Climate Change at the World Economic Forum 2015

Last week, the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum was held in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Even though climate change was one of the top priorities on the agenda, with beautiful quotes, only a fraction of CEOs worldwide – a humble 6% – say governments should make combating climate change a top priority – according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of more than 1,300 CEOs from 77 countries worldwide released a day before the start of the WEF.

Among public policy priorities for 2015, nearly two-thirds of CEOs told researchers they want lawmakers to focus primarily on reducing taxes and providing access to skilled workers. Far fewer said they want government to focus on investing in public infrastructure, and just a fraction — 6 percent — said they think combating or mitigating the effects of climate change should be a government priority.  –  Read the whole article on the website of the International Business Times

Insurance companies seem to be far more aware of the impact of climate change – which is already costing billions of dollars. For insurance companies climate change is a top priority since several years and not a far-away, long-term risk. Where the risks of climate change are still ignored by many companies to the advantage of what seem more urgent, short-term challenges, insurance companies are ‘greening’, out of necessity. Read more on the website of Science Daily.

24 Quotes on Climate Change from Davos 2015 – By Ian Sanders

World Economic Forum

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations

  • “Growth has freed millions of people from poverty and hunger… but growth is also associated with pollution and an increase in emissions.”
  • “Climate change has happened because of human behaviour, therefore it’s only natural it should be us, human beings, to address this issue. It may not be too late if we take decisive actions today.”
  • “We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impact of climate change. Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities.”
  • “It’s not only government. Government cannot do it alone. The UN cannot do it alone. There should be full partnership… then we should have civil society coming together. Even one normal citizen – they have a role to play.”
  • “All these policies should be people centered – without people they are meaningless.”

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

  • “It’s a collective endeavour, it’s collective accountability and it may not be too late.”
  • “At this point in time, it’s macro critical, it’s people critical, it’s planet critical.”
  • “As I said two years ago, we are at risk of being grilled, fried and toasted.”

Jim Yong Kim, President, The World Bank

  • “We have to have a plan equal to the challenge… we need to think about how we bring public and private together to achieve these goals.”
  • “We need to change the relationship between growth and poverty in a way that has a bigger impact.”
  • “We have to wake up to the fierce urgency of the now.”

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

  • “Tackling climate change is closely linked to poverty alleviation and economic development; I would call them different sides of the same coin.”
  • “We need sustainability – this is a planet that needs to be around for generations to come.”
  • “The first thing we need from the business community, and the business leaders themselves, is commitment. If you’re not committed, you’re more destructive at the table than if you’re really committed and you want to solve it.”
  • “At the end of the day we are talking about a moral framework, we are talking about opportunities not for us, but for people who can’t be here  – do you want to be the one that misses that opportunity?”
  • “If you’re not yet involved – get involved, if you are involved, simply give it a bit more.”

Michael Spence, William R. Berkley Professor in Economics and Business, NYU Stern School of Business, Italy

  • “I’m very encouraged, this year has been a turnaround… I think humanity is on board.”
  • “We have a choice: between a energy-efficient low carbon path and an energy-intensive high carbon path, which at an unknown point of time ends catastrophically. This doesn’t seem like a very hard choice.”
  • “We have to go very quickly… we have a window of a very small number of years… after which we cannot win the battle to mitigate fast enough to meet the safety goals… if this year goes badly it would be a massive missed opportunity.”
  • “This is the chance to do something we’ve never done before, to come together in a process of top down agreement, and bottom up energy, creativity and commitment. It will be a moral victory.”

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

  • “We must involve everybody, and involving everybody means equality as well. Women in Rwanda represent 52% of the population. You can’t keep 52% of the population out of meaningful economic activity, that’s not intelligent.”
  • “We are not making a choice between environment and prosperity; but we are rather looking at how we combine both.”
  • “We have put in place policies, that every activity – whether it’s education, agriculture or health – we have integrated aspects of our environment.”
  • “Everyone is talking about the urgency – that is a big step in itself. The next big step is we need to do it.”

Read the article on the WEF website…

The World Economic Forum Global Risks 2015 Report can be downloaded here.



NASA Facts about Climate Change … with Compelling Photographs

July 30, 1909                                                          August 11, 2004

McCarty Glacier melt, Alaska – 1909 picture taken by Ulysses Sherman Grant. 2004 picture taken by Bruce F. Molnia. Source: Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology.


Climate change is real, and the current warming trend is alarming because it is most likely human-induced and developing at a rate unprecedented in the past.

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. In the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that the current climate-warming trends are very likely due to human activities.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated already in the mid-19th century. Carbon dioxide levels have increased tremendously since the 1950’s.

Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.

The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:

  1. Sea level rise
  2. Global temperature rise
  3. Warming oceans
  4. Shrinking ice sheets
  5. Declining Arctic sea ice
  6. Glacial retreat
  7. Extreme weather events
  8. Ocean acidification
  9. Decreased snow cover


An astonishing series of images of change can be found on NASA’s website – click here.

