The science of climate change has become something akin to a religion. Some people believe climate change exists, while others simply refuse to believe it at all. In many instances this belief, or lack thereof, is not based on an understanding of scientific information or evidence.
What we do know is this: currently there is in excess of a 95% chance that anthropogenic emissions are affecting the earth’s climate. It is also widely accepted that, if climate change is happening, we will have less access to fresh water due to more severe weather events, higher average temperatures, and generally a much more difficult world to live in.
This means that even if scientists swap the statistics around and predict that there is a 5% chance that we are adversely affecting the climate, it would still be well worth our while to combat climate change.
It should also be stated that the regulation and the business side of climate change do not require a full acceptance rate to either benefit from these worldwide developments or be penalised by them. This is true irrespective of our individual beliefs on whether climate change exists and whether it is impacted by human behaviour. As an example, your South African electricity bill already includes an ‘environmental levy’ that you have to pay whether you believe in climate change or not! It should be pointed out that this is, in its truest sense, not a ‘climate change levy’, but the causality between pollution and an increased cost should be apparent.
The implementation or increase of a tax can drive changes in producer and consumer behaviour. This is precisely the idea with the proposed domestic carbon tax: In its simplest form, it can be argued that pollution rates can decrease if it becomes expensive to pollute. Following COP21 which happened late last year, South Africa's strategy to make a contribution towards greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were further cemented and money countries are working on different ideas on how to reduce GHG emission.
The message is clear: No business and no person can avoid the impact of climate change. It is therefore crucial for a business to take a stance in the climate change debate. This stance can be to combat climate change or to ignore it, but if the business fails to take a stance, then it will be at the mercy of the perception assigned to it by the market or the media.
Dr Marco Lotz, Carbon Specialist at Nedbank
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