The ‘Hothouse Earth’ study published by scientists this week rightly gained a lot of media coverage with its alarming warning that we could be heading for a point of no return if the planet warms by so many degrees that humans can no longer control its fate.
Technology is mentioned throughout the report, as the authors repeatedly make the case for innovation as a potential source of hope in an otherwise bleak scenario.
‘Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilise it…Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonisation of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values.’
Many of us working in property are guilty at times of being numb to climate change as claims by one product and company after another in the past 20 years have trumpeted their low carbon, green, sustainability credentials and waved certificates from BREEAM. Most property companies seem to only really get stuck in when they have to follow a regulation or hit a target to meet planning conditions or attract investors. Not because they really want to save the planet, so it feels.
Governments too flip-flop around the subject: Britain defers decisions on carbon-reducing nuclear energy plants, and the US is in danger of going backwards as it loosens controls around emissions. Some countries are better and talk of circular (recycled) construction methods comes up a lot with Scandinavian contacts.
The authors reassure us reversals of human scale can be achieved. The example given is around birth control, where ‘there has been relatively rapid progress toward slowing or reversing population growth through declining fertility resulting from the empowerment of women, access to birth control technologies, expansion of educational opportunities, and rising income levels.’
This summer’s heatwave has highlighted these clearly worrying climatic times and has felt like being in a science fiction film with daily news of record temperatures in Portugal, biggest fires in California history and 100% drought across New South Wales.
Coping with the fallout will also require technological innovation to prevent water leakages that infuriate residents in areas where hosepipe bans are threatened, to try and cool hot-and-bothered office workers, to put out wildfires.
‘Ultimately, the transformations necessary to achieve the Stabilized Earth pathway require a fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective governance at the Earth System level, with a much stronger emphasis on planetary concerns in economic governance, global trade, investments and finance, and technological development.’
The property and tech sectors’ response to global warming is something PlaceTech will seek out to cover more in the coming weeks and months. Because for now, the Earth’s future is in our hands and we all must take responsibility for doing the right thing.