I'm the founder of FutureWork IQ where I spend my time assisting businesses to improve their climate literacy so as to understand the projected impacts from the expanding climate crisis and how to adapt their workplaces in the face of these impacts.

In 2023 the life-threatening seriousness of the evolving climate crisis has come into clear view. The IPCC published it’s AR6 Synthesis report which spells out in crystal clear detail what is coming at us.

Since then additional peer-reviewed studies have been released, for example Heat stored in the Earth system: where does the energy go? which explains the enormous amount of heat being trapped in the atmosphere. A study that shows the slowing of ocean currents in the Antarctic Deep ocean currents around Antarctica headed for collapse, data that shows the oceans warming at an alarming rate Record ocean temperatures put Earth in ‘uncharted territory’, say scientists data that shows green house gas emissions still accelerating in 2022 Greenhouse gases continued to increase rapidly in 2022

Every single indicator shows we are heading in the wrong direction – fast.

When the World Economic Forum published their Global Risks Report 2023 it is little wonder that risks associated with the climate crisis featured prominently in both the 2 and 10-year horizons:

Of course we now know that the impacts of the climate crisis are coming at us faster than initially thought. Here is an excerpt from the IPCC AR6 Synthesis report:

Levels of risk for all Reasons for Concern (RFCs) are assessed to become high to very high
at lower global warming levels
compared to what was assessed in AR5 [2014]. This is based upon
recent evidence of observed impacts, improved process understanding, and new knowledge on exposure and
vulnerability of human and natural systems, including limits to adaptation

So the risks that are thought to be be 10 years out will manifest sooner.

How prepared are we?

Not very.

In fact when looking at our preparedness here was the finding:

Yes, we are ineffective at climate change mitigation and adaptation. These two items, sitting right at the bottom on the list, are the worst performing when it comes to risk management.

But take a look at this. Included in the WEF Risk Report, is data from their Executive Opinion Survey:

“The report also draws on the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey (EOS) to identify risks that pose the most severe threat to each country over the next two years, as identified by over 12,000 business leaders in 121 economies.”

Guess how many of those 12,000 leaders in 121 countries, when asked to list their top 5 risks, listed failure of climate- change mitigation in their top 5?

Exactly one — one out of 121

How many listed failure of climate-change adaptation in their top 5?

17 out of 121

These responses show that most businesses are woefully unprepared for what is coming. As published research since the IPCC reports continues to point out, we have not accurately quantified what the impacts will be as we pass the 1.5º warming mark and then on to 2º etc.

For example, this paper published April 25th 2023 entitled The most at-risk regions in the world for high-impact heatwaves makes this observation:

In conclusion, we have identified regions where record-breaking heat extremes are statistically more likely to occur because the current records do not sample the larger extremes well. Furthermore, these regions may be more susceptible to the impacts of such extremes due to a lack of preparedness. Based on both observational data and model data, we find that temperature extremes that appear statistically implausible based on the current observational record could occur in any region globally.

In other words we are in for some major shocks for which we are not prepared and in this case we are only discussing heatwaves!

In the latest Future of Jobs Report 2023 also from the World Economic Forum they have this graphic highlighting what they call “Skills on the rise”

Scan these skills. Can you see Climate Literacy listed anywhere here? Is it perhaps couched in “Environmental stewardship” listed near the bottom? Maybe.

But not to have Climate Literacy as a stand-alone skill listed here is remarkable.

  • Our observations are telling us the climate crisis impacts are coming at us faster than we thought.
  • We understand that this is a major risk,
  • We know that we are woefully unprepared

Yet Climate Literacy is not found in the “Skills on the rise” list! Climate Literacy plays such a crucial role in what we have to do that the IPCC synthesis report said the following regarding this skill:

“Climate literacy and information provided through climate services and community approaches, including those that are informed by Indigenous Knowledge and local knowledge, can accelerate behavioural changes and planning.”

However despite this being the case:

Many funding, knowledge and practice gaps remain for effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation of adaptation, including, lack of climate literacy at all levels and limited availability of data and information.”

Maybe at this point it is a good idea to ask, since Climate Literacy is so important, what is it exactly? Here is the definition we use to describe a climate-literate person. Someone who:

Has an understanding of the essential principles of Earth’s climate and energy system. Is able to find and assess scientifically credible information about climate change and the climate crisis and communicate about these in a meaningful way, and is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that will have an affect on green house gas emissions.

How do you measure up to this definition? What about your team?

If we do not, as a matter of extreme urgency, go all out to dramatically improve our climate literacy at all levels we are going to be as blindsided by events as we were with the covid pandemic. Except this time we can’t say “this was sprung on us,” because we have known about the coming impacts for decades!