The data coming out of the World Meteorological Organization regarding greenhouse gas emissions is grim at best. Today we are learning that carbon emissions surged at a record pace last year and that CO2 levels increased more between 2012 and 2013 than during any other year since 1984. What is terribly disconcerting is that as a global community, we clearly have not made any progress in our efforts to curtail the rate at which carbon emissions are increasing. According to analysis conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in order to keep to the 2°C limit on warming, “decarbonisation” of the global economy would need to occur at “five times the rate currently achieved”. Australia leads the way recording a 7.2% reduction in carbon emissions and China making its own contribution with a 4% reduction. However, major economies including USA, India, Germany and Brazil exhibited growth in carbon output due to increased use of coal and a slower transition to renewable sources.
Clearly, a significant lack of urgency still exists amongst the world’s citizens, particularly those who are not experiencing the effects of climate change first hand. Certainly many of us still live within a bubble. But ask the millions of people in Bangladesh who are already being displaced northward due to the increased frequency of cyclones and an impending 3 foot rise in sea levels by 2100 due to warming temperatures. This particular situation is a “handbook” of what the world could face in many coastal areas if we continue to move forward on the current trajectory. For Bangladesh, a country with a population of 160million and roughly the size of Iowa, 73% of the population still lives in rural areas. Due to the changing environment by the coast, more individuals are being forced to migrate to the capital city of Dhaka to look for work in order to support their families back home. But this migration is already beginning to illustrate the unsustainable path the country is headed towards. In the capital city where most of the job opportunities exist, scarcity of resources and land could escalate into absolutely chaotic situation and it is not something out of a storybook. It is very real, it is happening. This isn’t just a story about Bangladesh, but is s story that could very well play out across coastal cities around the world. Rising sea levels, increased ocean acidification which could lead to major disruptions in the food chain, as well as increased frequency of devastating natural disasters are but a few ramifications that we are all well aware of. But given today’s news, it would seem that no one wants to act until it is too late to really do something impactful about the situation.
The question we must all ask ourselves is what can we do within our immediate environment to reduce our own contribution to climate change. For those of us in the financial services industry much of our activities generate considerable amounts of paper waste. This continues despite the fact that efforts to promote recycling and digitization of documents have been around for some time. But for those who believe this topic is trite, understand that paper usage in all its forms is a large contributor to deforestation in the world. Deforestation itself is a large contributor to climate change because less trees means less absorption of carbon dioxide. The effect is also compounded because once a tree dies, it releases previously absorbed CO2 . CO2 gets released into the atmosphere, drives global warming resulting in a whole host of environmental issues. Here at AJF Financial, we have reached out to American Portfolios and Pershing to see what can be done to accelerate the adoption of paperless statements. One of my suggestions was to initiate a contest between all the advisers under the American Portfolios or Pershing umbrella to see who could drive the most conversions of clients to paperless statements. This is just one of a handful of measurable results every individual can explore to contribute to a safer future for this world, and with respect to the bigger picture of Sustainability, there are so many other ways we can implement change. While recycling and reduction of paper waste should not be discounted, we all know that the real issue at hand is recognizing that Sustainability matters and the companies we invest in should be held to that higher standard. I invite you to communicate with me sustainability issues that should be brought to my attention. And if you understand our mission please feel free to share with others.
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