June 10, 2015

How do we reduce the uncertainty on climate change risk with a higher degree of certainty? By taking risks!

Sir, Martin Wolf writes: “Framing the challenge of climate change as a problem of insurance against disaster is intellectually fruitful. It also provides the right answer to sceptics. The question is not what we know for sure. It is rather how certain we are (or can be) that nothing bad will happen. Given the science, which is well established, it is impossible to argue that we know the risks are small. This being so, taking action is logical. It is the right way to respond to the nature and scale of possible bad outcomes. “Why climate uncertainty justifies action” June 10. 

That is absolutely the right way to analyze it… though it does not necessarily make it easier, like Wolf also describes with: “It is increasingly evident that the answer has to be technological. Humanity is unwilling, possibly simply unable, to overcome the political, economic and social obstacles to collective action. The costs to current generations seem too daunting.”

And so I would retort asking: What uncertainty is riskier with a higher degree of certainty?

That we do not do anything about climate change waiting for new solutions to pop up?

That we do not do anything about climate change but also make it more difficult for new solutions to pop up?

I ask this because making it easier for new solutions to pop up requires risk-taking… and that is precisely that which our regulators have banned the world premier financiers, the banks, to take.

Right now we have purposeless and dumb bank regulations that allow banks to earn higher risk adjusted returns on equity by means of leveraging more by avoiding credit risks.

How much better would it not be to use capital requirements for banks based on weights derived from sustainability ratings (and job creation ratings), let us call these purpose weights, and allow banks to earn more when they serve a useful societal purpose… is that not why we support them so much that we even allow them to become dangerously too big too fail?

Or let me frame it all in the way that Wolf finds intellectually fruitful. Is not risk-taking, for instance by banks, the insurance premiums we must pay when we are striving for a better future for our children looking to avert stalling and falling? The current generation has not been willing to pay these... shame on it.