Climate change is a global emergency. It’s threatening crops, water supplies, infrastructure, and livelihoods. It’s damaging the broader economy and company bottom lines today, not in some distant future. In recent years AT&T has spent $874 million on repairs after natural disasters that the company ties to climate change. The reinsurance leader Swiss Re has seen large increases in payouts for damage caused by extreme weather events — $2.5 billion more in 2017 than it had predicted — a trend that CEO Christian Mumenthaler attributes to rising global temperatures. If we don’t move quickly toward action on climate, says Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, we’ll see company bankruptcies and raise the odds of systemic economic collapse.
Corporate leaders are at last absorbing this; nearly every large company has significant plans to cut carbon emissions and is acting. But given the scale of the crisis and the pace at which it’s developing, these efforts are woefully inadequate. Critical UN reports in 2018 and 2019 make two things clear: (1) To avoid some of the worst outcomes of climate change, the world must cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and eliminate them entirely by midcentury. (2) Current government plans and commitments are not remotely close to putting us on that path. Emissions are still rising.