? And the basic question is, at what natural rate is that particular species, for example growing, within this ecosystem?
So that if that amount is harvested, it’s leaving that amount of species, unchanged year to year, and therefore in a stable population. The basic idea of calculating the maximum sustainable yield is to try to determine what is a safe level of fishing. That concept has become more complicated necessarily in recent years, because ecologists came to understand it’s not good enough to ask, for an individual species, how much can be sustained.
We have to take an ecosystem-wide perspective, so now the ecologists are calculating a maximum sustainable yield, based not on a single species framework, but on an ecosystem wide sustainability concept. Now, the most essential point is that humanity continues to fish more than the maximum sustainable yield. And thereby drive more and more of the fisheries into danger of depletion, ultimate collapse, even extinction of, certain, fishes, that are, depleted, and, and then driven to extinction. What can be done about it? Well, the key point is clear. One has to put a limit on how much fish can be taken. And this has led to many kinds of policy innovations, none of which is foolproof by any means, because these market pressures are relentless. But to try to identify the maximum sustainable yield and then assign permits for that amount of fish catch. And in some cases, to allow those permits to be traded, among individual fishermen, in which case their individual fish quotas. Or among groups or companies. But a kind of tradeable permit system, where the total number of permits given is in correspondence with what the ecology tells us is a sustainable amount of fishing is the main policy direction that has been taken. But, with all of the lobbying pressures, more quotas, don’t tell us there are limits, with all of the illegality of unmonitored, and undocumented, and illegal fishing these systems have in some cases shown results. But in other cases have essentially been brushed aside by legal and illegal forces, political and economic that have meant that the depletion has continued despite the attempt to put on these kinds of limits. Well, if the oceans were troubled only by the extent of harvesting of marine life, we’d have trouble enough. But it’s important for us to remember that the kinds of assaults of humanity on marine ecosystems is coming from many, many different directions. This map is showing the corals at risk along the coasts of the world and emphasizing that the reasons for this risk are multiple, as usual. Tourism over fishing, over exploitation of the coral reefs. Harvesting of the corals themselves using dynamite for fishing, pollution sedimentation, human activities driving corals also to depletion to threat of extinction for many coral species because of climate change and direct impacts on the coral reefs all over the world. This map is showing what we’ve mentioned many, many times, and that is, the run-off of nitrogen and phosphorus, leading to eutrophication and to hypoxia, to dead zones. Depleted of oxygen along the coasts of the rivers. Look at the entire eastern coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico coast of the southern United States, especially where the Mississippi river enters the Gulf of Mexico, the massive amount of dead zones there. Similarly, we see that in the North Sea. We see it around China and Korea and Japan. We’re there’s a tremendous amount of eutrophication taking place. And this map, we’ve seen before, is the step by step acidification of the oceans as the high concentrations of CO2 dissolve in the oceans. Create H2C03, carbonic acid, that acid attacks the shellfish, the calcareous species in the ocean, threatening whole classes of marine life. We’ve got huge problems we have some tools to address these. But I think the fair summary is that our oceans are at profound and still growing threat because of the pressures of human activity. We depend on the oceans in countless ways for our well being, for our survival. If we don’t take care and face up to these multiple assaults. We will face a growing crisis in, the not so distant future.
Ecosystems provide vital services for human well being, provisioning and regulation among them. Biodiversity, the variation of life within species, across species, and across ecosystems.
Determines to an important extent, how well ecosystems perform. And therefore, how well they provide vital services for humanity. There was a long standing hunch that a greater degree of biodiversity. More genetic variation within species a richer web of species in a food chain or in a given ecosystem, would raise the performance of ecosystems. And over the last 20 years, ecologists have been making valiant efforts to understand the linkage of biodiversity to ecosystem functioning. Their conclusion is a very strong one. And that is that biodiversity, biological diversity, raises the performance of ecosystems in valuable ways. And when biodiversity is under threat, at any level of organization, less genetic variation within a species, less variation of the range of species, less favorable interaction across ecosystems. When biodiversity is a threat, ecosystem functions are degraded.
Let me give just a few examples of what has been found as reported recently in some overviews of this linkage, from biodiversity to ecosystem functions. Consider provisioning, for example. The way that ecosystems provide food or fiber for human needs. One thing that’s found is that crop yields are higher in farm systems that have a higher biodiversity. This is a very big deal, because a lot of the industrial food production is monoculture. One kind of crop grown massively on a farm, rather than a high biodiverse farming system. And even within, that one crop, whether it’s rice, or wheat, or maize or, some other crop, it’s one seed variety perhaps, industrially manufactured.
And so what’s happening is that the biodiversity of our farm systems is shrinking. And one of the findings is that this is making our farm systems less productive. Yields actually go down. And maybe farmers don’t know this individually, or they haven’t had the experience, or they’ve become part of an industrial food chain that has discouraged a highly biodiverse farm system, but the results are farms in threat. And farms that are monoculture are also far more vulnerable to the invasion of pests and pathogens. One of the things that biodiversity does is protect an ecosystem from an invasion. In invasive species like a weed variety, or in invasion of a pest that attacks a certain kind of plant. If there are multiple kinds of plants in the ecosystem, maybe there’s some loss, but the parasite or the pest is controlled. But if there’s one monocle through it can tear through the entire area without limit essentially. So the resistance to invasions, to parasites, to pests is also reduced. Another finding quite similar is in marine ecosystems.
If there is a reduction of biodiversity of the fish species. And that’s happening all over the world as fishermen clear a particular fisheries area of the most favorite species, or particular easy to catch species, or the fewer numbers at the higher trophic levels of the ecosystem, meaning the kinds of fish that it, that eat other fish, that are piscivorous that are fish eating fish and higher up on the food chain. In other words, the phenomenon has now been verified by ecologists across many different kinds of ecosystems and many different kinds of reductions of biodiversity. also, when it comes to implications for climate regulation, reducing ecosystem performance by lo, a loss of biodiversity also can reduce storage of carbon in cycles, or in plant life.And therefore, essentially, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because there’s less biological sequestration of the carbon within the ecosystem. So the regulatory functions of ecosystems in climate as well, are degraded when biodiversity is lost. Now, that’s all pretty bad news, and the reason it’s bad news is that in ecosystem after ecosystem, biodiversity is at massive threat. It’s already being reduced, degraded, hugely threatened. Why? For so many reasons that it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to bring under control. A summary perhaps that’s useful is to look at a map of the world that was prepared by my colleagues at the Earth Institute a number of years ago, called the Human Footprint Map. What my colleagues did was to take a number of indicators. For example, population density, land use change, infrastructure coverage railroads, roads, other human changes. Aggregate them, weight them in an index, and then for each small part of the world, the kilometer by kilometer ask, how big is the human influence, the human footprint in this part of the world. And they came up with a map that looks like this. The darker the red, the stronger is the human footprint. If an area is all green, that’s a part of the world very little touched by human influence.
Well, what you see in this map is the sweep of humanity. Humanity is basically everywhere where it’s habitable. And so you look at the United States there’s no dark green area essentially in the continental United States. The eastern half of the U.S. is much darker red than the western half because it’s much more densely settled. In part because it’s it is more humid, there is more food production and the western part of the United States by and large is arid and more mountainous, with much less population density. But even there, the human activity, land use change, pasture land, farm land, urban settlements, roads, rail, are pervasive. So where are the dark green areas? well, in Africa, the desert, the Sahara desert. Yes, very, very low human impact, but very, very few people living in the Sahara. For the boreal regions of the Eurasian landmass. Up in the tundra. where there are still forests and very little population because it’s frozen much of the year or year round. And there’s not agriculture in these very high latitudes. And so there’s relatively low human impact. But look at India. Look at China other than the Tibetan Plateau at 20,000 feet or more above sea level. Look at South America aside from still parts of the Amazon rainforest.
