Saving the Earth – one game at a time! — Lionesses of Africa

by Lionesses of Africa Operations Department

With so much going on in the world in the form of Covid shutdowns in China; continued Supply Chain issues; higher prices pushed even higher thanks to a war in what is clearly the world’s and if the massive import needs are anything to go by – Africa’s largest bread-basket otherwise known as The Ukraine; and of course the push-pull within Central Banks over raising interest rates to counter inflation or keeping low to keep recessions at bay (see our warnings on Stagflation here and here); one could be forgiven in our rush to lower electricity pricing by firing up coal fired power stations, for forgetting that the Globe is still suffering. 

Climate Change has not stopped. Unlike the rest of us horrified as we sit immobile watching the images on TV at the terror being inflicted on the innocents by this war (as with all wars), instead Mother Nature has been hard at work and gave our membership in South Africa a real wake up call with the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal. The numbers are staggering. According to the South African Weather Service, parts of Durban saw nearly five times the previous highest recorded rainfall.

As reported here: “The storm, which delivered close to an entire year’s usual rainfall in 48hours, took meteorologists by surprise and has been blamed by experts on climate change. The new disaster comes after three tropical cyclones and two tropical storms hit south-east Africa in just six weeks in the first months of this year.

Across so many of our beautiful countries within Africa, from low lying Mozambique with their annual floods, to Lagos in Nigeria where so many of our membership reside being only 1 metre above sea level,  and to so many other countries, Climate Change is not only real, it is something that should be concerning us all. As CNN say (here): “Africa’s most populous city [Nigeria – 24 million]…may soon be unlivable…” 

In their hard hitting report: ‘Flooded Future: Global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood.’ Climate Central warn (here) that “As a result of heat-trapping pollution from human activities, rising sea levels could within three decades push chronic floods higher than land currently home to 300 million people…By 2100, areas now home to 200 million people could fall permanently below the high tide line…”. Showing how interconnected we all are, they warn that key variables are “…how much warming pollution humanity dumps into the atmosphere and how quickly the land-based ice sheets in Greenland and especially Antarctica destabilize.” We would suggest that you take a few moments to study your own local area and the potential impact that even a small rise in sea level will have, on their interactive map here, always assuming you live near a river or coast and feel like having a few sleepless nights of course…

Even without the Ukraine war, food security for the globe is being tested to the limit with human damage to the planet’s land accelerating fast. According to the UN (here) up to 40% of land is now classed as degraded. If that were not enough, infectious diseases that jump from animals to humans such as Covid and of course Ebola that we often see tragically in parts of the DRC and occasionally elsewhere, are likely to increase as Global Warming brings humans into closer contact with animals that previously managed to keep their distance.

According to the peer reviewed article in Nature entitled: ‘Climate change increases cross-species viral transmission risk’ by Carlson, Albert et al, here

At least 10,000 virus species have the capacity to infect humans, but at present, the vast majority are circulating silently in wild mammals. However, climate and land use change will produce novel opportunities for viral sharing among previously geographically-isolated species of wildlife…

We predict that species will aggregate in new combinations at high elevations, in biodiversity hotspots, and in areas of high human population density in Asia and Africa, driving the novel cross-species transmission of their viruses an estimated 4,000 times. Because of their unique dispersal capacity, bats account for the majority of novel viral sharing, and are likely to share viruses along evolutionary pathways that will facilitate future emergence in humans. Surprisingly, we find that this ecological transition may already be underway, and holding warming under 2 °C within the century will not reduce future viral sharing.

Apologies for any Lionesses and supporters of ours reading this over their Sunday bowl of Cornflakes. Serious stuff and clearly about to get seriouser (yes, language evolves too!).

So what can we do? Leave it to the politicians to sort out? Well to quote the great Greta Thunberg, this is sadly and most likely to result in only yet more “Blah, blah, blah.”

Businesses? We are already seeing far too much ‘Greenwashing’ – a process whereby some businesses wear their green credentials on their sleeve, yet with only a small scratching of the surface their grubby oil stained arms can be revealed below. To be fair, whilst governments are appearing to move away from net-zero targets, no companies are saying they are going to slow down their net-zero transition, as discussed in a McKinsey podcast here.