Pine Island Glacier calving, Antarctica

October 28, 2013                                                   November 13, 2013

An iceberg estimated to be 35 by 20 kilometers (22 by 12 miles) separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier between November 9 and 11, 2013. Such events happen about every five or six years but this iceberg, designated “B-31,” is about 50 percent larger than its predecessors in this area. A team of scientists from Sheffield and Southampton universities will track the 700 square-kilometer chunk of ice and try to predict its path using satellite data.

Images taken by the Operational Land Imager onboard Landsat 8. Source: NASA Earth Observatory.

Muir Glacier melt, Alaska

1882                                                                         August 11, 2005

1882 photo taken by G.D. Hazard; 2005 photo taken by Bruce F. Molnia. Courtesy of the Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology.

Solar power growth, Spain

September 5, 1987                                                September 11, 2013

In March 2009, Andasol-1 in southern Spain became the first solar thermal collector station in Europe. Andasol-2 and Andasol-3 were added in 2009 and 2011. In contrast to photovoltaic systems, these parabolic trough power plants store the sun’s energy in a “heat reservoir” of molten salt and generate electricity for up to 200,000 people via thermal turbines. Water from the nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range cools the system.

Images taken by the Thematic Mapper onboard Landsat 5 and the Operational Land Imager onboard Landsat 8. Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Missions Gallery “Andasol Solar Power Stations,” U.S. Department of the Interior / USGS and NASA.

Join Heroic Explorers

The history of Antarctica emerges from early Western theories that a vast continent, known as Terra Australis, should exist in the far south of the globe. European explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries started the exploration of the Southern hemisphere and their travels gave rise to the assumption of the existence of another, undiscovered continent to the south of the known world. In the 17th century it was proven that there was this continent surrounded by sea – a continent in its own right.  Only in the 18th century, was the Antarctic Circle first crossed.

Join one of below circles of heroic explorers by sponsoring the IAE 2015 – sponsor levels upon request.


cook-circle Captain James Cook, FRS, RN (7 November 1728 – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. Cook’s second expedition (1772-1775) circumnavigated the globe at an extreme southern latitude. Captain Cook became one of the first to cross the Antarctic Circle on 17 January 1773.
Shackleton Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE, FRGS (15 February 1874 – 5 January 1922) was a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic, and one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He and his team reached their Farthest South point at 88°23’S, a mere 97 nautical miles (180 km) from the pole, on 9 January 1909. The increase of more than six degrees south from Robert F. Scott’s previous record was the greatest extension of Farthest South since Captain Cook’s 1773 mark.
captain-scott Captain Robert Falcon Scott, CVO, RN (6 June 1868 – c. 29 March 1912) was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery Expedition, 1901–04, and the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, 1910–13. On the first expedition, he set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S and discovered the Polar Plateau, on which the South Pole is located. During the second venture, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that they had been preceded by Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian expedition. On their return journey, Scott’s party discovered plant fossils, proving Antarctica was once forested and joined to other continents.
Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (16 July 1872 – c. 18 June 1928) was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910–12) that was the first to reach the South Pole, on 14 December 1911. He was among the key expedition leaders, including Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton, during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Source: … Wikipedia!

Robert Swan 2041 Expedition Film

What is the International Antarctic Expedition about?  It is about inspiring and informing young leaders to return to their societies as ambassadors for Antarctica and a sustainable future.

Watch the expedition film by Robert Swan and 2041, to understand what the IAE is all about. It is amazing…!


How New Collaborations are Enabling the Change

Yesterday I attended the New Year’s Reception of De Baak, a leading Insitute for Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Personal Development where leadership, organizational and business development are embedded in the guiding principles of a sustainable society. Klaas Knot, President of De Nederlandsche Bank, addressed the audience and in his keynote shared his optimistic perspectives on the recovery of the Dutch economy. One of his key messages: creative collaborations are making us stronger and hold a promise for the future.

Mr. Knot referred to a beautiful example of such collaboration: the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bicycle track that was developed in a partnership between Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans N.V., a major European construction-services business with Dutch-based headquarters.



The Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bicycle track in Nuenen (NL) was opened on
November 12, 2014.


The cycle path, with a design inspired by van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ is made of thousands of twinkling stones, coated with photo-luminescent paint, that gather light energy during the day and glow at night. Solar-powered LED’s help to light some of the bends in the path on nights when the stones haven’t been able to absorb enough sunlight. The intensity of the glow was balanced so that it does not disturb the natural habitat of animals and at the same time makes streetlights superfluous.







How Businesses are Enabling the Change

I just watched a beautiful little documentary on the website of Siemens Belgium: ‘Island in the Wind’, about a man with a dream, Søren Hermansen. He had a vision of an island independent of fossil fuels. He convinced the people of Samsø to help him realize this big idea.

As a result Samsø is now energy independent, thanks to electricity and heat generated from renewable sources.

