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Henk Campher headshot

The Quick & Dirty: Climate Change -- Rinse and Repeat


I love watching Tom Cruise movies. They don't ask too much of me and are always guaranteed to be a great popcorn movie full of entertainment. One of my recent favorites is "Edge of Tomorrow." For those who haven't seen it yet, it's about a guy who gets trapped in a time loop -- repeating the same day somewhere in the future while battling aliens who want to wipe out the world. Sound familiar? Well, it is a bit like "Groundhog Day" but with Tom fighting aliens to save the world.

It might also remind you of climate change negotiations. We've been repeating the same thing since 2009. Let me run this by you and see if you recognize the script. Sit back and have some popcorn while I paint you a picture.

  • A bunch of people will run into the streets in New York, but no one will notice outside of a few people who really care ... a lot. If we're lucky, it will hit the news on a few channels but unlikely to get past the 11 p.m. news.

  • A handful of companies will make commitments to reduce their emissions, increase use of renewable energy, [fill in the blank], etc.

  • They might even start a new organization or initiative to show how aligned they all are. Names like "Companies Love Initially Making Awesome Targeted Emissions (CLIMATE)." They love fancy names.

  • The U.S. government will raise their voice and say that this is it: the line in the sand. No more playing around as we will now get serious about making serious commitments. And a few other important governments will raise their voices, too -- China, Europe, Brazil, India etc.

  • Everyone will agree that this time it will be the real thing. The change we were waiting for. And it couldn't have happened soon enough because it is almost too late.

Sound familiar? It is exciting, isn't it? Oh wait, I forgot one more thing...

  • Everyone will get excited as we gather in some major city in the world. And then the negotiations will turn into another slog with, at best, marginal commitments and nothing done to stop climate change. Everyone will call the deal a good deal even though everyone knows it is a pretty crap deal. Nothing changes except the climate. And that is not a good thing. And we will shrug our shoulders and keep on fighting.

The only difference between Tom Cruise and our yearly round of climate change time loop negotiations and agreement? Tom Cruise actually learns from his mistakes and improves constantly. And at a pace that meant he eventually slayed the aliens and saved the earth.

And that is why it is called science fiction.

We do the same in climate negotiations: We have the science to show we need to do something serious right now, but treat it like fiction when it comes to the actual agreement and commitments.

Rinse and repeat. The life of climate change. Loud voices make big claims, but nothing will happen to slow down what is killing us.

Just stop it.

Stop believing the hype. A few people in the streets is not a movement. A movement happens when the public has bought into it every single day.

Stop applauding boring commitments. Making a commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 is not leadership. That is 35 years from now. Everyone involved will be either dead or retired. And you will get fired if you set any other business goal for 35 years from now -- think: product development, growth etc. None of those have 35-year goals.

Stop thinking herd mentality is leadership. Yes, businesses should herd together to pull the laggards, but true leadership is for those who look ahead and set their own big, hairy and audacious goals. Leadership is lonely and way ahead of where everyone else feels comfortable.

Stop thinking that science will convince people. It hasn't, and it won't start fast enough -- think: obesity, smoking etc. People know what is right but will still not do what is required fast enough.

Stop creating another organization. We have so many of them already. Climate change must be one of the most organized and well-funded nonprofit movements ever. Pick a name with climate in it, and we have it. We don't need more. We need better.

Just. Stop. It.

"Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." -- Albert Einstein

What should we do? Let's first start with what we shouldn't be doing before we worry about that. I promise you, rinse and repeat won't do it. Next time I will focus on what we need to start doing. But lets not create another idea -- let's stop with the stupid ones first.

In the meantime, we will always have Paris.

Image credit: Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Henk Campher headshotHenk Campher

A series of quick & dirty opinion pieces by Henk Campher out in the Wild West of San Francisco. Disrupter of purpose. Engineer of big ideas. Slayer of myths. Social media junkie - @angryafrican. He never wears ties. Ever. But always wears an accent with a strategy and opinion in his back pocket. Please note this series will not focus on individual companies and any reference is purely to provide color commentary. He wrote a book once.

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