What you see is the pervasive human footprint. Humanity is everywhere. And just like the underlying index that is the basis of this map, humanity is everywhere in many, many different ways. It’s there in infrastructure, it’s in farming. It’s in changes to basic chemical cycling, as we’ve talked about so much in water use, or nitrogen cycling, or phosphorus cycling, as a result of agricultural activities. Now, a related idea was led by a great ecologist, Peter Vitousek. now, more than 15 years ago, when he and his colleagues asked the question about human domination of the ecosystems. How much are we taking in that provisioning. We need food. We need pasture land. We need areas to to, to put our asphalt down for our cities and our roads, and our parking lots. How much of the global ecosystems is humanity appropriating? What is the human domination? Their conceptual framework for that is shown here in this complicated flow chart. They start at the top with human population both its size and the resource use. Then, the human enterprises, they called it, what humanity does in agriculture and industry and recreation in international trade. Then they talked about the several ways that human activity appropriates or dominates ecosystems. Land transformation, for example, farming or land clearing for pasture land and for use of forests could be the change of the cycling of key nutrients and chemicals and the ecosystem as we talked about like nitrogen or the water cycle or the carbon cycle with its enormous effects on climate. Or changes directly in the biosphere. As we harvest crops, as we hunt species, as we fish for fish. Or as we rearrange the biogeography of species by saying, why don’t we take that species from Australia and put it here, without having a deep understanding of what happens when one species invades another ecosystem where its predator or control mechanisms might not apply. And all of this, if you go down the flow chart, changes the climate system, for example, through the greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. And leads to a loss of biological diversity, which is our main focus right now. So what Professor Vitousek and his colleagues did was to try to assess how big is the human domination of ecosystems by several fascinating metrics. How much land has humanity transformed? How much have we changed the carbon cycle? What have we done to water use and so forth? Their conclusion revealed the massive extent of human impacts across all of these dimensions. Land area, 40, 50 percent of the total net primary production through photosynthesis on the planet is for us. That’s a pretty voracious species. We are grabbing and have grabbed land area. Whether it’s the pastures, the forests, the arable land. And said okay to the other species, we’ll take that, thank you. That will be our pasture, that will be our farmland, and the extent of the human reach on land transformation is perhaps half of the total net primary productivity on the planet. CO2, we know we’ve changed the carbon cycle fundamentally, and already raised the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280 parts per million, pre-industrial revolution, to 400 parts per million and rising. Now, water use. Tens of thousands of dams put on the world’s rivers. Massive taking of groundwater for irrigation especially. Harvesting the the flow that comes from glacier melt. And that very dangerously for us is going to come to an end as those glaciers retreat and then finally disappear under the force of global warming. Water use in crisis in many, many parts of the world because we have appropriated so much. Of the the, the available fresh water cycling. Nitrogen, we know we have come to dominate the nitrogen cycle. Turning N2 in the atmosphere into so called reactive nitrogen like ammonia or nitrates and nitrates that can be taken up by living organisms, is, both a natural process as we’ve discussed but also an industrial process, the Haber-Bosch process. That famous process that enabled humanity to grow so much more food that it made it possible for the population of the planet, to rise from not quite two billion people at the start of the twentieth century, to six billion people by the end, and now 7.2 billion people. We have threatened species so much that we realize that we need to classify and measure the species, that are endangered. We need to understand the extent of these dangers. and, the International Union for the Conversation of Nature, the IUCN, is the global score keeper of endangered species. It’s extremely important to understand what they’re measuring, and how they’re measuring it. And that is shown first on this diagram which helps us to understand the classification system used by the IUCN. Now the first thing to say is that there are an unknown number of total species on the planet and theories vary roughly between ten million species of all kinds. Plants, animals, microbial life. To possibly up to a 100 million species. We’ve not classified, large proportions of those species. So IUCN, still is in the process of classification, as is the world scientific community. Of those that are classified, then there are categorizations of species that are not threatened by human activity, they’re so in, in so many places and in such large numbers that humanity does not pose threats. To those that have already been driven to extinction. And you can see here the classification that are of, of the various gradations of threat. Species that are extinct because of human activity. Species that are extinct in the wild but perhaps still live in small numbers in captivity. Critically endangered species, endangered species, vulnerable species, near threatened species, and those of least concern. So, the IUCN keeps its so-called Red List which gives the numbers of species in these very threatened categories. And you’re looking at the tables for critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable species. And when one looks at the numbers, it’s of course, very, very frightening because even in a very short period of time, the numbers classified as critically endangered, for example are soaring. Partly this is through new classifications and adding species that have not been classified before. But it’s also very much that human activity is driving species to the state of being critically endangered and to extinction. The IUCN Red List is invaluable and of course, it is profoundly troubling. We know that major classifications of animals and plants are being pushed to the extreme, the critical danger levels and some to extinction. And just to mention, a few that are most dramatic amphibious species the world over are declining hugely in numbers. And this is taking place ac, across the range of amphibians and it’s taking place all over the world. Recent studies for the United States have shown an enormous drop-off. And one of the frightening things for the loss of amphibians in the United States is those that had the highest proportionate drop-off in frequency of sightings are the ones that were classified by IUCN as the most endangered. And so the declines of amphibious species are not taking place in the most abundant and safest but in the most endangered. Another major collapse, of of species are pollinator species which are so vital for our plants and our fruits and our food provisioning. The honey bee, in the United States, has been experiencing a dramatic, troubling and still poorly understood decline in numbers. And in some cases, a collapse of bee colonies that has come to be called the colony collapse disorder. And it is so striking with the fall of numbers. But even more striking perhaps, that we don’t quite understand why, where, what’s happening to this radical die off of bees across the United States. There are many potential culprits, Could be a parasite, a parasitic mite has been implicated, but then again multiple viruses have been implicated. Bacterial diseases. A drop of, nutrition, of, the honey bees, coming from changes of landscape and crop varieties. And many, many scientists think that it’s the increased use of pesticides that is a major cause of this. Another absolutely shocking, and dramatic, and troubling loss of species abundance and threat of extinction are the great apes. Our closest relatives on earth where humanity shares the genetic code and the evolutionary history just as close as can be. 95% or more of the genetic code shared with great apes, with the gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans bonobos and the dramatic decline of numbers of these great apes and of their habitat in the last 25 years is absolutely shocking. I had the occasion recently to visit one group of eastern mountain gorillas in Rwanda in Volcano National Park, which is doing a valiant effort to preserve the habitat of the mountain gorillas. It’s of course an incredible experience to be together with the gorilla group and to see them in the wild. And it was absolutely rather shocking to see how fragile is the remaining habitat for these endangered gorilla groups. Because the farm land, under tremendous population pressure is pushing right up against the the cloud forests, the bamboo forests, that are the habitat of the mountain gorillas. There is a stone wall which separates the farm land from the the bamboo forest. One doesn’t go far inside the bamboo forest to meet with the groups of the gorillas. You see how close humanity and the gorillas are living together and by the way, that means that humanity can pass pathogens, diseases, human diseases to gorillas. We share so much of our biology, of our genetics of our immune systems, that the diseases easily flow in both directions and disease itself can be transmitted to these gorilla groups. Well, it was breathtaking to be together with the mountain gorilla family and and a mountain group in the wild. But it was absolutely shocking to see how humanity has pressed against the remaining habitat for this species. The, the one of the closest relatives that we have and how fragile is that distance now that that is their margin of survival on the planet. These pressures are coming in all directions. They are causing huge risks to biodiversity. The risks to biodiversity are causing huge losses of ecosystem functions, and we have to understand now what we can do about it.
We’ve been examining what happens, when a growing world economy collides against planetary boundaries. We have a world output now, of 80 to $90 trillion, 7.2 billion people. We know that the numbers are continuing to rise. We know that the world economy is continuing to grow at three to 4% per year, meaning a doubling, every 20 years or so. We know, that there are already huge pressures on the world’s ecosystems, on the climate, on the oceans. And we have not yet found a way of course, to reconcile that continuing growth, with environmental sustainability.
We’ve studied a few ways that this, collision or this trespass of planetary boundaries is occurring, climate change being the most dramatic. Pollution of the air and water and the dangers to our cities being another. I want to go into greater depth now, on the question of the viability of other species, the biodiversity on the planet. I’ve mentioned several times, that humanity is putting so much pressure on the Earth, that we’re actually causing a dramatic increase in the rate of species extinction. Maybe 100 to a 1000 times, greater rate of species extinction, than was occurring before the the industrial revolution. That loss of species and many other phenomena associated with it, such as the decline of genetic diversity within species. The decline of abundance of species, even when they’re not being pushed to extinction, but just to smaller and smaller numbers. That combined effect is so large, that it is causing what could be the sixth great extinction on the planet, as I’ve discussed, and it is causing huge threats to humanity. As always, whether it’s with climate change, or dangers to our cities, or challenges of health and education, first we need to understand, what’s happening? Why is it happening? What are the mechanisms? We have to do a differential diagnosis of the losses to biodiversity, and to the rising rates of species extinction. Then we have to analyze, what we can do about it, what’s the prescription, what are the possible approaches? Now, there’s one overriding truth to this sixth wave of extinctions and to the threats to biodiversity. And that is, that the threats are coming from many, many different angles, as is true in almost everything we’re studying. We’re dealing with a complex system, where there’s not a linear effect from a single cause to a single outcome, and then onto another effect. There are multiple stressors, multiple drivers of environmental change, multiple causes of species extinction or decline of abundance and genetic diversity. We need to understand the complexity of this system because no single approach is going to be sufficient to reversing the trends that are underway. Heading off this sixth great extinction that is a threat, to not only millions of other species, but to one that we also have a especially strong vested interest in, and that’s Homo sapiens, that’s us. And so we need to get into the very complex nature of this threat. You’re looking at an example of biodiversity, the incredible diversity of species and interactions in this marine environment that you’re viewing right now. And of course, what you see are multiple species of animals and plant life. Many species are microscopic, and you don’t see them. You see the interactions of the fish, corals, and we know the microscopic plankton for example in the oceans, with the non-living part of the system in front of you, the fluxes of energy, of sunlight of nutrients that are arriving in this ecosystem from a variety of sources. What is an ecosystem? It is exactly that collection, of plants and animals and microbial life, interacting with the abiotic or nonliving part of the local system, with the energy and nutrient fluxes.
