Below are some reasons why we are worried about climate change. And why action is needed now!
Is climate change real?
Yes, scientists say it’s very real.
In 2015, representatives from 196 countries agreed in Paris on the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Agreement. The agreement echoes the view held by almost all scientists that Climate Change is real, and largely caused by CO2– and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. These activities includes the combustion of fossil fuels for heating, electricity generation, transportation and industrial processes, as well as deforestation and agriculture. In the first half of 2016, global average temperatures were already 1.3 degrees C above the average in 1880 when global record keeping first began.
The risk exists that the world-wide climate will change irreversibly, as has happened before during the Earth’s geological history. To have a chance of avoiding this, emission reduction efforts are required in order to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees C. But this provides only a 50% chance. That’s like playing Russian roulette with a two-chamber revolver!
To substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change, the temperature increase should be kept below 1.5 degrees C.
By ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement, countries have committed to pursuing ambitious climate policies. In 2017, the Dutch Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (PBL) calculated that achieving the 1.5 °C target (with a probability of around 50%) requires a CO2-emission reduction of more than 100% by 2050, for both the EU and The Netherlands. This roughly means a complete decarbonisation of the energy system. For the 2 °C target (with a probability of around 66%) a CO2-emission reduction of at least 90% would be required.
By 2030, the CO2-emission reduction will need to be 50% to 40%, depending on the target.
Total greenhouse gas emission reduction will need to be 55% to 50% (compared to 1990).
Legislation such as the Dutch Klimaatwet, and sub-national agreements such as the ‘Klimaatakkoord’, mean that sooner or later targets will also come your way. So you better be prepared.
If we don’t address climate change, what will happen?
In March 2018, Sir David King, the former UK government’s chief scientific adviser, repeated his warning that climate change is ‘the biggest threat to civilisation’ ever. It’s an ‘existential threat to all countries and all people’. https://www.energylivenews.com/2018/03/29/climate-change-is-an-existential-threat-to-all-human-civilisation
The consequences of climate change can already be seen in the daily news, and this is just the beginning. Climate change leads to a growth in the frequency and intensity of droughts, forest-fires, storms, hurricanes and floods. Apart from these physical impacts, climate change also affects people’s health, cause displacement and migration and threaten security and political stability. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_global_warming_on_humans
Back in 2002, insurance experts estimated that annual damages would grow to $300bn by the year 2050. This is three times the cost of the Gulf War in Iraq! A 2017 report by insurance experts Climate Wise confirms that this rise in damages is indeed taking place https://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/business-action/sustainable-finance/climatewise/news/2017-set-to-be-among-the-most-expensive-on-record
NASA scientists say this is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Once in the atmosphere, greenhouse gasses stay for a long time, and continue to contribute to global warming. The global warming we are seeing now is only the effect of emissions which took place years ago. https://climate.nasa.gov/effects .
So-far, natural factors like CO2 absorption by the oceans have helped to reduce the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and cool the Earth down. But the 2018 ‘hothouse Earth’ paper by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts highlights how a domino-like cascade of forest fires, warming oceans and melting ice sheets could increase rather decrease global warming. This would tilt the Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasingly futile https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/06/domino-effect-of-climate-events-could-push-earth-into-a-hothouse-state?CMP=share_btn_link .
The need for Climate Action
Mankind has always had to adapt to change. Why not see what happens first, and then adapt?
Adaptation is necessary, but the cost of adaptation only is many times the cost of trying to prevent climate change as much as possible.
In 2006 already, economist Sir Nicolas Stern showed that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs of not acting. Without action, the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) each year, now and forever. Including a wider range of risks and impacts, this could increase to 20% of GDP or more, also indefinitely. Initially, it was estimated that an investment of one percent of global GDP per annum would be required to be invested to avoid the worst effects of climate change. In 2008, this estimate was increased to 2% of GDP to account for faster than expected climate change. Still far less than the cost without action https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stern_Review
A 2017 Harvard study claims that just over the period through 2025, more than $2,200 billion of economic output is at risk. And confirms that fighting climate change is much less expensive than letting it happen https://hbr.org/2017/06/if-you-think-fighting-climate-change-will-be-expensive-calculate-the-cost-of-letting-it-happen
Your company’s assets, business or markets may be at risk, too. It makes sense to see what it means for you and how you can help to prevent the problem in the first place.
Why should we address climate change if perhaps China or India are not?
Climate change is a typical ‘tragedy of the commons’ type problem. It invites free-rider behaviour whereby people do not take action, hoping that others will do so for them. Given the urgency of the problem, this is a terrible characteristic, however. If we are to avoid irreversible climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced straight away.
It means investing in technology and infrastructure. It means demanding political, religious and businesses leaders to play their part. And it also means taking a good look at ourselves and having the guts to take individual action. There are so many sustainable products we can buy and things we can do already. Not in 2050, but now.
