As I reflect on the activities surrounding COP 21 - the United Nations Climate Change Conference, currently being held in Paris - what disturbs me most is the manner in which climate change is being presented and discussed.
We hear forceful declarations from stakeholders in the debate that climate change is a huge and expensive problem and that we have to act for the sake of future generations. How in the world can you motivate people by asking them to pay to solve a huge problem with no immediate benefit? Rather than hearing about expensive problems, people are looking to be inspired by solutions that provide an immediate economic reward. And this is exactly what fighting climate change can offer today if we accept to modify our understanding of the situation.
When I was trained as a medical doctor, I learned that a 'problem' is called a 'symptom.' Every symptom has an origin, and by studying that origin, we can find a treatment. In the case of climate change, CO2 is not the problem; it's only the symptom - the symptom of our crazy manner of using and wasting energy.
Nevertheless, we see people continuing to fight against the symptom, citing CO2 emissions as the source of the problem. We have the ecologists who are advocating that we decrease our mobility, our comfort, our economic development and our growth. But really, who would want that? Then, we have those who resist measures to reduce CO2 emissions for the sake of employment and profit. Having two camps fighting each other will not solve the climate change issue. It will continue to polarize the debate and lead to paralysis.
Looking at how we consume energy and in particular the resulting waste will go a long way in helping us better understand the real issues at stake. The technologies we use today are 100 years old! They present a complete lack of efficiency compared to the clean technologies available: our combustion engines are three times less efficient than electrical ones; light bulbs create more heat than light and in turn require cooling devices; poor insulation of buildings and single glazed windows continue to run up our monthly electricity bills; and, heating and cooling systems, as well as industrial processes produce more losses than efficiency. Why are we so demanding about modern information technology and so relaxed about energy efficiency? Could Paris be the first Climate Conference that looks at energy efficiency as a solution for climate change?
When I initiated the Solar Impulse project to fly a solar powered airplane around the world without a drop of fuel, it was precisely to demonstrate that clean technologies can achieve the impossible. We can reach more with renewable energy and energy efficiency than with fossil fuel. And all the technologies we use in the sky could be used today to run a cleaner society.
Unfortunately, our world continues to react to the issue of wasted energy by trying to produce more and more energy, either fossil or renewable, instead of opting for efficiency. Is this rational? Would you fix a leak in your bathtub by turning up the water faucets or would you call a plumber to try and identify where the leak is coming from?
This means governments should start to focus on how to replace these old polluting devices with clean technological solutions. Our society has regulations for hygiene, health, taxes, justice and education, but nothing prevents us from wasting energy with outdated technology. Can you imagine how many jobs would be created, and how much profit made, if everyone rallied behind this new market? Lets stand up against those who say that solving climate change will jeopardize our economic development. It's precisely the opposite!
My fear for COP 21 in Paris is that climate change stakeholders will look at taking measures, which will be unacceptable. Developed countries will be asked to pay for the pollution they have caused, while poorer countries will be asked to renounce on economic development to which they are entitled. The result will be wide-scale resistance!
Targets for CO2 reduction and minimum temperature increases become wishful thinking if they are not addressed with profitable solutions that will help reach them. That's where the focus of the debate is needed: discussing which clean technological solutions are the most relevant and directly profitable for which region of the world and what type of economy?
Can you imagine the motivation of every country that could then trade a costly sacrifice for a profitable investment? Clean technologies impact climate change while at the same time being profitable, creating employment and stimulating economic development and growth.
This is why we should choose the clean technology revolution, even if we were not facing any climate change issue at all...
The inspiring adventure of the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight in Breitling Orbiter 3 earned Bertrand Piccard the tag of «Inspioneer». Bertrand's immediate forefathers were explorers and scientists who conquered the stratosphere and the ocean depths, so he seemed predestined to perpetuate one of the 20th Century's greatest family sagas. In his various roles - as doctor, psychiatrist, aviator, public speaker, president of the humanitarian foundation «Winds of Hope,» and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador - Bertrand Piccard seeks to combine his family's scientific heritage with his own ambition to tackle great challenges of our time.
By initiating the Solar Impulse project and aiming to fly round the world in a solar airplane, he is seeking to promote technologies that help conserve our planet's natural resources. As much an explorer of human values as of the external world, his motivations are the pioneering spirit and a drive to surpass personal limits, qualities which he communicates in his lectures, books and interviews.