The key is that this is a set of living organisms together with the non-living environment. Interacting in a system and of course, what ecologists do in studying ecosystems, is study the fluxes and dynamics of the system. How does nutrient flow take place within a food web and within the processes of metabolism. Of, oxidation, respiration, photosynthesis, and other basic processes of, the metabolism of the living organisms, within the system. How does the diversity of the, species and the diversity of the individual organisms within a species, affect the behavior of that whole ecosystem? So when we have an ecosystem, we’re also interested in another core concept. And that is the biological diversity or biodiversity of that ecosystem. And of the biodiversity across ecosystems, as ecosystems, marine, and terrestrial, interact with each other, to produce outcomes, at an even higher level, of aggregation and organization. So what is bio-diversity? Bio-diversity is the variability of life, and it is variability that occurs at all different levels of organization. We care about the variability of life within a species, each of us is different from from other people. We have different genetic codes. We carry different effects of our our environment. We know that the relationship of environment and genetics, is extremely complicated. We found out that it’s even more complicated than we thought, through the emerging field of epi-genetics, which tells us that the environment affects, how our genes code or don’t code, in ways that actually can transmit across generations. Even not in the DNA itself, but in the way that that DNA is expressed in cells from a parental generation to offspring. So, we care about the variation, within a species. We care about the interaction across species. All of the various relationships of predator and prey, and mutualism, and parasitism, and the ways that species interact, and live together and are part of, larger food chains and nutrient fluxes. And a part of the way that, the disease is pathogens, transmit within an ecosystem. And we care about the biological diversity across ecosystems. Because the interaction of ecosystems, of dry land ecosystems, or desert ecosystems, interacting with the humid ecosystems, with alpine or marine ecosystems, is also absolutely crucial for understanding, how any of those individual ecosystems functions, but also understanding the global functioning of the, the earth as a whole. What happens in the oceans or what happens in the polar regions or what happens in the rain forests, affects global dynamics of heat dissipation, of the water cycle, and through multiple processes, affects ecosystems all over the world. So there are distant relationships between changes in the pole-ward regions, for example. And what happens even in the tropics or, or places that are thousands and thousands of kilometers, distant. So, biological diversity or biodiversity, requires us to understand the variation of life, at all different levels of organization, and to understand how that variability affects the performance of ecosystems, in ways that matter.
One of the most important studies that was done, in recent decades in fact, on the functioning of ecosystems, was a major global effort which reported in the year 2005, called the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It took a global view of the major ecosystems in the world, and tried to give a conceptual framing, of how they’re functioning, how they’re interacting and what they mean for humanity. And one of the important schematic ideas that came out of the millennium ecosystem assessment is, this chart that you’re looking at right now.
The idea of this chart is to define, how ecosystems affect human well-being. That’s not the only thing we care about ecosystems, but it’s a pretty important part. And you see on the left, various categories of ecosystem services, so-called. Ecosystem services are the benefits, that ecosystems give to humanity, and to other species, I would like to add. And those benefits come in a variety of forms. Partly, ecosystems directly provide for human needs. Provisioning services, growing food, providing fresh water. providing, wood and fiber for building structures, for our clothing. Providing biomass for our fuels. So, provisioning is one direct and obvious category. A bit less, direct, but absolutely profound, is the idea of regulatory ecosystem services. Ecosystems control basic climate patterns, disease patterns cycling of crucial nutrients, in ways that are of fundamental importance to humanity. Even if they’re not directly the provisions of things, that we eat or directly consume. So for example, ecosystems in their functioning, have huge effects on climate regulation. If, the pole-ward Nordic and Arctic ecosystems are heavily changed by climate warming, then we’re also going to get powerful feedbacks that could be of tremendous adverse consequence. For example, the melting of the great ice sheets. Or the decline of ice covering the seas, changing the reflectance of the planet and providing a massive feedback, amplifying climate change, coming from greenhouse gasses. Or, the melting of ice in the Tundra, releasing massive amounts potentially, of methane or carbon dioxide, in a feedback mechanism. So, ecosystems provide regulatory services, either helping to sustain a climate in a safe zone, or if these ecosystems get perturbed, amplifying adverse changes that are coming from other factors, such as greenhouse gas concentrations. Flood regulation is the second kind of ecosystem service. Coastal areas are often protected by the mangrove swamps just off the coast or by other topographical features of ecosystems, and if those get perturbed, if those are lost by human-induced changes, that can lead to great dangers. The coastal areas around New Orleans, for example, were degraded by the ways that human activity led to changes of the dynamics of the Mississippi River, as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. And the loss of those coastal barriers meant, that when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf of Mexico, this added tremendous force and damage, to New Orleans and to the rest of the coastline. And so, the loss of coastal regulatory protection because of human activity, clearing mangrove swamps or changing river flow dynamics, had a hugely consequential and adverse effect for humanity. Ecosystems regulate disease and pests, and when ecosystems are degraded, pests or invasive species,that is species that have been brought in by accident or even inadvertently, from outside a particular place and maybe don’t have natural predators within that new environment, can spread, can take over, can be essentially like wild weeds or spreading parasites, with devastating consequences to food production, for example, or to human health. The ecosystems for instance, the wetlands which are a major part of the water cycle help to provide fresh water help to replenish ground water. Vital for household use or for crop production. When ecosystems are deranged, we can lose water services needed to grow food and needed for human health. Ecosystems have a third category called supportive ecosystem services you see here. Nutrient cycling or the way that soils are formed, through the interaction of biotic and abiotic processes. And soil formation then, is a crucial underpinning of course, of our agricultural productivity. And finally, the millennium ecosystem assessment identified cultural features, which are our values, our aesthetics. One of the, greatest scientists, of our age, E.O. Wilson, the great biologist at Harvard University, one of the leaders in understanding biodiversity and one of the leaders in understanding human nature, in, in our world, has given the idea that, humanity has a deeply ingrained love of bio-diversity. That we even inherited as part of our, our, our mental baggage during human evolution. A trait that he calls biofelia or love of of a diverse of a biology and the, the bioda, and our biodiversity. And Professor Wilson has given extensive compelling evidence from the range of anthropological studies for example, of how humanity feels at home, in certain natural environments. And how the degradation or derangement of those natural environments can deeply upset our cultures, our mental well being our sense of aesthetics, our overall quality of life. Well, those ecosystem services, translate into many dimensions of human well-being, our physical security, the materials that we need for life, our human, physical and mental health. Our ability to interact fruitfully in society, in other words, there are contributors to our social capital, and to the preservation of social relations and as the millennium ecosystem assessment emphasized, they contribute to our freedom, our capability to accomplish our life’s tasks. So, ecosystem services are central, they are a threat because they are such core, dimensions to our human well being, we now have to turn to the question of, how biodiversity contributes to the functioning of ecosystems, and what happens when biodiversity is put at great threat, by human activity. That’s our next subject
Climate change mitigation is feasible. It is feasible to bring about a sharp reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. Consistent with humanity’s goal of avoiding an increase of temperatures of more than two degrees centigrade. Even with that increase, we are going to face big challenges on the planet, major shocks, major disturbances. But if we go beyond that level, the risks to humanity, to our safety, to our food supply, to the resilience and security of our cities, is all up for grabs. The dangers are profound with the path that we’re on right now. We’ve noted that technologically, mitigation is within reach. By moving to energy efficiency, to low-carbon primary energy sources, and to electrification of sectors that now use fossil fuels, but could shift to a clean electricity grid, we could, indeed, have an enormous reduction of CO2 emissions, and keep the planet safe. But this requires choices. We have to make sure that markets give the right signals by taxing carbon emissions. Or by putting in place feed in tariffs. We have to make sure that there is the research and development underway to improve the functioning of these low carbon energy sources to store intermittent energy, to make sure that distribution systems are working properly. We need political decisions on a direction to go. Should we deploy offshore wind? Should we deploy the large solar potential of our desert regions? Should countries get together to produce the desert tech proposal that we saw linking North Africa to Middle East and Western Europe? Without political leadership we won’t get there. But often in our world today, political leaders, we know, are followers, not leaders. They take money as campaign contributions from major incumbent industries. The power of big oil, big coal, big natural gas in producing economies is absolutely huge. These companies are able to deploy millions and millions of dollars to sow seeds of doubt in the public mind and much more directly, to keep the politicians in their pocket. It’s rather stunning that when a vote came to the U.S. Senate to put limits on emissions through a tradable permit system we got nowhere. And when we looked at steps even the smaller steps to start restricting, our greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The result was something as shown here. Have a look at, these two US maps. The shaded areas in brown on the top map are places that produce coal in the United States. About half the U.S. states are actually coal producing states. Now look at the bottom of the map, which shows in red the states where the senators