A minuscule (and overly masculine) selection of those whose views are shaping, and have shaped, the story - a tiny smattering of economists, leaders, naturalists and campaigners. Some are obvious, and we have given a 30 second smorgasbord of their latest position. Some you may not have heard of. Don’t judge us on who is below and who isn’t. Greta is not here but it is worth remembering that she started as a lone schoolgirl, missing lessons every Friday, in order to stand outside the Swedish parliament building with a placard.
Published the first economic report into climate change, a document that is still considered seminal... Failure, he argued, could lead to economic woes rivalling that of the world wars and the Great Depression. He was all for a carbon tax.– Stern versus Nordhaus
They've emerged as one of the most prominent global voices on how we re-wire our economy - and stresses that we have to start seeing the value in natural things and processes.– Mark Carney
Economists were divided - not over the existence of global warming, but over how fast and how big the change had to come - some felt Stern was too dramatic. In a speech on Stern’s report, the Yale economic bastion William Nordhaus commented that the British government’s opinion on climate change is ‘no more infallible than was its pre-war view about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq’. #micdrop #ouch.
It boiled down to one question; how much do you negatively impact this generation, to save a future one? More specifically, it’s about discount rates: is $1 spent making someone’s life better in 100 years worth the same $1 as making someone's life better now? In very basic terms: Stern - yes; Nordhaus - no. Further complicating the debate is the fact that the science increasingly shows it may not be about your grandkids anymore - it’s also about the value we put on the world we live in and retire into.
He's building quite the climate focused CV:
- Chairs the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero
- UN Special Envoy for climate action and finance
- Advises Boris Johnson on climate change
- Launched the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets (TSVCM)
Value(s), published in March 2021, is heavy at 600+ pages but worth the effort. It’s a sweeping history of the relationship between value and price, and how that relationship has to change. He narrates the audio version himself (it’s a rather calming listen).
For a quicker understanding of his ideas, listen to his 2020 Reith Lectures.
A Costa Rican diplomat (her father was three times president there) who served as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-2016 describes her as a ‘stubborn optimist’ and co-founded the Global Optimist Group (some great content and podcasts).
If you want a quick, simple vision of what 2050 could look like if we get our act together, versus what it looks like if we don't, then read Chapter 2 of the book she co-wrote in 2020 with Tom Rivett-Carnac, The future we choose.
He believes strongly that carbon pricing has to play a central role, and that almost everything hinges on decarbonising electricity.
Famously uninterested in playing in Washington, the climate issue has driven a more political stance from him.
His new book, How to avoid a climate disaster, is a quick and easy read.
And how do you deal with climate change in America with a Trump White House? You talk about bottom up tactics - about leadership from business and the public. Another increasingly climate focused CV:
- Chair of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)
- President of the board of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
- Co-chairs the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy
- Co-chairs the “America Is All In” coalition
- Global advisor to the Earthshot prize
- UN Special Envoy and climate ambition and solutions
At the UN Secretary-General’s request, he formed the Climate Finance Leadership Initiative with other private sector leaders to quicken investments in climate solutions.
Climate of Hope, written with Carl Pope, is another good quick read. Not our top choice, if you were short on time, but it does mix public policy thoughts and practical solutions - and was probably quite an important tome to be published in 2018 America.
Blue Planet II can claim significant responsibility for driving consumer reaction against plastic. Life on Air is one of the most charming books ever written; A Life on Our Planet, published in April 2021, is one of the most important. He narrates the audio version himself, his voice adding extra weight and emotion to an already weighty and emotional subject.
Whilst there are absolutely moments where it feels as though watching Paddington 1 and 2 on repeat are the only ways to cope with what he is saying, there are equally points at which his words are like a warm hug; yes it is our greatest mistake but, if we act now, we have time to put it right.
Remove the wildflower meadow idyll from your mind when you hear the term rewilding (or wilding, as Isabella would put it). Think midges, thorny scrub, unruly blackberries and animal poo - of all shapes and sizes. But that mix - alongside letting native ponies, pigs, cattle and other grazing animals free roam, rut and gobble - allows the crucial bugs, beetles, worms, fungi etc. to flourish. And, following them, have come the turtle doves, nightingales, owls and purple emperor butterflies.
Her book about the experience, Wilding, will make you look at the oak trees, fields and hedgerows you pass differently (and it has some great pig anecdotes).
Due to pollution, what should have been crystal blue waters looked like stodgy pea-soup, thanks to algae bloom. The algae is home to bacteria that basically sucks the oxygen out of the water. It was caused by pollutants from nearby factories, in the world’s electronic and clothing supply chain hotbed, full of companies cutting corners to offer large multinationals the best prices.
Ma started mapping factories - 40,000 of them across China - colour coding them based on their confirmed public reporting and violations. Some multinationals started comparing their supply chain to the map and then put pressure on suppliers to clean up. Today, the colour codes can make the difference between companies that get a loan from a major bank and one that doesn’t. The award-winning Blue Map app has been expanded to show water, carbon, plastic, waste and biodiversity across China. It’s users can check local air and water quality and get real-time pollution data.
Amongst other things, he’s also director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (China’s largest NGO) and Co-Chair of G20 Sustainable Finance Working Group.
His lyrics tackle the environmental impact of climate change and his recent film ‘The world is (y)ours’ considers climate change from the perspective of first- and second-generation immigrants in the UK. He is a regular speaker at climate change and science events and describes himself as ‘probably the biggest nature geek out of London’. One of his driving ambitions is to help people of colour to become more involved in climate activism and the environment and consider the natural world as something they can enjoy, influence and protect.
A former fashion designer, he started by planting pumpkins (amongst other veg) in patches of roadside wasteland in his neighbourhood, an effort that got him a ticket from the City of LA for ‘gardening without a permit’ (yes that was actually a thing - until he got the law overturned). He’d grown fed up of the dearth of fresh produce in his part of LA, let alone anything remotely organic. He encourages passers by to pick what they want from his garden. For Ron, gardening is a way to teach kids resilience, empathy and patience - and it’s making him a household name in America.