Too much climate pessimism is leaving people 'flat': Singapore president | News | Environmental business

Around the world, there is still a culture of climate inaction or a desire to postpone action in the hope that things will get better, Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam said. But there is an opposite tendency when people talk about the coming crisis – with the hope of „shocking others”.

Both mindsets foster passivity, which he suggested should be avoided.

„Most studies show that simply talking about disaster and scaring people or driving people to despair does not lead to action. It leads to 'laying down,'” said Shanmugaratnam. He refers to a phrase – ”Tang Bing” (身平) in Chinese – now commonly used by young people in China when they are so disappointed in life that they decide to do nothing.

Speaking at the reception of the annual Environmental Sustainability Summit organized by Temasek, Shanmugaratnam highlighted the significant progress the world has made in taking climate action. Governments have moved on climate, and so have companies, but this should not lead to „complacent optimism,” he said.

Here are five more messages on climate that the president shared in his keynote speech:

1. Reshaping economies. Think of philanthropy as risk capital.

Shanmugaratnam called for different countries to work together to solve common problems focusing on sustainability and equity. At the same time, he said, there needs to be a change in how we think about charity.

Shanmugaratnam said that philanthropy should not be seen only as doing good through donations. Instead, the public, private and philanthropic sectors must “take risks and expect rewards” through co-investment. „It's a huge opportunity to reshape what we think of as a market economy,” he said.

This cannot be solved universally [climate] The challenge is not a class of investors with the ability to take risk in early-stage innovations, the ability to look at returns over the long term, and the ability to think not only about financial returns, but social returns.

2. Shift the politics of climate change from talking about the costs we pay today to avoid costs in the distant future to the benefits we get today.

These benefits include economic growth, job creation, improved crop yields, clean air and protection from extreme weather events, Shanmugaratnam said.

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Shanmugaratnam described it as an opportunity for a new era of growth that should not be ignored.

We're talking about trillions of dollars needed to get to net zero, not a single cost. They are an investment in growth, jobs and an inclusive future.

3. Don't settle for climate alone. Addressing water and biodiversity.

Meeting all three together can create a positive feedback loop, says Shanmugaratnam.

Biodiversity provides many benefits to humanity and natural capital should be valued. „We ultimately have to have it on our books and account for it,” he said.

4. Transition paths are critical. Don't just set distant climate goals.

It is highly likely that the world is underestimating the amount of global warming that will occur.

That's because the best climate models, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific group set up by the United Nations to monitor and assess all global science related to climate change, are not based on enough data. Shanmugaratnam said that climate impacts have occurred in the last 50 years. „We don't have the data or the models to estimate what happens when tipping points are crossed.”

He called for clear transition pathways rather than distant climate targets. „Every tenth of a percentage point or every 0.1 degree centigrade counts.”

Based on current projections, policies and actions driven by the corporate sector will help achieve only 5 percent of the carbon emissions needed to reach net zero by 2050 by 2030.

The only choice we face is between orderly change and disordered change. We are currently on a path to very erratic change globally beyond 2030.

5. Consumers can make simple changes without reducing their quality of life.

For example, Shanmugaratnam advocated a shift to beef-free meals, which does not offer meat on the dinner menu, which is known to produce high greenhouse gas emissions, including methane.

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“Indeed, it is [not eating beef] We need to increase our quality of life because we will also be healthy,” he said.

Shanmugaratnam also spoke about the fast fashion industry. „We don't pay enough attention to the textile industry. As an individual in my late 60s, I don't think I should be lecturing people about how often they should change what they wear. But at least, we can go circular.

He advocated innovation in every sector of the economy, not just renewables. For example, he said: “We need a new green revolution in agriculture. One of the solutions is to revolutionize rice farming and decarbonize rice plantings, and move to rice strains and cultivation methods that involve much less water use. It can be achieved,'' he said.

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