voted against climate change legislation. It’s almost a perfect fit. Coal burning states, don’t come anywhere close to us, a few states that aren’t coal burning states, okay, we’ll go with the legislation. Not enough to get through the US Congress. Coal, oil, gas, the most powerful lobby there is, scares the politicians out of their wits. It’s like this all over the world, and it makes it extremely difficult to make progress. Now, this challenge of how to make progress, how to head off the dangers of human induced greenhouse gases has been with us, in a very conscious way, for decades. And it was in 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit, that a major treaty was agreed, in fact, by all the world’s governments. Even governments with powerful oil, gas, and coal lobbies, to head off the big dangers of human induced climate change. The treaty that was agreed is called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UNFCCC. The UN Framework Convention is actually a wonderful treaty when you read it and I teach it every year basically since it was signed. It’s a well reasoned, well balanced document that points the way forward. And it’s worth listening to the objectives of this treaty, signed already back in 1992 in Article Two of the treaty itself. It says that the ultimate objective of this convention, and any related legal instruments that the conference of the parties that is the, the signatories, may adopt. Is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Makes perfect sense. Let’s stabilize the levels of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and the other greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous, anthropogenic interference in the climate system. Well, we’re already there, and it’s getting worse. And this treaty remains on the books. Indeed, the treaty participants meet year after year. But for the first 20 years of the treaty made very, very little headway. The first major attempt to put this treaty into implementation came with what’s called the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997. This was an agreement to implement the treaty. And under the treaty it said that the high income countries should take the lead. They’re the ones responsible, historically, for the big increase of CO2 concentrations. They’re the ones that are the major emitters, at the time. Let them take the lead and then the rest of the world, the middle income and the low income countries will come in afterwards. Well, the US Senate, not only in the grips of coal, oil, and gas lobbies but also in the, in the grips of a perception that the U.S. should do absolutely nothing if China isn’t at least doing as much or more. Said, we won’t go along with the Kyoto protocol because it puts a burden on the United States that it doesn’t put on China and other middle income countries and that’s unfair. Said the US Senate. It’s a funny sense of unfair, because the US, for decades, had been changing the world’s climate without any sense of fairness about the huge cost that the US economy was imposing on the rest of the world. But the Senate came along and said, no deal. And indeed, though President Clinton’s administration signed the Kyoto protocol in 1997 the President never sent it to the Senate for ratification, as is required under the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. never signed onto the protocol, and since the U.S., at the time, was by far the world’s major emitting country, other countries said, hey, what’s with this? Why should we take the extra costs to go with the non-coal ways to produce electricity, for example, if the world’s largest emitter and the world’s largest economy, and richest economy for any big economy, isn’t doing so? And China, from it’s point of view said, you know, we’re a middle income country. Under the UN framework convention which the U.S. itself signed, we’re not responsible for taking the lead. The United States and other high income countries should take the lead, then we’re supposed to follow. So China said, we’re not going to accept any binding obligations until the United States shows the leadership that it is supposed to show by honoring the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. And that never happened. Time flies, you know, and time flew from 1992 to 2012 when the world met again at Rio in what was called the Rio plus 20 summit. And the Rio plus 20 summit, among other things, took on the job of reviewing the three big treaties that had been agreed in the Rio Earth summit. The framework convention on climate change. The convention on biological diversity, which the United States never ratified, even to, to join in the first place, and the U.N. framework convention, the convention to combat desertification. You know what? The report card on all three treaties was a fail. 20 years on, no real progress. We’ve seen that the greenhouse gas emissions kept rising, rising, rising. Just when we need a trajectory in which they’re going to fall sharply by mid-century. The clock moves forward. The discussions, thank goodness, they have to continue and the nature of the discussions has change a bit. One reason it’s changed is that China has changed, from 1992 until now, China has become the world’s second largest economy. And it’s become actually the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, even though China is not as large an economy as the United States, it emits more carbon dioxide because China is overwhelmingly a coal based economy because that’s China’s own home energy resource. Or its own fossil fuel resource and coal has the highest carbon emissions per unit of energy. So it’s in a way the dirtiest of all the energy mix, not only in the pollution that it causes, but also in the carbon emissions that it causes, so China finds itself now in a different situation, it’s a much richer country. It’s had another 20 years of very rapid economic growth. It is now the world’s largest emitter, having overtaken the United States. And other countries are now saying to China, hey, what about you? Now you are the major country. China still notes that in per capita terms, China still emits much less CO2 than does the United States. The US emits about 18 tons of carbon dioxide per American and in China it’s about eight tons of carbon dioxide, but since China is more then four times the population, the total amount of emissions has become much, much larger than in the United States. China has to rethink. It, it has more capacity to do something, and it has more reason to do something, including the pressures of, of the world. But also including its own reasons for action. For one thing China, itself, is highly vulnerable to climate change. A significant part of China is already very dry, and likely to get drier as a result of climate change. China’s highly vulnerable to extreme storms and extreme events and massive flooding. China, in other words, is a country deeply vulnerable to climate change, and therefore with a real reason to participate in a global mitigation effort. But coal burning is no picnic and China in early 2013, experienced what you’re looking at here. This massive smog that came from industrial pollution with a very heavy component of coal use, also mixed in with the smog coming from the increasing congestion of automobiles as well, and from the flukes of weather which had trapped all of this particulate pollution, in, over Beijing. But it was a quite horrifying experience, the air was so dangerous that people dared not go out, if they could, in any way, avoid it. The evidence is becoming more and more overwhelming that China’s paying years of a lot shorter lives as a result of this mega pollution. So, with China having overtaken the U.S. as the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter, as a country highly vulnerable to climate change, and as a country suffering now from its massive use of coal burning China has also come to the view, we need to do something much more urgently than we’ve been doing. We can’t just say, we won’t move till the US, we need to start moving. China’s already introduced major programs of scaling up solar power, wind power, and nuclear power as ways to move to a, a primary energy system, more balanced, and less coal-dependent. It still have been increasing its coal use as well, though, so it’s not a, a solution yet. But China is coming to the view that it needs to reach an agreement with the United States. The US has long said it would be willing to move if China moves, or at least it’s implied that. Now, it’s going to be put to the test. In Durban, South Africa, in November 2011, the world’s signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change came together one more time and reached an agreement that they would reach a more definitive agreement on climate by 2015 in which all countries would take binding commitments to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions. So, unlike the framework convention, which put the onus on the rich countries as a start. The new agreement, in principle, is to put responsibility everywhere. This is, at least conceptually, a kind of break through, because now we could see the potential for the G2 as they’re sometimes called, the US and China. To agree among themselves, to bring in the European Union, and then to bring in the large economies in the G20 or the major emitting economies, almost the same as the G20 countries, and then the whole world into an agreement to be reached in 2015. It was hailed as a breakthrough. Let’s keep it in perspective. In 1992, the decision was taken to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference. An agreement was reached 19 years later that they would reach a new agreement 23 years later in 2015. And one more drum roll that that agreement reached in 2015 would then be ratified by countries and go into effect in 2020. I kid you not. This is not exactly a world standing on the precipice saying now, now, now. This is a world that sometimes acts as if it has all the time in the world. Still, at least, somehow roughly speaking, we’re now pointed a bit more in the direction in which all countries have said, we will be bound by agreements to reach lower limits and to honor Article 2 of the Framework Convention to stabilize Greenhouse gas concentrations to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference. If they read the words, they certainly wouldn’t be waiting til 2020 to implement the new agreement. But what we can be doing now, and absolutely must be doing now, is the practical problem solving in every part of the world, how each region can implement a sensible, economical, efficient, deep decarbonization program that involves energy efficiency. A shift to low carbon primary energy sources and an electrification of transport, buildings, homes and industrial uses of fossil fuel to shift to electricity fed off of a smart grid. The world could be agreeing to joint programs of research and development. The world should be agreeing to helping the poorest countries take on this challenge. For example, helping Central Africa to build Inga Falls the power plant there to capture that 40 billion watts of power potential in the hydroelectric dam there to transform the region, and to make it possible to move Africa, not only to electrification, but to electrification with low carbon energy. We have solutions, we need to make choices. And this is true when it comes to climate change. It’s true when it comes to resilience and sustainability of our cities. It’s true if we are to avoid the sixth wave of extinction of species. It’s true, in essence, if we are to move from business as usual to the sustainable, development trajectory for the world and all of the benefits that can ensue, from making that shift.
