When I opened the door to our bunker after Hurricane Irma, I looked out over Necker Island, saw the horrendous devastation and felt enormously sad and worried for the whole of the British Virgin Islands. But I also felt extremely angry at climate change deniers and more motivated than ever to help unite the world behind climate action.
Fast-forward a matter of days and another hurricane is heading for the BVI. I find myself in New York, where I am thumping the table hard for united climate action. Along with Virgin Unite, The B Team, Rocky Mountain Institute/Carbon War Room and others, I am meeting with leaders to rally support for climate action.
Yesterday I spoke at the Climate Week Opening Ceremony about the need to take decisive action to tackle climate change before it is too late. I joined Andy Karsner from the Emerson Collective and Google X and Amy Davidsen from Climate Group for a conversation on the scale and speed of innovation and technology in the shift toward a net-zero world.
The world and its leaders can no longer pretend that increasingly shattering catastrophes like Hurricane Irma are some kind of accident or coincidence. There is absolutely no doubt that climate change is real and it's triggering the full extent of nature's fury. How much more destruction do we need to act? Rising ocean temperatures are likely to result in hurricanes with greater intensity.
As I described the devastation, I apologised for sounding gloomy – and, I must admit, was exhausted. But I am a born optimist and quickly regained my enthusiasm. I truly believe this is an opportunity to move further and faster towards a planet powered by clean energy. Choosing whether or not to ignore climate change is now a matter of risk management. Can countries, businesses and individuals really put aside the risk to human lives, livelihoods, and enormous financial risk? Absolutely not. We need to vigorously pursue the Paris Agreement and strive to do even more.
We are already thinking about long-term rebuilding plans in the BVI. Places hit by these hurricanes don’t just need patching up. As Andy pointed out, “this is the largest opportunity for restoration and resurrection”. In the BVI we need to better use the natural resources that are available in abundance; we are bringing in clean energy generators, we need to ramp up solar and wind power, we need to accelerate towards clean fuel vehicles, we need to create jobs in clean energy production.
More and more government and business leaders are committed to investing in a cleaner, safer, more prosperous future. It is now economically viable as well as morally right. We need to see climate change action as an opportunity, not a problem. We can get on top of it if we all work together. And as for those climate change deniers? The next time we have another hurricane coming our way, you are welcome to join us!