“No longer can climate change be viewed solely through lens of moral obligation, politics or activism. Seemingly overnight, it has become a matter of risk management and proactive, or even emergency, response.”
(TNS) — Kathy Baughman McLeod's job title is a mouthful: director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council, based in Washington, D.C.
That may be apropos, considering the ambitious task in front of McLeod and the center she has helmed since last year.
Its goal is to reach one billion people worldwide with "resilience solutions" to the challenges posed by climate change by 2030.
Resilience is the ability to better prepare for and respond to climate-related "shocks" like hurricanes, and "stresses" like record-setting heat temperatures and sea level rise, McLeod told an audience of about 60 people Thursday at the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation headquarters.
No longer can climate change be viewed solely through lens of moral obligation, politics or activism, McLeod said. Seemingly overnight, it has become a matter of risk management and proactive, or even emergency, response.
"The Australian fires are a good example of what heat and fire can do," McLeod said. "It helps us to get a sense of urgency."
McLeod is a former senior vice president, global environmental and social risk, for Bank of America. Before that she was manager director, climate risk and resilience, for the Nature Conservancy.
The good news is there are plenty of things we human beings can do to adapt to this rapidly changing world, she said.
The resilience center has a project in Chennai, India, a city of 9 million people where one in three live in slums and settlements.
The economy is healthy, but people live in hot flat-roof buildings with no air-conditioning. There's a water shortage and no fresh fruit or vegetables to eat.
The center is helping people there to create gardens on the flat building roofs, which helps lower the sweltering interior temperatures while producing fresh food.
"It's an inspiring project," McLeod said. "We just kicked this off with three schools last week."
The center's urban-gardening initiative in Quito, Ecuador, has progressed even further, she said.
The center also is pursuing educational platforms, including development of a climate survival video game it hopes will reach 300 million people.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt in innumerable ways, McLeod said, as she pointed out that nearly 50,000 people a day are being forcibly displaced from their homes.
Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of bananas. Pretty soon bananas will no longer grow there because of rising temperatures in that South American country, McLeod said.
The dairy industry will have to adapt because cows yield less milk when temperatures are higher, she said, so will the farms migrate northward or stay put and air-condition their cows?
Human health is at risk. There is a relationship between high heat and heart attacks and other human diseases, she said. "Heat is the number one silent killer in the United States," she said.
Climate change is also touching the financial world, she said.
Moody's Corporation last year purchased a majority stake in Four Twenty Seven, a climate risk analysis firm.
McLeod played a video of Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money, saying a worldwide trend has begun toward divestment in fossil fuel stocks as new money managers seek to appease young investors who don't believe fossil fuels are sustainable. Big pension funds don't want to own those stocks anymore, even though they are currently yielding high dividends, Cramer said.
"I think the market is going to shift," McLeod said. "What Cramer said in some ways is true. The social license to operate [them] is turning. The [fossil fuel-based] plants will fail over time."
Asked about the Trump administration's policy on global efforts to curb emissions, McLeod said it's important to look at the bigger picture. City and county governments across the country are responding to the crisis in a variety of ways (reducing carbon emissions, planting trees, encouraging greener architecture, etc).
"A U.S. president only has [a maximum of] two terms," McLeod said. "It's a moment in time ... the news is going to cover the worst of it. [But] the solutions are many, and the evidence points to us being able to do it."
Katie Carpenter, a filmmaker, environmentalist and Palm Beach resident, said she was inspired by McLeod's message.
"It's time to jump off the problems and onto the solution," Carpenter said.
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