We’ve seen that it’s possible to reduce human emissions of green house gases substantially. The technologies are within reach. We need energy efficiency. We need low carbon electricity. And we need electrification of parts of the economy, like automobiles, like home heating, and some industrial processes, to use that clean energy from clean electricity rather than the dirty energy coming from burning fossil fuels. How do we get there? What do we do? Now, one thing must be stressed from the start. Energy is so deeply embedded in our economy, in how we do everything, in industry and transport, in our living, the organization of our cities. We can’t make that transition to low carbon energy overnight. Even if we wanted to, the only way to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term would be pretty catastrophic. We’d have to close down large parts of our economy. What we’re really looking for, therefore, is a transition over the course of 30 to 40 years. Not a sudden, abrupt end of emissions. But we need to move quickly, because what science tells us is that we have to cut by half or more our total emissions by the mid-century, even as the world economy is expanding dramatically. So, we’ve gotten the hints of what to do. What kinds of policies can be used to get there? Well, let’s consider, once again, the main pillars. Energy efficiency, for example. What kinds of policies can be applied to raise the efficiency of our energy use? One standard kind of policy, which has been quite successful around the world, is to put appliance standards into effect through regulation. And places that put basic standards on automobile, mileage, per gallon, for example, or the energy use in refrigerators and air conditioners, or a shift from a heavy energy using traditional light bulb, the incandescent light bulb, to LEDs and to compact fluorescent light bulbs, can be managed by appliance standards. And quite a lot of energy saving can be accomplished at very, very low cost, or even at net economic savings. Building codes can make a big difference. And building codes are part of the normal policy, framework of any normally run city. And we know that the quality which buildings are built, the insulation materials, the ventilation properties, the placement of the cities, the use of roofs, the internal energy systems whether it’s furnaces and boilers or, or whether it’s electric power sources make a huge difference in the energy efficiency of buildings. New York City, we already have noted it as experienced a major improvement of air quality, as well a major reduction of heavy oil use through regulation of and encouragement eh, through other means and other incentives. Of a shift to much more efficient energy use. Introducing smarter grids and new metering and smart ways that the utility company meters household and then applies pricing systems to encourage households to economize on electricity use, and helps customers to be aware of options on energy efficiency can make a very, very big difference. An even bigger part of the package for in many places will come by shifting from fossil fuels entirely to zero or very low carbon energy sources. The problem so far has been that using coal to produce electricity is often the lowest cost choice. If we don’t take into account the costs of coal to society in the form of air pollution and in the form of climate change. In other words, there’s a basic economic problem that coal has high costs, not reflected in the price of coal in the marketplace. If you buy coal and burn it as a utility, you don’t pay the cost of the carbon dioxide emissions that are going to wreck the planet for everybody else. You’re imposing a cost on others not reflected in the price that you, yourself, bear in using that coal. That’s called an externality, a utility that is using coal to produce electricity is imposing an externality on the rest of the planet. And, by the way, because that carbon dioxide sits in the atmosphere for centuries, it’s imposing an externality even on generations that are not yet born. And they can’t fight back. Can’t sue the, the, the power company. Can’t protest. Can’t call on legislators to tell that power company use a clean energy sources rather than the dirty CO2. And so, we need to correct the market signals if a utility is going to choose a clean energy source like solar power or wind power. Or if it’s going to use a technology that allows it to capture the carbon dioxide that it would otherwise emit, and store that carbon dioxide safely in some geologic reservoir, a technology called carbon capture and storage. No utility is going to chose the higher price variety unless it is forced to bear the true costs of using coal, the cost to health and the cost to climate change. So, economists rightly emphasize the need for corrective pricing. For market signals to tell the truth, to say to the utility, uh-uh, coal is too expensive if you take into account its true social costs. Well, how can market prices be corrected? They can be corrected in a variety of ways. One way is simple, you put a tax on the use of coal, reflecting the CO2 emissions and the health burdens that using that coal will cost. Only companies that capture the CO2 and safely store it wouldn’t have to pay the tax on the coal. And companies that use a non-carbon source of energy, like solar power or wind power, would avoid that tax as well. So, the market signal would say, you can not get away with it any longer, using a socially costly form of energy. Because of that tax, there will be a natural incentive of companies and households and builders everywhere to economize or substitute a way from coal, oil, and gas, and move towards the alternative energy sources that are now less expensive because they don’t bear that tax. There’s another system that can be used, which is that you’re required to have a permit to emit carbon dioxide, and only a few and shrinking number of permits are given out each year. Those permits can trade, a company that has no alternative might buy permits from others. But it’s expensive to buy that permit. It’s like paying a tax, but instead of paying the tax to the government, you may effectively pay that extra cost to whoever is selling you that permit. Could be the government, by the way. So, tradable permits for emissions or taxes on carbon are two ways to correct market prices. Another way to correct market prices is what’s called feed in tariffs. The government says to a utility company or a power generator, we’ll buy electricity from you, but we’ll pay an extra high price if the electricity that you’re bringing into the system is clean. So rather than taxing the dirty stuff, you give an added incentive for power generation coming from wind power or from solar power. These are all ways to tilt the market in the right direction. They’re not the end of the story, unfortunately, because we still need to improve the technologies for using the low carbon energy. The main problem with wind power is that the wind sometimes doesn’t blow. This is an intermittent power supply. The main problem with solar power is too, nighttime and clouds, and so the reliability and predictability of solar power, and the fact that it’s only available certain hours of the day. Mean that solar and wind power and many other kinds of renewable energy need to be stored somehow, stored in batteries, stored in other solutions that are being developed right now. If the problem of storage of intermittent energy sources, like wind and solar power, can be solved at low cost, because the existing solutions are fairly expensive. Then there would be a dramatic, dramatic breakthrough in reducing the overall costs of a low carbon electricity system. All of this means that another part of the policy of decarbonizing the primary energy system is research and development. Government should be investing heavily in new technologies, for instance, in the storage of energy from inter, intermittent power sources. Or in understanding the safety and feasibility of very large scale capture and geologic storage of carbon dioxide. Again, that idea that you continue to use fossil fuels, but you capture the CO2 before it goes into the air, and you put it safely underground. One of my very brilliant colleagues Professor Klaus Lackner, is trying yet another idea which needs a lot of research and development. And that is to capture the CO2 directly, already in the air, through chemical means, and through, then to take the captured CO2 and to store it geologically. It’s another possibility. Can that be done at a low enough cost to be economically feasible? In order to tap these low carbon energy sources, though, there’s one more point that is crucial. Very often we have massive potential for renewable energy, but it’s just not where people live. And then, we need a transmission system to bring that low carbon energy to population centers. And that means that government needs to be involved with long distance transmission of low carbon electricity. That raises many technological issues and many financial issues as well. Here is one very important, I think, a potential breakthrough system that would link the great sunshine of North Africa and the Sahara desert with the energy needs of Europe. This is called DESERTEC. It’s a proposal that engineers put on the table a number of years ago to connect solar power coming mainly from North Africa and the Middle East with the very high energy use in Europe. And the solar power would be taken by long distance electricity transmission lines to Europe. Also shown here in the blue are the wind turbines. And so, this is a system that would integrate wind turbines along the coast, in general, with solar power in the desert and very sunny regions, and enable Europe to shift from a fossil fuel based electricity system to a, nearly zero carbon energy system. It’s a great plan. It requires a lot of research and development. It requires a lot of investment. But it illustrates how to make a big move to decarbonization. Here’s a map of the United States and the main message of this map shows how much potential we have for offshore wind. The northeast coast of the United States from irginia to Maine, for example, is extraordinarily windy. And if wind turbines were put up and down the northeast sea coast, just a bit offshore, there would be enough energy, roughly speaking, to provide all the power needed in the northeast of the United States. How many wind turbines do we have right now off the northeast coast? That would be zero. The permitting hasn’t been given the transmission lines, the decision, which is a public decision that that’s the way we should go, has not been taken. And this is why corrective pricing plays a role, research and development plays a role, but also political leadership. To help say to the American people or to other countries, look, we can go this way, this way, this way, we just can’t stay business as usual. We could use the great wind power on our off-shore coasts. We could use what you’re looking at here, which is a wind field in, South Dakota, where there’s a lot of wind but not too many people. So, we would need long distance transmission lines to bring that wind power from the Dakotas to the big population centers of the United States. We could decide for a massive deployment of solar technologies in the Mojave Desert in the American southwest. Again, we’d have to have transmission lines to bring the power to the big population centers. But we have enough solar energy to provide a very significant fraction of the electricity needs of the United States. Political decision. Not only market forces, but how our land and our coasts are going to be used. What’s the least risk way? What is the safest direction? How are these costs going to be shared? What is the future of nuclear power? People are afraid of it, but they should be also afraid of cold fire power plants. Nuclear power offers one way to a very low carbon economy. Cold fire power plants don’t scare people but should. Because they, more silently, out of the headlines, kill a lot of people and threaten the planet through greenhouse gas buildup. So, what are we to make of these choices of nuclear energy? Of course, this divides scientists, it divides engineers, and it divides the public in a very strong way. My guess is that we will have nuclear power, because many countries, like China and India, and I believe the United States, will continue to deploy nuclear energy into the future. The question is how to make it safe and secure. So for all of these areas of decarbonization or electrification of the energy systems of automobiles, we require lots of public investment, R&D, political decisions, building of infrastructure. In other words, choices that by 2050, we must move to a low carbon energy system. Lest we continue as we’re going and face the calamities that would be implied by that. Now there’s one more problem. I’ve indicated that we have technologies within reach, and they are getting better and better in wind power and solar power, lower costs. But technology is also not standing still for fossil fuels as well. The ability to drill for fossil fuels has also improved markedly over the last 10 years. Some people say that’s great, I say that’s very dangerous. Because it continues to feed an addiction that threatens the planet. If we improve our capacity to tap into these hydrocarbon deposits, we’re also improving our capacity, in quotation marks, to wreck the planet. And there’s a lot of this kind of technological innovation taking place in the hydrocarbon sector. The mining of the Canadian oil sands, a massive deposit of fossil fuels that were really not very accessible technologically, but now are deployable through various advances in the ability to use this kind of heavy oil. And this, again, is being deployed because it’s financially profitable. In large part because the oil companies like the utilities, like the other coal-using industries don’t pay the true social cost of the fossil fuels. Or what is now one of the most contentious technological advances in recent years. The picture shown here of so called horizontal drilling, and hydrofracking or fracking or hydro fracturing of natural gas caught in shale rock. So with this way to put drills down and then turn them every which way, and to blast rock through a high pressured solution, that fractures the rock and releases carbon dioxide. I’m sorry, releases the methane, I should say, and releases, therefore, natural gas that, that can be burned for electricity generation. We’ve expanded, again, the capacity to tap the fossil fuel reserves on the planet. But we have to ask ourselves, are we doing ourselves a favor if we’re slowing down the transition that is increasingly, urgently needed to mitigate climate change. To head off the worst disasters that will be in store if we continue on a business as usual path. We have to make choices. The world has not yet made those choices. Let’s understand that process of decision making better. What will it take for the world to agree?
