Can an SEC ruling reverse climate change?
Mary: We only have a few minutes left, so I’d quickly like to hear from all of you on this last question. When historians look back, in, let’s say, 50 years on how significant this January SEC ruling is in terms of addressing climate change and sustainability, are they going to say it was “no big deal” or that as Sarah pointed out, it was “an inflection point?” Kristen?
Kristen: History books will look at this period of time in our history as one of momentous social change. And with most social change, when you’re in the middle of it, it’s sometimes hard to see how much of it is actually going on around you. But I think when we look back 50 years from now we’ll see this as the period of time when we finally righted the ship.
Julie: Fifty years from now, we’re either going to have 600 parts per million carbon in the atmosphere or we’re going to have 300 ppm or so. If we’re in the latter condition, that is, if we do manage to curtail our emissions and curb this problem, then yes, I do think we’ll look back on [the SEC ruling] as one of the things that caused the inflection point. This was the decade during which investors, governments, citizens really started getting it, and really started changing their behavior as a result. If [that doesn;t occur], then we’re going to look back on this period of time and say “oh shit” — or add the epithet of your choice — we should have seen it coming, we should have done something, this wasn’t enough.”
Mary: Sarah, as the futurist I’ll give you the last word. The SEC’s ruling in January: big deal or tiny blip on the radar screen?
Sarah: The SEC ruling is one piece of a larger shift that’s happening. As I said, it’s an inflection point where we’re moving from talking to doing, and the doing is starting to happen very quickly. I think over the next 10-20 years, as the money flow shifts, and the way we think about it really begins to shift in terms of policy and the larger decisions we make as a culture, we’re going to be surprised at how much progress finally gets made. It seems so slow until now. But we’re really hitting that point. It’s really going to move. And Julie is absolutely right. Looking back 50 years there are really only two scenarios: one is that we responded correctly and got it right. The other is that we didn’t and the results will be really quite awful.
Mary: And we’ll have to leave it at that. Thank you to our panelists: Julie Gorte, Kristen Sheeran, and Sara Robinson. Thanks also to our listeners for tuning in. This program was produced in conjunction with The Climate Desk, a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact of a changing climate.