After endless debate about whether climate change is occurring and whether we should think about doing something about it, the conversation has shifted.
After decades of refusal by the largest polluting countries to tackle their greenhouse gas emissions, the policy debate is moving forward.
After years in which climate change was relegated to a few pages in companies' CSR reports, businesses have changed their approach.
At every level of society, people are waking up to the fact that climate change is happening, and recognizing that doing nothing is a losing option for nations, businesses and communities.
The headlines tell the story, in no particular order:
- 19 June 2013 - Utility-scale PV costs in the U.S. drop to $3/Watt, and are expected to reach $0.36/Watt by 2017. This compares to $2.20/Watt for onshore wind, $1.00 for combined-cycle natural gas, and $8/Watt for the coal-fired carbon capture and storage plant under construction in Mississippi.
- 19 September 2013 - Russia urges discussion of geoengineering in upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
- 11 September 2013 - UK Astronomer Royal calls for research into geoengineering options as worry grows about the pace of carbon reductions.
- 15 September 2013 - the UK's Liberal Democrat party makes a controversial vote in favor of nuclear power to fight climate change.
- 20 September 2013 - Many electric utilities have looked to carbon capture and storage as a reason to keep building fossil fueled power plants in a carbon-constrained world. Now that the Obama Administration is rolling out rules limiting emissions, lobbyists are changing their tune.
- 12 September 2013 - Overall Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse emissions have fallen 14% since 2009 at the 500 largest listed companies, even as performance lags for the most energy-intensive firms, according to the CDP. Importantly, more and more companies include a discussion of climate change risks and opportunities in their annual investor report, instead of in their less-read CSR reports.
- And then there's fracking.
First, the economics of clean energy increasingly make for unlikely bedfellows. Utilities are arguing against CCS while supposedly "green" political parties are voting in favor of nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing.
Second, serious and respected thinkers are beginning to advocate increasingly desperate measures to address climate change - up to and including radical geoengineering approaches.
Third, the business world is increasingly split on their approach, with one influential group racing ahead to capture the opportunities presented by a lower-carbon economy.
There is an influential, large and ever-growing group of people and organizations that "get it" - they know climate change is a fact of life and are thinking seriously about how to respond. This is an extraordinary turn of events, and one that will lead to major shifts in how we do business in future.
The message from this steady drumbeat of news headlines is clear. The need to reduce emissions and tackle climate change is a fact of life, now, not for some point in the hazy future. Those businesses that have yet to build a robust climate change response into their corporate strategy are missing an opportunity to reduce risk and to build business value.