Climate change has the potential to wipe out 20 years of economic and social development. Action is being taken and we're moving in the right direction, but not fast enough, so what more can be done?
Inaction on climate change is fifth in this year's top-10 list. That's not due to climate skepticism, which is now less pervasive than it used to be. It is fifth because the consequences of insufficient action are still completely underestimated - otherwise, it would be first. Because the fact is that if we don't take action in a timely fashion at the scale that we need, climate has the potential to wipe out the progress we have made over the past 20 years in economic development, in social development and in environmental protection. It is the major "wipe out" factor.
I think that's why people all around the world aren't happy with the amount of attention climate change receives. The Survey on the Global Agenda shows that of the top 10 trends, respondents are by far the least satisfied with the response to climate change. But we shouldn't mistake that for genuine inaction.
There is action, and it's moving in the right direction, but it's not moving fast enough. For example, we have one trillion dollars of cumulative investment in renewable energy. That's good news, but it's not enough. We need one trillion dollars per year. There's action nationally, internationally and on the ground, but it is absolutely not enough, and that's why there is the perception of inaction.
Our changing climate is the most pressing challenge we face, but it's also the most compelling opportunity we've ever had, because there is no response to climate change that doesn't take us into a very exciting future. To reduce deforestation actually has many co-benefits environmentally, socially and economically; to accelerate the introduction of renewable energies into the energy matrix doesn't just have positive climate change implications, it transports us into the cutting-edge future of a low-carbon economy. That's the wonderful thing about the climate -- it's the bridge to an exciting future that we should all feel very attracted towards.
Addressing climate change is daunting in its complexity. There's no human endeavor that is not in some way linked to the climate change challenge. We are facing a complete transformation of our economy, but we have transformed our economies before -- look at the industrial revolution, or the revolution that the Internet brought to the world. It is doable. We have the technology, we have the finance and we have the wherewithal, but we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed, because the fact is that we do not have the option to ignore the problem as though that would make it go away.
It doesn't help that you can't point to any one economy that has already succeeded. You have economies like Germany, which has made a very serious commitment to the transformation of energy. And you have economies like tiny little Costa Rica, the country I come from, which has said it is going to become climate-neutral. But they're isolated examples of this transformation and we need to move from isolated examples to making this the norm.
Wherever you are in the world, policy cannot wait for transformative action and action cannot wait for policy perfection. It is completely unacceptable for those who have the power to effect change to stay in a "you first" stance. Policy and action must progress hand in hand, learning from each other. We have to bring these two factors together.
It's clear this is not just a government responsibility, a business opportunity or an academic exercise -- this is something from which no single human being is exempt from responsibility. This is not just an environmental challenge, and it's not a future challenge; it is a transformational challenge that we must embrace today, not tomorrow.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum to mark the Forum's Annual Meeting 2014 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 22-25). The Forum's Network of Global Agenda Councils consists of more than 80 select groups of experts, each focused on key topics in the global arena, that collectively serve as an advisory board to the Forum and other interested parties, such as governments and international organizations. Read all the posts in this series forecasting global trends for 2014 here.
Follow Christiana Figueres on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CFigueres