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“Mankind has embarked on a huge global experiment with his future.” Professor Will Steffen
In June 2018, TNZ invited Professor Will Steffen to address a special staff meeting at the head office in Palmerston North, as part of Toyota Global Environment Month. This annual event aims to promote environmental awareness, learning and action.
Professor Steffen is an earth system scientist and a Climate Councillor of the Climate Council of Australia (which delivers independent expert information on climate change). He is also an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University, a Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and a Fellow at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics.
As a Senior Associate of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Professor Steffen regularly delivers sobering presentations on the impacts of climate change to business owners, senior managers and sustainability practitioners. Four members of TNZ’s Executive team have attended this course, which challenges participants to step up and respond to the challenges we face and define the legacies they can lead. TNZ’s Environment Officer attended in 2018, leading to the development of TNZ’s Sustainability Strategy (see here).
Professor Steffen’s presentation drew on robust scientific evidence to describe the rising global temperatures, changing land uses and damage to natural systems from intensified agriculture and fishing, rapid urbanisation and fossil-fuel combustion. Humans have transformed the planet beyond natural planetary boundaries, leading to extinction rates thousands of times greater than background levels in some habitats. Climate change is the single most serious threat to humankind, and global temperature rises are already beyond the range of natural variability. Scientists project catastrophic impacts for society if we transverse tipping points, some of which may be triggered with a 1.3C rise in global temperature.
This message proved timely as we sought to engage Toyota staff in the department action plans underpinning the Sustainability Strategy and channel their energy to redefine our business.
“We are the only species on Earth who destroys its own habitat, threatening countless other species with extinction in the process,” Frijof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi.