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There’s a moment when I’m giving talks when I choke slightly. I have a little trouble getting the words out.

It’s when I tell people that I believe technology will be a bigger change driver than anything, including climate change.

I believe this only for a specific geography (the UK and some other northern/western developed countries), and within a specific time frame (the next 20 years or so). But even though I believe it strongly, I still find it a challenging idea, given the devastation that climate change will likely cause elsewhere within that timeframe.

The idea rarely gets the reaction in the room that I’m feeling inside. Are people so comfortable dismissing the effects of climate change? I’m always hoping to be challenged on this but never have been.

To be fair to the audiences, they’re not alone in paying scant attention to the threats. In a recent study of the risks facing major corporations, climate change didn’t even rank in the top 19 concerns for chief executives.

This survey was conducted by PwC, where a different division gave this stark assessment: “At current rates of de-carbonisation we would be heading towards the worst projected scenario of the IPCC, leading to significant chance of exceeding 4 degrees of warming.”

This is accountants talking science. Their language is extraordinarily tempered and conservative. But what they are talking about is floods in some areas and wars over water shortages in others. Drastic falls in crop yields. Extreme weather events and raging wildfires.

But we don’t like to think about that. And we probably won’t.

At least not for the next twenty years.

This post forms part of my Future of Cities series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Cities page.

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Tom Cheesewright