Ariel Beery
Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

To our delegates to COP26: The climate isn’t the (only) problem 

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

We need to expand our climate talk to the broader effects of collapse and what we can do to minimize the damage

As of this writing, 8,035 people have died in Israel from the novel coronavirus. Each and every one of those deaths are a tragedy, and we should mourn them and cherish their memories. While not reducing from that mourning, I am sure you agree that the effect of COVID-19 on our society, on our economy, and on our lives reaches far beyond the friends and family of those 8,035, beyond even the 1.3 million Israelis who were infected with the virus. COVID-19 deeply affected each and every resident of the state, and changed history for each and every member of our species.

Beyond the 1.3 million Israelis who were infected with the virus, COVID-19 deeply affected each and every resident of the state, and changed history for each and every member of our species 

I do not need to recount to you how deeply things have changed. Like you, I’ve experienced the disruptions to everyday life, work, travel, and commerce that were caused by the spreading pandemic. We have all seen how people blessed to be spared by the virus have been deeply affected by the implications of forced isolation. Of job dislocation. Of social disruption. And yet it was not until early 2021, as the vaccines started to be deployed, that it became widely understood that vaccines would not end the pandemic alone. That we needed to do much more if we were to heal the wounds caused to our social fabric.

Similarly, as the climate irrevocably changes, the majority of us will mainly suffer from the disruption it causes to our everyday lives. Just as it now seems a folly to think that COVID-19 could be ‘solved’ by better testing and vaccination technologies, so too we need to recognize that climate collapse cannot be solved by focusing on renewable energy alternatives to mitigate warming. As our delegates gather this week in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), we need them to broaden their scope to identify the initiatives, tools, and systems necessary to ensure human resilience in an age of uncertainty and extreme weather-caused chaos.

As our delegates gather this week in Glasgow for the UN Conference on Climate Change, we need them to broaden their scope to identify the initiatives, tools, and systems necessary to ensure human resilience in an age of uncertainty and extreme weather-caused chaos

We can learn a lot from the disruption caused by COVID-19 to postulate what climate-caused disruptions may do. For example, as the father of school-aged children, I saw how disrupted their education was by the pandemic, how difficult it is for the education system to operate when students cannot easily and regularly come together in traditional educational environments. The State of Israel, like many others, fell into an unhealthy and often ineffective dependency on Zoom to try and provide some modicum of continuity for students and teachers.

We have also seen the mental health and economic impact on parents, and the marked drop in workforce participation by women. It is impossible to imagine that climate collapse will not perpetuate discontinuity for traditional educational environments due to expected physical disruptions by extreme weather. With that dislocation will come further erosion of women’s workforce participation, and with that, a backsliding in equal rights and pay. To prevent those negative outcomes we need to develop effective means for distributed, resilient education and flexible work environments.

Or as another example, the pandemic clearly illustrated how fragile our manufacturing and supply ecosystem has become due to our over-reliance on eastern manufacturing and global shipping. Even without the massive damage to infrastructure and upending of shipping that will be caused by extreme weather events, our physical goods economies have descended into chaos.

Education, Manufacturing, Distribution, these are only three of many fields we need to build resilience in now before the climate creates ever greater chaos. While  efforts to reduce humanity’s dependency on publicly-subsidized carbon are blessed, what we learned from the pandemic is how fragile our everyday systems are and how deeply we need to re-engineer them for an uncertain future. Which is why all conversations about how we’re going to ‘solve’ for climate change need to quickly move beyond greener models of energy production and carbon sequestration.

Conversations about how we’re going to ‘solve’ for climate change need to quickly move beyond greener models of energy production and carbon sequestration.

A glimmer of hope unveiled by the pandemic is that the public sector can move quickly when it is under pressure. It can direct funds to scientific labs, build whole new manufacturing infrastructure at warp speed. What the pandemic also exposed is that the cost of being unprepared for systemic disruption is tremendous. A few billion invested a decade ago could have prevented literally trillions of dollars required to support our societies today, let alone millions of lives lost.

Luckily, our political leadership seems to finally be taking climate change seriously. The Israeli delegation to COP26 will be led by the Prime Minister. We need to support our government’s commitment and provide them the public pressure they require to remind detractors that by investing today in resilience we can mitigate the impact of climate collapse tomorrow. We need them to remind the world that private finance will not save us, just as it didn’t develop a better alternative to Zoom to save a crumbling educational system or find ways to save manufacturing and shipping from today’s morass. Just as it didn’t build a global vaccine industry until the public gave billions to companies who took advantage of publicly-funded intellectual property only to then distribute earnings to their shareholders.

As delegates gather at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow next week, we need to loudly call on them to expand their remit: just as COVID19 was not solved by vaccines, the impact of climate collapse will not be solved by clean technologies alone. It is too late for that. We need the representatives of the State of Israel who have personally experienced the disappointment of learning that there is no silver bullet for a pandemic, to lead an urgent, expanded conversation on how our world will be irrevocably changed by climate collapse and what institutions and mechanisms we need to put into place now to help soften the blow.

About the Author
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions, Ariel Beery co-founded and led 3 Israel-based social ventures over the past two decades: CoVelocity, MobileODT, and the PresenTense Group. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.
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