We’re on a dangerous path. Humanity is emitting greenhouse gases, changing the climate, and threatening ourselves and other species and future generations in many, many very dangerous ways. We need to respond to this challenge. We use two terms to reflect two different ways of responding. Both of which are important. One term, mitigation, means to reduce what we’re doing that’s causing the climate to change. So we want to mitigate climate change by reducing the anthropogenic or human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases. The other term that we use is adaptation. That means learning to live with climate change as best as possible. To protect our cities from storms surges to protect our crops from high temperatures or flooding or droughts by helping to improve the quality of the seeds to have traits like drought resistance or heat tolerance or submergence tolerance in the seeds by advanced breeding of, of seed varieties. There’s a limit to how much we can adapt, because if the changes are so dramatic that sea levels rise several meters that the food supply is profoundly threatened by high temperatures and mega droughts and loss of soil moisture. We’re not going to be able to keep up with that under any circumstance. At the same time, it’s important that we do adapt, because climate change is happening, and it’s going to continue to happen even if we are very successful at mitigation. There is inertia in the warming as I’ve noted. So we are going to experience more warming in the years and decades ahead, simply as the oceans catch up with the warming already implied by the greenhouse gases we’ve put into the air. But we should expect that if we continue on business as usual, we will never be able to keep up with the extent and the dangers that we will be causing ourselves. Mitigation, therefore, is an enormous priority. How to mitigate? Well, for that, we need a careful diagnosis. What is it that we’re doing? And since we understand that we have several specific ways that were con, contributing to greenhouse gas concentrations, we have to take measures to head off those increases. Since about three-fourths of the radiative forcing is carbon dioxide, our highest priority is to reduce the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And since most of the CO2 increase comes from our use of fossil fuels, that’s the number one item on the mitigation agenda. The second way that greenhouse gases are increasing through carbon dioxide is land use change. And so, a second item on our carbon dioxide list of actions is to head off the deforestation that’s causing the emission of CO2 by land use change. Then, next on our list comes methane. Methane is admitted in a variety of ways. We have to address each of those. Then comes nitrous oxide. For each of these human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases, we have to have a look what’s feasible, how much would it cost, what are our alternatives? What is the most cost effective way to reduce substantially the human impact on the climate system? Now, the right place to start is the with the, the carbon dioxide. And the way that scientists have usefully posed the question is, what would we have to do to carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from fossil fuels, but also from land use, in order to keep the total increase of the Earth’s temperature at two degrees centigrade or below? The answer is, that since we’ve already increased the temperature by almost one degree, we would need to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions in the coming decades. So, one recent scientific study of what this would require is shown in the graph that you’re looking at now. What you see here is a very busy picture because there are lots of possible trajectories of emissions. On the horizontal axis are the years to 2050. On the vertical axis are the tons of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere, measured actually as tons of carbon rather than tons of carbon dioxide. Now in all of this mix of pathways, take a look at two that are most important. First, look at the red path. This is the business as usual trajectory. It says that if we continue as we’re going, emissions of carbon dioxide will be higher and higher every year. Why? Because the world economy is growing. As it grows, it’s using more energy on business as usual, that energy’s going to be fossil fuel, and the CO2 emissions will rise. What trajectory of CO2 is needed to avoid two degrees centigrade increase? That’s shown in the blue trajectory. It says while CO2 emissions per year have been rising, now they have to start falling and falling sharply. We want the world economy to grow because we want poor countries to be catching up with the richer countries in living standards. But at the same time, we want the total emissions of carbon dioxide to be falling sharply. And to put it in very general terms, what’s shown here is that, while the world economy might increase threefold by the middle of the century, the total emissions should probably fall by at least half, if not more. That means that emissions per dollar of output need to decline by a factor of six or even more. We use the term decarbonization to mean reducing the amount of carbon dioxide per unit of output, per dollar of gross world product. We need a deep decarbonization of the world economy. But since most of the carbon dioxide comes from fossil fuel, we need a sharp reduction in the use of fossil fuel, at least in the way that we use fossil fuel now. One fascinating, quite wonderful study, recently done, asked the question, so how could California, a major part of the U.S. economy reduce its emissions by 80% by the year 2050. How could California, in effect, decarbonize the California state economy? And the answer is really important for us because it’s the general principles of mitigation. Three categories of action. First, energy efficiency, get more output per unit of energy input. How can we do that? Through more efficient appliances, for example.Through light bulbs whether it’s compact fluorescent light bulbs or light emitting diode light bulbs, as opposed to our more than century old incandescent bulbs.These are examples of new technologies that allow us to get more for less. More output per unit of energy. The second thing we need to do is to shift our energy supply, our primary source of energy. Instead of using coal, oil, and gas, all of which emit CO2, we need to use wind, or solar power, or other low carbon technologies. The third category of action is to take parts of the economy where we now use fossil fuels, other than the electricity sector, convert those other sectors to electricity, and then run those new electrified sectors of the economy on electricity produced by low-carbon energy sources. So what do I mean? Well, take the case of automobiles with internal combustion engines. We know that those automobiles, instead of running on internal combustion of petroleum, can run on electricity. In fact, they can do a lot of really clever and smart things for a very safe and comfortable ride as electric vehicles. And those electric vehicles need to be charged. You plug them into a power source. And if the power source itself is a low-carbon energy producing the electricity, for instance, wind farms that are used to charge the automobiles, then we have a dramatic reduction of carbon emissions coming from automobile use. And so, by electrifying the fleet of automobiles and charging that electric fleet on a clean energy grid, we could have a dramatic reduction as well. So the point is a three part process: energy efficiency, low-carbon energy sources running our electricity grid, and electrification of parts of our economy. Automobiles or home heating or industrial processes, shifting from local uses of fossil fuels in the gas tank or in the factory or in the boiler at home, and shifting that to electricity that is on a grid of clean electricity. Well, what’s an example of clean electricity? It’s electricity that comes from fo, photovoltaics, for example. Or so called concentrated solar thermal. Both are technologies that take solar energy and convert the solar energy to electricity. Photovoltaics does it directly by the solar energy hitting certain kinds of materials that then release electrons and create an electron flow, the photovoltaic effect. First escribed by the way it, it’s basic science by Albert Einstein in 1905. Or, by taking the solar energy reflecting it in mirrors, and heating water to a boiling point, and then using the steam to turn a steam turbine, and thereby producing electricity. Either way, you get electricity without fossil fuel and without carbon dioxide. And of course, we have many potential ways to produce large amounts of electricity. It could be solar power. It could be wind turbines, which have come down so much in cost that in many parts of the world, the windy places, they’re already cost competitive with fossil fuel generation. It could be geothermal energy where along tectonic zones where you can tap into the heat within the Earth, within the mantel. It’s possible to generate a lot of heat, which is used to boil water, turn steam turbine, and produce electricity. As is done, for instance in Iceland or now, increasingly in the Rift Valley of East Africa. Or more controversially, you can produce electricity with nuclear power. Electricity produced in a nuclear power plant does not create carbon dioxide emissions. It creates other risks fissile material that could potentially be used for weapons, or the risks of terror, or the risks of, of meltdowns. Or disaster such as hit Fukushima in Japan during their recent earthquake. Or Chernobyl, because of a mis-management of the power plant in Ukraine, back in the mid 1980s. But nuclear power already supplies a significant part of the electricity in many parts of the world, and it is a, essentially, a zero carbon electricity supply. And so, if we can move to a clean electricity grid, not dependent on fossil fuels, then we can also move to what you see here, an electric vehicle. There are many, many new models coming. Batteries are being improved. Technology is being improved. Electric vehicles happily can be a lot smarter than internal combustion engines, because a car running on electricity can also run on a lot of smart systems as well. Rather than the mechanical power, it’s electric motors linked to sensors, and even to self driving vehicles as of we know are being very actively explored and, and pursued by companies such as Google. And so, the chances of better transport and cleaner transport better home heating and ventilation through smart buildings and through smarter electrification, rather than using furnaces and boilers, make it possible to envision a very, very steep decline of CO2 emissions. When the California study added it all up, they found the way to reach that bold 80% target is, as illustrated in this figure. The baseline emissions are the line at the top, showing that CO2 emissions are on the rise in California because of growth of the economy. The preferred mitigation trajectory is the downward sloping line at the bottom of the curve. And the gap is explained by all of these ways of reducing CO2 emissions. The light blue zone shows the reductions of emissions coming from energy efficiency. The dark blue zone shows the reduction of emissions coming from de-carbonizing the energy sources used to produce electricity. Then you see that electrification in the yellow zone is moving to electric vehicles. There are also other smaller categories of turning to biofuels, for example. What is a biofuel? It’s of course using somehow a natural biologic process to produce a fuel that’s a substitute for fossil fuel. And so, there are many, many ways to mitigate, but the broad categories through energy efficiency, a clean electricity grid, and electrification have been shown by many studies to be the pillars of any successful strategy. Here’s the good news, all of these technologies are within reach. All of them have potential ability for a large scale. There are solutions, in other words, that are within reach. And we’re going to look at some of those solutions shortly, at what can be done in different parts of the world to make a very large correction in this dangerous path that we’ve been on. Now, there’s one more idea around. I’m not an advocate at all. Many people are very worried about it. Though, a few scientists are very excited. It is the Band-Aid approach shown here with the planet, with the, the Band-Aid on top of it. It’s called geo-engineering. The idea is, well, maybe we won’t really stop the carbon emissions. But we can find other things to do to compensate for the effect. One idea, it’s an actual idea, though I find it very frightening, is that while the carbon dioxide’s warming the planet, we would put up particles into the air. Sulfate aerosol particles that would dim the sunshine and actually cool the planet to offset what we’re doing with the carbon dioxide. Feed the air with one poison and the idea would be, well, let’s add another poison to kind of compensate. The problem is it doesn’t really compensate. It most likely adds some significant dangers. It doesn’t stop the increase of CO2. It doesn’t stop the acidification of the oceans. It doesn’t stop the changing patterns of precipitation. Indeed, it would have highly, highly uncertain and potentially very, very dangerous effects. But I think that the Band-Aid approach is what it is. If the bleed is so dangerous that it threatens life itself and well being on the planet, a band-aid is probably not an adequate response. And in this case, I think we should look for what’s within reach, what our technologies are telling us. We could deeply reduce carbon dioxide emissions by taking similar steps on methane and nitrous oxide and fertilizer use and landfills, and in other areas, turn that curve of greenhouse gas emissions sharply lower. Help keep the planet below the two degree centigrade rise. It’s possible, but time is running out. So let’s look at how we can accelerate progress.
