Climate change comes to Davos

Jay Owen Green Prosperity, Greentech, Latest Headlines

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·         Australia’s wildfires mean CO2 emissions are rising faster than ever.

·         The Philippines is making roads and cement with plastic garbage.

·         VW’s CEO insists the German car giant can catch Tesla.

·         Old electric car batteries may help cut costs of storing energy.

Davos, an annual gathering dedicated to those dedicated to financial growth, appeared particularly dedicated to climate change this year. It’s easy, of course, to poke fun at an event that attracts flocks of private jets delivering the world’s wealthiest to a resort town so they can talk about how the world must shrink its carbon footprint. But this year really did seem different.

Attendees grappled with moving to a waste-free economy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the climate crisis a “matter of survival” while warning of the “irreconcilable” differences between climate deniers and advocates for change. The disconnect was neatly illustrated on Tuesday as both Greta Thunberg and U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the gathering, delivering starkly divergent views of the state of the planet.

Not to be left out, even hedge funds are proclaiming themselves climate activists. Of course, some have been making billions of dollars fighting climate change. (Even Larry Fink signaled his virtue with a scarf.)

But before you think big business everywhere has suddenly gone green, think again. Environmentalists and consumer advocacy groups are castigating automakers for supporting Trump’s effort to relax fuel economy standards amid fresh warnings the White House plan won’t deliver any of the promised benefits while raising costs for drivers. And the Davos crowd probably counted more than a few CEOs who watched Trump’s speech and, deep down, agree with the U.S. president’s growth-at-all-costs mantra.

And while politicians snipe over policy prescriptions, an entire continent continues to burn. Now at the height of summer, wildfires are raging across Australia, having already killed at least 28 people and potentially more than one billion animals. The unprecedented start of the fire season there likely added as much as 900 million metric tons to the nation’s greenhouse-gas output for 2019—almost as much as all the airplanes that flew in 2018.

More than 5 million people in Australia live in areas that are at high-to-extreme risk of wildfires or other severe weather events, and climate change will only increase their number as every year passes. The crisis may force Australia to confront uncomfortable realities, including whether some towns should be rebuilt at all, and perhaps that its reputation as a sun-kissed, healthy paradise for outdoor living is now dead.