In this podcast, Clair O’Neill, a former British politician who led the United Kingdom’s winning bid to host COP26 and who is now focused on coordinating an effective business contribution to the net-zero transition, goes onto say: “The challenge you have with COP is that it is a necessary but not sufficient part of the system. So people say, “Well, what did you think of the COP declaration?” And I say, “Well, it was an eight-page series of words that made a series of non-binding commitments between governments that were negotiated down to the lowest common denominator,” that basically said, “Climate change is important and we should work together to do something about it. And by the way, here are some vague things that we need to do, whether it’s finance or innovation…[Greta is certainly more efficient in her description!]

It doesn’t provide anything like the level of action or rigor or cooperation that we need to really tackle the problem. And do you know how many times the word “business” appears in the Glasgow declaration? Zero. And there is this separation of mentality that says, “You have the politicians and, in this case, the global super-national politicians over here. And they will regulate and they will enforce. And then the rest of you can get on with it.”

That is not the way that you make change. So my ongoing frustration with COP, if you like, is that it is necessary, it’s great that we have that moment, of course, we need political signaling. But it is in no way going to give us the answers that we need.

Surely it must be easier than this?

Keeping climate change to +1.5°C of course means drastic action, but together we can do this surely? Stop the talk and move to action mode? Bulldoze anyone and anything in our way to save the planet? THIS HAS TO BE DONE!

Well here’s the thing – it is actually far more difficult than one imagines because there are so many variables, combinations and permutations involved, so many interested parties, so many differing agendas. Even the great Greta admits that not everyone has access to a yacht to whisk them across the Atlantic and so airlines still have a place. Just think about one of the debates currently raging – whilst the west complains about coal burning and heavy industries in Africa and Asia, many developing countries point out that the west enjoyed its industrial revolution two centuries ago, now it’s their turn. And, with a billion people in both India and also China one can understand their obsession with the large scale employment that heavy industry brings!

However, as with all wars – and make no mistake, this has to be seen as a war against the oncoming tides, we can at least turn to game-theory to test out potential solutions. The best known game-theory is the ‘prisoners dilemma’ where two prisoners have to decide whether to confess to a crime without knowing if the other prisoner is doing likewise. The best situation is where the two co-operate, yet at no point do they know what the other is doing. 

So too with Climate Change where one action can impact another whilst having no idea of the actions of others, nor of the unintended consequences. And, so it was with much excitement that we saw the Financial Times had designed a ‘war-game’ for Climate. As they say: “Working with scientists, modellers and policy experts, the crisis has been gamified to see if readers can cut emissions to net zero by 2050.” Containing so many of the possible problems that climate fighters both in business and political life face, all the many permutations and combinations, various agendas and so on, this game has been lauded by many other publications, including the Economist, another global thought leader in their own right, who tipped their hat to the FT, as a great way of showing the truth and raw reality of the battle ahead. 

Climate Change is so important that to take 15 minutes of your time to play this game we assure you will not only be an eye opener, but will we hope, allow many more to put their minds to this essential battle we all have to fight. By ‘fighting’ this from the comfort of our armchairs we start to see where the true battle rages, where what we thought was an obvious route becomes no longer viable, and where we assumed results, actually moved us back. Importantly it also creates a link between action and cost. This means that there is even a serious chance of being sacked from your role of Climate Warrior!

There will not be one answer, who knows perhaps the Cow nose-muffs to reduce Methane will be one of them (yes it is a thing – here). But what we do know for sure is that through playing this game our minds will start to wander and wonder. Once you have played and recognised the value, pass to your employees, even create teams! 

Lionesses have constantly been at the forefront of solving complex social problems, not because we are better than others – genius is after all evenly distributed, but because we have the ability to cooperate, to work together and to happily share ideas in order to find the best solution for all.

Time to turn our minds to saving the world by playing a game – here.

Good luck!

Stay safe.

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