Take heed: good advice on climate-change communication

Listen up, scientists – check out the word from (gasp) a big-shot investor and asset manager on communicating the urgency of global climate change.

In the November 15 issue of Nature, Jeremy Grantham – placed among the global top-50 most influential individuals “with the ability to move markets or shape ideas or policies” by Bloomberg Markets Magazine in 2011 – tells scientists: “Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary).”

Grantham – who is chief investment strategist for the global asset-management firm GMO LLC and founder/funder of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment tells us:

“I have yet to meet a climate scientist who does not believe that global warming is a worse problem than they thought a few years ago. The seriousness of this change is not appreciated by politicians and the public. The scientific world carefully measures the speed with which we approach the cliff and will, no doubt, carefully measure our rate of fall. But it is not doing enough to stop it. I am a specialist in investment bubbles, not climate science. But the effects of climate change can only exacerbate the ecological trouble I see reflected in the financial markets — soaring commodity prices and impending shortages.”

Grantham’s commentary is a pragmatic take on the question of why the world needs to get to work, now, together, on putting the brakes to anthropogenic contributions to climate change and mitigating the effects, which are already wreaking havoc on things both living and non-living. At the same time, it’s a terrifying punch in the gut. Though I was long ago convinced by the evidence that climate change is real, I pay close attention to the public discourse about it, and I find Grantham’s argument cogent and persuasive. For those who feel no moral or ethical commitment to protecting our habitat and all those creatures who cohabit with us, perhaps Grantham’s reasoning will appeal – that is, an ecological disaster is an economic disaster, not just for governments but also for corporations, and even bankers….

In addition to running the foundation, Grantham, with the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting at the University of Rhode Island has co-funded the annual Grantham Prize for exemplary reporting on the environment. As a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, I can thank Grantham for recognizing the sometimes-thankless work of my colleagues in SEJ. (This year, the Grantham Foundation stopped funding individual prizes and shifted its funding to support the Metcalf Institute – a good cause.)

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