Siemens provided the island’s 21 wind turbines and services them.


Mail from the End of the World

Support my expedition and receive a post card from the southernmost city in the world – Ushuaia – signed by Robert Swan, OBE and I.

Support now!



The International Antarctic Expedition will depart from Ushuaia, Argentina – the southernmost city in the world.




Ushuaia: quite an interesting place actually…

It is here that the crew of the famous British ship HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy arrived in January 1833, during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego, and discovered an idigenous community who called themselves the Yamana. Much of the early history of the city and its hinterland is described in Lucas Bridges’s book Uttermost Part of the Earth (1948) – read a very nice summary/review of that book here, to get a glimpse of the early history of Ushuaia.

“These people were canoe people, living mainly on the water, and Fitzroy was concerned by what he saw as a most wretched and unhappy existence.  In spite of the cold, these people were almost completely naked and lived in the most basic stick dwellings and wind-shelters.  Married women swam naked in the freezing waters to moor the canoes and Fitzroy was shocked for them and their apparent sorrows.  However, they were not friendly, but fearful and suspicious, and possibly could become aggressive.  Fitzroy somehow captured four of their young people to take back to England.  His plan was to ‘civilise’ them and return them to their community later, so they could calm their people and make them open to accepting help.”

yamana     Yamana Group

beagle-channel     Beagle Channel, Ushuaia

Read the whole review and a bit of early history here

A few decades after FitzRoy and his crew set foot on Tierra del Fuego, during the 1880s, many gold prospectors arrived in Ushuaia following rumors of large gold fields, which proved to be false. And later on, in 1896, a (first) prison was opened, mainly for re-offenders and dangerous criminals as escaping from Ushuaia was really not easy.  Later prison populations spent much of their time building the town with timber from surrounding forests.

Nowadays, the main economic activities are fishing, natural gas and oil extraction, sheep farming and ecotourism.  Since 2007 Ushuaia has hosted the Bienal de Arte Contemporáneo del Fin del Mundo. The Bienal has gathered over one hundred artists from five continents addressing the motto “think at the End of the World that another world is possible“…  And that is an inspiration we will share: imagining and creating a better world.

If Current Trends Continue

In preparation for the IAE, I am reading ‘Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness’, the book by Robert Swan, OBE (with Gil Reavill). An exceptionally well written book and therefore a true joy to read.  An open and honest story, absolutely funny at times, always sophisticated and informative, inspiring, human, and – on occasion – horrifying… Why on earth would one want to walk 900 miles through that devastating icy landscape, defying gruesome storms and freezing to the bone? And then do it again – walking 550 miles to the North Pole… It takes tons of courage, and a good dose of stupidity, as Robert Swan admits himself… I warm-heartedly recommend this book!

At the beginning of his book, Robert Swan sums up some of the consequences we may expect by 2041 if current trends continue – I quote:


  • Greenhouse-gas emissions, if they follow current trends, will rise to 700 gigatons per annum (700 billion tons annually), a level projected to induce a five-degree rise in average global temperature over the next century. Global warming will have become a reality, triggering extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, and resource shortages that will cause widespread disruptions to life as we know it.


  • Given current use patterns and rates of increase in energy demands, global oil production will drop below twenty million barrels a day – the accepted level necessary for sustaining industrialized civilization.


  • Soot from the coal plants and “black carbon” from cooking stoves in China and India, falling on the surface of glaciers in the Himalayas, will cause them to absorb more rather than reflect sunlight, shrinking them by 75 percent and disrupting the water supply for billions of people.


  • Sea levels will have risen .5 meters, given current trends in accelerated glacier and ice-cap melt on the margins of Greenland and Antarctica. A half-meter rise renders untenable one-tenth of human shoreline habitation. For example, half the roadways in Cairns, Australia, will be underwater. Extreme sea level – the measurement of high seas during hurricanes and storm surges – will displace 200 million people and impact a fifth of the world’s population, over 1 billion people.


  • The last Alaskan polar bear will have starved to death in the wild – again, extrapolating from current trends, in this case of bear-habitat destruction and population decline. All in all, in 2041 extinction rates on earth will have approached an unimaginable threshold, with 1 million land-based species gone forever.


  • The last of the snows made famous by Ernest Hemingway will have melted off Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, and the last of the glaciers will have disappeared from Montana’s Glacier National Park


Quoted from ‘Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness’
by Robert Swan, with Gil Reavill


Here is the urgency, for us to be smarter and more creative than ever before…

You can also have a look at NASA’s website – click here.

Happy New Year with a Piece of Music

Happy 2015!

Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) composed the score for the film ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ in 1947, and was so inspired by the subject that he incorporated much of the music into his 7th Symphony which he titled ‘Sinfonia Antarctica’.

‘Landscape’ (lento) is the 3rd movement and echoes the dreary scenery of Antarctica, the breaking ice, glaciers. Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, majestically conducted by Bernard Haitink.