The well-known shortsightedness of Power and Capital towards environmental issues in general and towards Global Warming in particular, now wears glasses. Great, we think, trying to figure out what might have brought on this unexpected and exasperated sensibility: it might have been the emphatic warnings of scientists, environmentalists and sociologists about the environmental and humanitarian catastrophes up ahead, on a global scale or it might have been the warnings of more or less informed politicians, such as Al Gore.
But, no, the eye doctor responsible for this sudden 20/20 vision answers to the name of Sir Nicholas Stern. And he's not an environmentalist, he's actually an economist.
Stern is one of the most renowned financial experts in the United Kingdom. He was the Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank from 2000 to 2003, a member of the British Academy and the American Arts Academy and the author of a study about the effects of Global Warming in the Economy, which led to the famous Stern Review, ordered by Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister. The results of the study were alarming, pointing towards a 5ºC increase in temperature, if nothing is done otherwise, which means climate changes will, in the future, cost between 5% and 20% of all wealth produced in the planet: about 5.5 billion euros a year (37 times Portugal's GDP) starting from the end of this century.
300 million people might become weather refugees and 40% of animal species will become endangered. But the study also brings some good news: economical collapse might be stopped if a group of wealthier countries invest as little as 1% of their annual GNP in the prevention of global warming. Stern was able to convince power and capital that fighting climate change is an investment like any other - invest an euro today, so that tomorrow you can have twenty, or, who knows, even more... After this warning, we've begun watching world leaders race, trying to come up with solutions and investments in projects that aim at stopping global warming.
Paul Wolfowitz, ex-neo-conservative falcon in the Bush Administration and current President of the World Bank rejoiced with the "fundamental economical analysis of issues related to climate change" in Stern's Review; John Howard, Australian Prime Minister, who never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, has already announced a 38 million-euro investment in projects that help reduce the release of grenhouse gases into the atmosphere; and even Bush seems to be willing to come out of his denial process and open the USA to future initiatives in this area.
In spite of what James Hansen defends - "When it comes to technical aspects, stopping global temperatures from rising by at least 1ºC is entirely at our reach. It all depends on the informed public reinforcing the political decisions of world leaders.", a well-informed and conscious Capital seems to be worth more than a billion motivated earthlings. It isn't for the best of reasons but, in this case, hypocrisy is welcomed, the ends do justify the means and the planet is thankful.
Thank you, Sir Stern.