Andrew Forrest, Australia’s second richest man and Chairman of the Fortescue group of companies, has been going around the world flagging an under-realised consequence of climate change—lethal humidity. 

‘Lethal humidity’ -- a term that Forrest coined – refers to a very bad situation of rising humidity because of hot air scooping more ocean waters. “With high humidity, your sweat cannot cool you,” Forrester told a gathering in Chennai on Friday. “Your body heat can’t escape, so you core temperature rises quickly; your DNA is wired for heat and not heat-and-humidity,” he said, adding that such high humidity could be lethal. Rising body temperatures result in endotoxins released from gut flora, poisoning the bloodstream—the first to die are babies and the elderly. 

No country or city is free from the risk of ‘lethal humidity’, Forrest said, adding that any city—be it New York, Sydney or Chennai—could be hit.  

Fortescue is a large mining company now getting into renewable energy and green hydrogen. Forrest, whose net worth has been assessed to be $ 21.6 billion, repeatedly stressed that the main culprit for global warming was the industrial sector, which still refuses to decarbonise enough. Fortescue, on its part, is doing everything to completely decarbonise its operations—running mining equipment on green fuel or buying green power for its operations. 

One of its tricks is a freight train that runs downhill one way and uphill the other—batteries on the train charge themselves while the train is sliding downhill; the stored energy is used to run the train on the return journey. 

Forrest wants people to hold industrialists “like me” to account. People are at fault only becasue they do not hold the industry accountable for burning fossil fuels. “It lets off people like me,” he said. 

Later, in a conversation with businessline, he disagreed that the carbon-centric lifestyle of the developed world was chiefly responsible for climate change; instead, the culprit is the industry, which refuses to stop burning fossil fuels. 

He also disagreed that industrial decarbonisation would lead to higher costs and stressed that the truth was the opposite. 

India, with its huge “positive power”, has the “historic opportunity to be the green energy manufacturer for the world.” 

Fortescue has tie-ups with JSW Energy as well as Thermax for green hydrogen.  

Asked about plans for India, Forrester said that Fortescue spoke highly of India’s solar energy potential. Asked if Fortescue had any plans for solar energy in India, he said, “we have five projects here, but none of them we are prepared to announce yet.”

However, “if the investments go ahead, they will be in billions of dollars,” he said. Asked why he was unsure of the projects taking off, Forrest observed that he had put up many projects around the world and knew that there could be “many a slip between the cup and the lip.”