Economic growth and environmental concern must coexist
Climate change is real and the single biggest threat facing humanity today. Carbon dioxide levels across the world are the highest in 650,000 years, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased almost 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This has become a serious threat for ecosystem, biodiversity, and health. A Lancet Countdown* report published in October 2021 indicated that health problems due to climate change are affecting people everywhere. These include medical and mental conditions, deaths and injuries from extreme events ( heat waves, storms, cyclones and floods), infectious diseases (including food, water, and vector borne illnesses), plus food and water insecurity.
There are far reaching financial implications too. Extreme climate events cause huge financial losses as they threaten infrastructures and other assets and in some cases even entire countries. These events may cause a fall in the value of assets and massive shifts in capital. In India, air pollution alone costs businesses close to Rs 7 trillion or $95 billion every year. This is 3% of India’s GDP. Mostly due to lower labour productivity, reduced consumer footfall, increase in mortality, lower asset productivity and higher healthcare expenses.
As a corporate leader in a developing Nation, I realise that economic growth is essential and I also understand that it does not have to be at the cost of losing our only home. Economic growth and environmental concern must go hand in hand. As responsible corporate citizens, it is vital that we address climate change and the resulting social inequality and growing health care concerns.
All life on earth is inextricably connected with climate change and hence affected by Global warming. The most unnerving reality is that this crisis does not stop at borders, or warn before entering the doors of the wealthy nations. It is all around us, affecting all of us. The climate crisis and a subsequent World health crisis cannot be managed by one country alone. The World must come together and look for shared solutions.
I believe that every risk brings with it opportunities too, and climate change is an opportunity for us to evaluate and create better business practices, products and performance. I also believe that rather than mulling on the cost of shifting to environment friendly alternatives, we must evaluate the cost of not acting now.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”. – Albert Einstein
We know the solutions may not be easy, and we may also have to course correct from time to time, but the important part is to begin. We must act while we still have the time.
(*an international collaboration that independently monitors the health consequences of a changing climate)