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Disrupting Climate Change Through Innovation

The only way to get ahead of a crisis as large as climate change is through groundbreaking technological innovation in clean energy and low-carbon technologies. And that, in turn, will require efforts to mitigate investment risks for private-sector actors, who cannot be expected to ignore their own bottom lines.

LISBON – Because it poses an existential threat to humanity, climate change represents the bad kind of disruption. But it can – and must – be fought with the good kind of disruption: innovation. Since the Industrial Revolution, disruptive innovation has generated growth, created jobs, and opened new avenues for investment. And in the case of climate change, it could save humanity, by accelerating global efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. In fact, innovation will be absolutely necessary for a successful transition to a green economy that leaves no one behind. Without it, we have less chance of achieving genuine sustainability.

The alternative, of course, is unthinkable. To understand the extent of the threat posed by climate change in the event that we do nothing, consider where we are today. Average global temperatures have already risen by almost 1°C above pre-industrial levels, owing to the accumulation of GHGs in the atmosphere; and two-thirds of that increase has occurred since 1975. If the trend continues, global average temperatures could rise by 4°C by the end of this century.

If that doesn’t sound like much, remember that our climate is fragile. Small changes in surface temperatures will cause big problems. When average temperatures were 4°C below pre-industrial levels, much of Europe was buried beneath several kilometers of ice. Just imagine what a world that is 3°C warmer than today might look like.

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