Why should we care about human-induced climate change? The fact of the matter is, we should be scared, truly scared. Not so frightened that we’re paralyzed, but rather scared into action because the consequences on a business-as-usual trajectory for this planet could absolutely be dire. We are on a path of putting so much carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide into the atmosphere that the temperature increase on average on the planet could be several degrees centigrade by the end of this century. Four, five, six, eight, nine degrees centigrade, there’s no absolute precision on how big the increase could be because we can’t really say, first of all, how much greenhouse gas we will be putting in, even in a growing world economy on a business-as-usual path. And there are also undoubted uncertainties about the Earth’s processes. And our climate models do not have the precision to be able to get down to the decimal point of the likely increases of temperature. But, because we have so much evidence coming from so many different directions, the Paleoclimate, the statistical models used by climate scientists, the evidence of what’s already happening around the world, we can be pretty sure that the consequences could be very, very dire indeed unless we change course. One very useful way to view this was presented in an important report on climate change produced by Lord Stern in the United Kingdom a few years ago. And the Stern review of climate change included the picture that you’re looking at now. Now, you see across the horizontal axis, zero degrees centigrade, one degree, two degrees, three degrees, four degrees, five degrees centigrade. This is showing all of the possibilities for the increase of temperatures during the twenty-first century depending on how much greenhouse gas we end up emitting and how the Earth’s systems respond to that. Down the side axis, we have the kinds of consequences that we should expect for different temperatures. There will be consequences for the food supply. There will be consequences for water. There will be consequences for the functioning of ecosystems and the survival of other species. There will be consequences for extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, mega heat waves, mega storms, big cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes. There will be consequences and risks of very rapid, dramatic changes to key Earth systems that could cause the climate, not only to change as markedly as shown here, but even more markedly through sudden alterations of the Earth’s climate system. What this graph shows is that for any of these categories, sey food, as you look at the consequences at one degree centigrade, compare them with the consequences at two degrees centigrade. Compare them at, for the consequences that would occur at an increase of five degrees centigrade. The more change there is in the average temperature caused by bigger increases of greenhouse gasses, the bigger risks we face. If we can head off a, a lot of the greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from fossil fuels to other kinds of energy, for example, then the consequences will be smaller because the temperature increases will be smaller. If, instead, we continue just going right along our merry way with increasing oil, gas, coal, and other greenhouse gases, and so we have a big increase of temperature, the consequences could be completely disastrous. Consider food, for example. At one degree centigrade, one of the consequences is severe impacts in the Sahel region. The Sahel, remember, is the part of West Africa just below the Sahara Desert. Mali, Niger, Chad, it’s a dry region, could get dryer. The consequences for the Sahel, even at a one degree increase, which we basically already had, are quite serious. What would happen at five degrees centigrade increase? Well, according to the evidence, entire regions would experience major declines in crop yields, up to one third decline of crop yields in Africa, for example. That would be tantamount to mass hunger, even starvation in parts of the world. If we just let things rip, and the temperatures, therefore, rise by four or five degrees centigrade so that we’re at the extreme danger end of this graph, then the consequences are absolutely terrifying. With water at one degree centigrade you see that small mountain glaciers are disappearing. And this will cause threats to the water supply in places that depend on glacier melt for their water in the rivers. But go over to five degrees centigrade, and you see that sea level rise would threaten major world cities including London, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Calamitous events possible with a mega rise in sea levels even of several meters, possibly, if the big ice sheets in West Antarctica and in Greenland melt sufficiently or break up in ways that cause a mega rise in sea level. And the Earth’s history tells us absolutely possible because in earlier episodes of high CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s paleohistory, the old climate, the sea level was often many, many meters higher than it is on the planet today because much less ice was trapped in the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland and, instead, was filling the ocean basin and raising the sea level. Well, as we’ve talked about many, many times, we’ve built our big cities right on the coast. That’s where the economy is best, where trade is best, where productivity is high. And yet, those are the cities under incredible peril. Well, in case after case, if we just let her rip, the dangers for our ability to feed the planet, our ability for our cities to remain safe from extreme hazards, our abilities to maintain public health, our abilities to avoid other calamitous dramatic change of earth’s processes, for instance changes in, in the ocean circulation or irreversible disintegration of parts of the ice sheets is called into real threat. We know that certain regions of the world are extraordinarily vulnerable like the Sahel that you’re looking at here where it is already prone to massive, droughts and where the populations are already very poor. We’re seeing those dangers, not as potential threats of the future, but as already clear and present dangers, because the Sahel has lived through serious droughts in recent years with very serious consequences for loss of life and for the onset of conflict. The Mediterranean Basin, which includes the countries of southern Europe Spain Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, and the countries of North Africa Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, this is a region where the climate science tells us that a relatively dry region that produces some of the, the world’s most beloved products, whether it’s the olive oils or the great wines of this region, could be devastated by drying. And so, these are three of many regions that have been identified as facing profound threats. Mm, and this is not simply in the imagination of the climatologists or, or even in the traces of their mathematical models. This is what we’re already observing even with the limited human-induced climate change that we’ve experienced now, which could be a small fraction of what’s to come. Have a look at the changes of of, of rainfall experienced in the Mediterranean Basin over the last century. The whole Mediterranean Basin has experienced a significant trend of drying. And the record shows if we continue with business as usual, that it could experience further dramatic drying with quite devastating consequences to the economies, to the nature, to the ecosystems, to food security even in this region. The evidence from the mathematical models is that the trends that we’ve been experiencing till now, for example, the drying in the Sahel or the drying in the Mediterranean, foreshadow what would happen if we continue as we’re going, but with consequences far more severe than what we’ve seen to date. You’re looking now at a map recently produced by a climate science group that studies the propensity to drought on the planet. And the map that you’re looking at shows you in the red areas, places likely to experience significant declines of rainfall and significant increases of drought intensity and frequency. It’s an ugly picture because you see red everywhere. A tremendous amount of the world’s areas would likely experience significant declines of soil moisture that they need to grow food and would experience a significant increase of intensity of drought at the same time. Now we know that another consequence that could be devastating is the rise of sea levels as ice sheets melt or just break apart pushing ice or water into the open ocean and raising sea levels. In the northeast of the United States where I live, the estimate is that, over the last century, the sea level has already increased by about one foot or one third of a meter. I, you might think that we’d get a uniform rise of sea level in all parts of the world, but topography and other geologic features mean that the rise of sea levels will differ in differ, different parts of the world. A one foot increase, what has already been experienced, played a major role in the havoc of the massive floods that hit New York City, that we’ve already looked at, and the whole Eastern Seaboard during superstorm Sandy. Storm surges eh, coastal erosion are already occurring as sea levels are rising. But the new evidence suggests that by the end of the century on a business-as-usual path, sea levels could be a meter higher than they are right now, three or four feet higher. And if the worst case happened, which is a catastrophic loss of part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, for example, the rise of sea level could even be several meters. You put this together. The consequences for urban areas, hugging the oceans, for our food supplies around the world are, are absolutely extraordinary, potentially devastating. The map that you’re looking at now attempts to ask what would happen to food production if this combination of warmer temperatures and more drying were to take place. And what you see here is South Asia and tropical Africa in the absolute red zones, or red and pink zones meaning major loss of agricultural production, so too the Southern part of the United States and much of Latin America, much of Australia. What are we doing? We’re putting the world’s food supplies at great risk. And again, it’s not hypothetical because we’ve already had a serious derangement of production in many places in the world as droughts have hit in recent years and as higher temperatures have undermined crop yield, sometimes killing crops or dramatically reducing the crop yields. A final point that I would like to stress is that, even if one put aside all of the climate-induced changes coming from this human-induced rise of carbon dioxide concentrations, all of the major storm events, the rising sea levels, the rising temperatures the increased floods and droughts, the loss of soil moisture needed to grow food, it’s a big, long, very threatening list. Put all of that aside. The basic physical fact that a higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will lead to more carbon dioxide dissolving in the oceans causing acidity in the ocean, by itself is frightening enough because, as I’ve discussed, as the oceans become more acidic, and there’s a lot more acidification on the way, major parts of the marine ecosystems, the shellfish, the animals with exoskeletons, the plankton with the calcareous exteriors, but part of the major food chains in the world, the Coral Reefs, which are so vital for the marine ecosystems, could experience, and are likely to experience, a massive dying. We’re playing with threats beyond our easy imagination. We’re in a kind of denial that is added to by, unfortunately, propaganda by major vested interest groups, like big oil companies. We are playing with the survival of millions of other species, adding to this tremendous risk of the sixth great extinction on the planet that we’ve looked at before; the other five caused by nature itself, this one by humanity in it’s thoughtlessness if we continue on this course. We can see that we have every reason to change the game, every reason to play for a control of these forces, every reason to mitigate the human-induced climate change for our own safety, for the safety of the planet, and for future generations. How can these forces be reduced? How can we mitigate human-induced climate change? That’s our next topic.