And as for China, India and the US:
-China’s political leaders acknowledge the importance of sustainable economic growth. China has long had its ‘one child policy’, without which we would be in dire straits already. China has ratified the Paris Climate agreement ahead of the leaders of the G20. And in 2017, more than half of global renewable energy investment came from China. For every € 1 the United States put into renewable energy last year, China spent € 3. As much as 26% of all national electricity production came already from renewables, as opposed to the global average of 12%. https://energytransition.org/2018/05/as-united-states-looks-to-coal-china-invests-in-renewable-energy
-India’s religious leaders have long observed that you can’t have your cake and eat it. India has the highest percentage of vegetarians in the world. According to the 2006 Hindu–CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey, 31% of Indians are vegetarian, while another 9% only consume eggs (ovo-vegetarian). This, combined with India’s huge population, means India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world together. By eating no meat, they avoid a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_by_country
-The current US administration has reversed many of the positive climate measures undertaken under the Obama administration. But the federal administration has only limited influence on emissions. Many states, pension funds and, significantly, the pope continue to advocate climate action. From 2005-2016, greenhouse gas emissions in the US have been reduced by 12%. To a large extent, this was achieved by burning shale gas instead of coal in electricity generation https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks. As long as this coal does not find its way to other markets, this is a very positive thing.
Rather than wait for future inventions or for other people to act, let’s copy the good things already taking place. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘Be the change you want to see in this world’. Hopefully, this will inspire more and more people to follow.
Every drop counts. So have a look at our services to see how you, too, can help.
What if I’m still not convinced that Climate Action is necessary?
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions means using less energy and raw materials, and purchasing from renewable sources.
Saving energy and being less dependent on a single supplier is also good for geo-political reasons. If you don’t want your children to be at the whims of some foreign dictator, just do it!
And finally, saving energy saves money. Especially these days, it provides a better return than keeping your money in the bank. More often than not, this is true for investment in renewable energy, too.
So, rather than staying in denial mode, please join us. Your help is urgently needed!
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
There are other environmental issues, too. How does Climate Change relate to these?
Climate change is caused by world-wide emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. These emissions have grown a lot over the last decades. They are the largest component of the world-wide Ecological footprint, a WWF-supported standard to show how many resources humanity uses in a year (www.footprintnetwork.org).
At an organisational level, the sum of all the organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions is shown in a Carbon- or Climate footprint. It is a good synthetic measure for the organisation’s overall environmental performance.
There is only one planet Earth. But in 2018, humanity’s ecological footprint has grown to 1.7 Earths already. And we are on track to require the resources of two planets well before mid-century.
Earth Overshoot Day, the date on which humanity’s resource consumption exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources, occurs sooner each year. Mathis Wackernagel and his colleagues of the Global Footprint Network have calculated that in 2018, humanity had used up all of its budget by the 1st of August already. We live in borrowed time, by depleting stocks of fish, water, minerals and energy. This contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine, disease and other human tragedies. It has a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else. Not to mention the effect it will have on future generations…
To achieve a sustainable world, we need to find ways to foster development whilst living within the natural capacity of the Earth. And within this, reducing the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses is probably the largest challenge.
How does climate change relate to overall sustainability?
Back in 1987, the Brundtland commission gave a clear and useful definition of sustainable development. It defines sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
Climate change inflicts a large burden on people with low incomes, and compromises the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Development that causes climate change is therefore not sustainable.
How does climate change relate to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)?
Some people argue that the Brundtland definition of sustainability is not good enough. Rather than ‘not compromising’ the ability of future generations to meet their needs, we should improve the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) aim to do just this.
The SDG’s are a set of 17 goals that aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. ‘Climate Action’ is included as SDG 13. It is an important goal in itself, and relates closely to all of the other goals. Climate Action offers good opportunities to contribute to the people-, planet- and profit objectives of these other goals, too.
Climate action is a precondition for:
SDG 1: ‘No poverty’
SDG 2: ‘Zero hunger’
SDG 3: ‘Good health and well-being’
SDG 6: ‘Clean water and sanitation’
SDG 8: ‘Decent work and economic growth’
SDG 10: ‘Reduced inequalities’
SDG 14: ‘Life below water’
SDG 15: ‘Life on land’
SDG 16: ‘Peace, justice and strong institutions’.
Climate action is strongly dependent on some of the above, as well as on:
SDG 4: ‘Quality education’
SDG 5: ‘Gender equality’
SDG 7: ‘Affordable and clean energy’
SDG 9 ‘Industry, innovation and infrastructure’
SDG 11: ‘Sustainable cities and communities’
SDG 12: ‘Responsible consumption and production’.