One of the most refreshing things about the Six Senses SLOW LIFE Symposium, apart from the delicious locally filtered water, is the no nonsense approach to discussing climate change and global warming.
It is no use discussing the global environmental challenge without addressing the commercial realities of moving to a low-carbon existence.
Mark Lynas, Climate Change Advisor to the President of the Maldives, was first up on the opening day of the Symposium.
Mark, author of the recently published, The God Species is perhaps better placed than anyone to explain the challenges facing this wonderful island country.
“What has really struck me is that this is a country that intends to be master of its own destiny. The phrase is ‘victim to victor’” he said.
The Maldives is tiny. In terms of overall carbon emissions, the Maldives doesn’t even register. But rather than rage against the major global polluters, President Nasheed of the Maldives is determined that his small country leads the rest of the world in the battle against climate change.
Mark described the Maldives as a “lab” for renewable energy development. Companies from all over the world come here to test new technologies.
“What the Maldives has managed to do is to say that going carbon neutral is good for the economy – it is the engine for growth,” Mark said.
He added that the world is seeing a new dynamic where adopting low or zero carbon technologies is not seen as a heavy burden but actually a driver of economic growth.
It was a theme picked up by Jeremy Leggett, CEO of Solar Century and a leading exponent of renewable technologies.
Jeremy’s key argument is that we are going to reach a situation very quickly where the fossil fuel industry will not be able to extract oil and gas at a rate to keep up with global demand. The result – a global energy crisis and the destruction of the world’s pension funds, which are underpinned by the value of hydrocarbons locked in the ground.
As a result, according to Jeremy, we could reach a point in the near future where all that value trapped in the ground becomes irretrievable. And that will make the recent credit crunch look like an economic storm in a teacup.
Frankly, it’s a really worrying message and one which is hard to examine without feeling very downhearted about our prospects for the future.
But there is hope. All we need to do, according to Jeremy, is to adopt a war footing mentality when it comes to embracing renewable technologies.
“History tells us it can be done. In 1941 the thought that the US could manufacture 1000 aircraft a month was ludicrous. By 1943 it was a reality. It is that commitment that we now need for renewables.”
Jacob von Uexkull of the World Future Council was equally forthright.
“Climate change is the only threat that the media downplays rather than exaggerates. Natural laws can not be changed. Nature provides no bail out packages and you can’t negotiate with melting glaciers.
“Climate inaction will lead to growing conflicts over scarcer resources as well as a massive increase in climate refugees. How will countries react when millions of refugees arrive from places in Africa?”
And all that happened before lunch!
Another update tomorrow.