A month into 2022, it is only fair to ask how it is going with all those new year’s resolutions of yours. Are you still sweating on the treadmill? Has the sugar high subsided post-holidays? I already broke one of my resolutions, I admit. I vowed to stay on the positive side of the sustainability debate this year. I reasoned I should focus on ideas and solutions that drive the world forward instead of joining the disgruntled chorus of critics. That was before I saw the dreary news about crossing yet another planetary boundary, which quickly swayed me to the dark side last week. And although in these Covid-times of ours, when positive is the new negative, things are getting a bit more confusing, I am aware that I need to make amends.
Just when I need it the most, inspiration comes my way, courtesy of Professor Yuval Noah Harari, a historian and philosopher I’ve been admiring for a long time. In an essay published in Time magazine recently, The Surprisingly Low Price Tag on Preventing Climate Disaster, Harari argues in his habitually eloquent manner that despair can be just as dangerous an attitude to climate change as is denial. Reinforcing my own decision to look on the bright side of sustainability is a sure way to get my attention, at least.
According to Harari, combating the disastrous effects of global warming is within our reach. The professor and his team have spent weeks poring over various reports and academic papers, “living in a cloud of numbers”, to try and figure out exactly how much it would cost to stop the catastrophic climate change that most serious scientists nowadays deem plausible. And the answer they come up with is surprisingly reassuring. “We can quibble endlessly about the numbers, tweaking the models this way and that,” writes Harari. “But we should look at the big picture beyond the math. The crucial news is that the price tag of preventing the apocalypse is in the low single digits of annual global GDP,” he concludes. According to his estimates, it is somewhere below 5% and perhaps as low as an additional 2% of global GDP.
This calculation exercise explains perhaps the catchy logo that Harari is currently promoting on the platform he co-founded a couple of years ago, Sapienship: 2%MORE. Check it out, agree or disagree with his calculations and/or conclusions and, above all, let the warm wave of optimism wash over you.
Despite the looming “Good News” heading of the 2%MORE campaign, however, things are not all rosy. It is still a (not so) fun fact that in 2020 alone, global military spending was equivalent to 2.4% of global GDP. Or that every 3.5 years, governments spend 2% on subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
“The money is there,” writes Harari. “Of course, collecting taxes, cutting military budgets, stopping food wastage, and slashing subsidies is easier said than done, especially when faced by some of the most powerful lobbies in the world. But it doesn’t require a miracle. It just requires determined organization,” he ends on a realistically positive note.
Let’s prove the professor right, shall we?
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
 His books, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century are a highly recommended read.