Climate change is the biggest of all the environmental threats that we face, and the magnitude of this threat is only gradually dawning on humanity. It is, in my view, the very toughest of public policy problems that humanity on a whole has ever faced. Let me mention why. First it’s global, many problems are local, local communities can solve them. So problems are national, this one involves the entire world. The problem goes to the core of the economy. Our economy runs on energy. And energy in the form of fossil fuels is both the driver of the world economy, and the essence of the climate change problem. Because when we burn fossil fuels, we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And that is the major reason why humanity is changing the climate. Not the only one, but the major one. Third, this is a dire problem. The consequences and the stakes are absolutely huge. Sometimes problems are difficult, but they don’t matter all that much. This one matters a lot. Next it’s slow moving. We’re just not good enough to see it day by day, year by year, what’s really happening to the planet. The scientists are telling us, watch out, you’re getting to the cliff, you’re hitting the thresholds, you’re crossing the boundaries of safety, but life goes on. And because this is a problem that stretches out over decades the politicians, the businesses and all of us don’t necessarily feel lit and know it and realize the dangers of it. Because it’s slowly, slowly creeping up on us. Not slow by the chronology of the planet because events are changing very fast by that standard but a little bit slow by news events and that’s part of what confuses us. It’s a complicated problem because it involves many parts of the world economy and involves every part of the world both in the impacts of climate change on humanity, but also on the causes of climate change. Because every part of the world is contributing to the problem, though some places, like the United States, on a per person basis are contributing hugely relative to other places, which are mainly victims, especially the poorest parts of the world that still don’t use very much fossil fuel energy. This is a multi-generational problem. A lot of the impact will be felt by people not even born yet, they’re obviously not voting. They’re not able to raise their voice, and yet the impacts on them will be absolutely huge. And finally, this is an issue on which there are very powerful lobbies. None more powerful than big oil. The oil industry is a rich industry. Massive flows of revenues and profits.And that that can be used for media, that can be used to confuse the public to defend the status quo, to fund politicians that are going to continue to look after the interests of the fossil fuel industry even when that interest may be so dangerous for the planet. So we have a lot of vested politics in this issue as well. Well in order to see really what needs to be done and how it might be done, we have to start with the science. And the science I think it’s important to state it’s not some new fangled, invention of, of the latest, scientific publication. The basics of how greenhouse gases warm the planet and what humanity might do, therefore, to the Earth’s average temperature as a result of the increase of greenhouse gases has been known for more than 100 years. You’d never know that from climate skeptics and the climate change deniers, but the fact of the matter is that the first serious, absolutely brilliant scientific study of what would happen if the amount of carbon dioxide, CO2, in the atmosphere were to double, how temperature would, would change was published in 1896 by Gustavus Arrhenius, an absolutely brilliant Nobel Laureate chemist in Sweden who worked out by paper and pencil, and did it just right. What would happen if CO2 were to double? He got the answer right, that the temperature on the planet would rise by a few degrees centigrade. He didn’t get the timescale right, because he said that while human use of coal and oil and other fossil fuels would eventually double carbon dioxide, he thought that would take hundreds and hundreds of years, maybe 700 or 800 years. But in fact, because of the geometric growth of the world economy, a process that looked like it might take hundreds and hundreds of years could happen within roughly 150 years from the time that Eranius wrote, by the middle of the 21st century, by 2050 or so. That’s a very frightening prospect. Why is it frightening? Well, the basic reason is shown in this schematic diagram of the greenhouse gas effect. What it shows is that sunshine coming from the sun reaches the planet as ultraviolet radiation. A little bit of it is reflected by the clouds. Most of it reaches the earth. A little bit of that is reflected by the ice and other land surfaces on the planet but most of it is absorbed by the earth. The Earth warms and as a result of it’s warming, the Earth radiates infrared radiation back into space. The Earth warms enough so that the outgoing infrared radiation equals the incoming ultraviolet radiation. That’s a thermal balance, or thermal equilibrium. Now you put a level of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others. Those molecules have a particular property that they absorb some of the infrared radiation and trap it and warm the planet more than the planet would be warmed if those greenhouse gases didn’t exist. Indeed, if we had no greenhouse gasses the temperature of Earth would be something like the temperature of the moon. A lot colder and unable to support life as we know it. It’s because of this envelope of greenhouse gasses that Earth is indeed warmer. So far, so good. But now if humanity increases the amount of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then we create problems. Because life on the planet, and humanity, and our civilization, have evolved in a certain kind of climate, but now we’re changing the climate by adding more molecules of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, warming the climate and pushing the thermal equilibrium to higher temperatures that threaten us in a variety of ways. There are several chemical compounds or molecules that have this property that they trap infrared radiation. Carbon Dioxide is the most important of these; nitrous oxide, methane, and some industrial chemicals. The total warming effect sometimes called the total radiative forcing of the greenhouse gases, is the sum of the effects of each of these greenhouse gases. The total radiative forcing caused by human activity that is caused by the emissions of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and these industrial chemicals leads to the overall warming effect and of that, carbon dioxide accounts for about 77% or about three quarters of the total effect. Methane is the second most important of the human induced greenhouse gases. And nitrous oxide is the third and the sum of the radiative forcings of those three types of greenhouse gases account for about 99% of the total greenhouse effect. In magnitude, we’ve been emitting more and more of those gases over time. The measurement of the total emissions is in what’s called giga-tons, meaning billions of tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. We ask how much warming is caused by the sum of all of these greenhouse gases, and we ask what would be the equivalent amount of just carbon dioxide be. And that’s called CO2 e, or carbon dioxide equivalent tons of emission each year. And to give you the round numbers we’re emitting right now on the order of about 55 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. The carbon dioxide part of that total is about 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Most of that is coming from burning coal, oil and gas a much smaller part of that, around 10% is coming from cutting down trees. Cutting down the rainforest and there by releasing carbon dioxide from the trees back into the atmosphere. Well, how big is this effect? It’s big enough to cause us really huge dangers. About 50 years ago, a very far-sighted scientist put some monitors a, on a mountaintop in Hawaii, and he started measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And thanks to those measurements from 1958 till now, we have annual and actually even within the year fluctuations of carbon dioxide levels from then until now. And this is known among earth scientists as the Keeling Curve because it was Dr. Keeling who put up the monitor, and what the Keeling Curve shows is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising significantly. Measured as parts per million of carbon dioxide, the number of CO2 molecules per million of total molecules in the air, most of which is nitrogen part of which is oxygen, and then just a bit of carbon dioxide. But that little bit is enough to change the whole climate. Starting back in 1958 when that machine first went to, up on the top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, the carbon dioxide was 320 molecules for every one million molecules in the air, or we say 320 parts per million. By now, CO2 has reached 400 parts per million. Before James Watt came with his brilliant steam engine, the atmosphere contained about 280 parts per million. In the geologic history of the last three million years, the CO2 varied roughly between 150 and 300 parts per million. Then came humanity, and we’ve been burning so much oil, gas, and coal, that we’ve now sent the CO2 levels absolutely soaring. And reaching the 400 parts per million level in the spring of 2013. A concentration of carbon dioxide not seen on the planet for three million years. In other words, human activity is pushing the planet into a climate zone completely unknown in human history, and unknown in the Earth’s recent history. Some of the great scientists, many of, of my colleagues I’m honored to say, like Professor James Hanson, are able to use various techniques to look at the long history of carbon dioxide and temperatures on the planet Earth. And the picture you’re looking at now is a, a, a kind of manuscript of the Earth’s history showing a long record over the past 400,000 years of fluctuations in carbon dioxide and in temperature on the planet. Now these fluctuations in carbon dioxide were not caused by humanity using a steam engine obviously, this is hundreds of thousands of years ago. These were natural fluctuations of carbon dioxide driven by natural processes. By volcanoes, by the re-absorption of carbon dioxide into the oceans. And by changes of the Earth’s orbital cycle on a periodicity of tens of thousands of years. But what the paleoclimate record shows is that when CO2 is high, temperatures are high. And this is the basic greenhouse effect. Raise the CO2 in the atmosphere, expect a warmer planet. This has been true throughout history. And it is true now. We have been in a process of raising the carbon dioxide level and the other greenhouse gases. Nitrous oxide, methane and the industrial chemicals that the, floor carbons and so forth, the HFCs and the others. And by doing so we have led to a warming of the planet within modern history. If you look to the temperature at the start of the industrial revolution until now. The Earth has warmed by about 8 10ths of one degree centigrade. Because there’s more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. And the Earth hasn’t yet finished its warming in response to the greenhouse gas increases that humanity has caused. Even if we were to put no more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but just to stay with what’s there right now, Earth would continue to warm by perhaps another 0.6 of one degree centigrade. Because the oceans large bath tubs take a long time to warm up in response to the greenhouse gases. So we’ve seen perhaps half or a little bit more than half of the warming that will come from the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases already put in the air. But we’re not done, we’ve been accelerating the amount of greenhouse gases that we’re putting into the air, we’re increasing the amount of methane, increasing the amount of nitrous oxide. The fact of the matter is, that even though in more than 20 years since the world’s governments said, we have an urgent challenge of heading off the human induced greenhouse gases in order to prevent a huge dangerous change of the Earth’s climate. 20 years on, we’ve still not turned the needle of slowing down our emissions, much less stopping them. The rate of emissions has been going up year to year as the world economy has been increasing in scale. And with the growth of China, we’ve seen an enormous increase of greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Because China by itself by virtue of its huge size and by virtue of its use of coal as its primary energy source has become the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. We’re on a dangerous path. Let’s now understand, what are the dangers of this rise of temperature. And of other changes of the climate system. What does it mean for us? Why should we worry?