“Nature is our greatest ally and our biggest inspiration.
We just have to do what nature has always done.
It worked out the secret of life long ago.
In this world a species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives too.
We can solve the problems we now face by embracing this reality.
If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.
It is time for our species to stop simply growing.
To establish a life on our planet in balance with nature.
To start to thrive…”
Sir David Attenborough
Climate change is a term most are familiar with by now, and is one that’s importance has grown astronomically in the last 30 years.
On this post we are going to unearth answers to the questions: What is climate change? Why is it so important? And how can we stop it?
Let’s start with the basics…
What is Climate Change?
Climate change is “a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.” (SEG Wiki)
In other words, it is the shifting of global temperature and level of carbon dioxide in our air as a result of our actions as humans.
This is an issue because we are creating imbalances in nature and are, therefore, altering the naturally formed ecosystems we exist within.
Leading many who care about the continued existence of our species to try to find ways to reverse or reduce our effects on our climates.
What does eco mean?
The devotion to saving our planet gave rise to another new term that is widely used yet seldom understood – eco
Eco is the abbreviation of ecology and thus is “concerned with the relation of living organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings” (Lexico)
Therefore, to be eco is to not cause harm to the environment.
Why is it important?
Now that we are all on the same page, it’s time to discover why this term always invokes a sense of urgency.
Half of the carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere since the beginning of human history has been put there in the last 30 years from burning fossil fuels. (Glen Peters, Center for International Climate Research)
The UN now claims that we need to half our global carbon emissions by 2030 if we are to avoid 2°C warming, which they call ‘catastrophic warming’.
To put 2°C warming into perspective…
Sir David Attenborough recently predicted the potential of a 6th mass extinction on earth by the end of the century if we continue towards this milestone.
Our impending doom is hypothesized to result from lower crop yields and increasingly frequent natural disasters, which will wreak havoc on our homes through droughts, infertile soils, rising sea levels, unlivable temperatures and trillions in climate damages.
If all this holds true then I doubt there are many people who, if granted the benefit of hindsight, would still sit and do nothing for the next few decades before this prediction became true.
What’s causing it?
To overcome this seemingly impossible obstacle we first need to understand the root of the problem.
We can break this down into the three main direct causes:
A new study in Nature reveals our planet is home to some 3.04 trillion trees.
According to the study we cut down around 15 billion trees a year and in total we’ve reduced the global tree count by 46% in our history.
Trees are vital for our survival as they produce the oxygen we breathe, recycle our air, act as homes to our wildlife, nurture bio-diversity and provide for our subsistence and medical needs.
They are also natural forms of carbon capture.
In fact, the average tree takes in 22kg of carbon a year.
By cutting these trees down we effectively increase the CO2 in our air as there are less trees to absorb the carbon we produce.
And we are cutting down a football pitch of primary rainforest every 6 seconds.
Burning fossil fuels
The continued reliance on burning fossil fuels to run our vehicles, heat our homes and produce electricity is the main contributor to our CO2 consumption.
To illustrate how much of an issue this is…
“In 2018, fossil fuels were the source of about 75% of total U.S. … greenhouse gas emissions.”
Our global emissions as a result of burning fossil fuels has actually fallen 5% in quarter one of 2020. (Global Carbon Project (GCP), Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC))
Unfortunately, our subsidiary systems and large corporations still favor these industries for investment and so our shift to clean energy is being stagnated.
We’ll come back to this problem later on.
Domesticated Animals & Meat Consumption
Today, humans account for 60% of the total mammals on earth (A Life On Our Planet)
Another 36% are accounted for by our domesticated animals, e.g. cows, pigs and sheep
That leaves only 4% of mammals living in the wild
The story is much the same for our birds. 70% are domesticated e.g. chickens and only 30% roam wild.
Whilst some of these animals aren’t major carbon producers, it doesn’t make these statistics any less disgusting
In 2013, a study found 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions came from methane production, predominantly related to agricultural activities.
How bad could this get?
To illustrate how bad this could get I thought I’d create a list of predictions from a few key articles from The Nature Journal over the past couple of years:
End of century Nature Journal Predictions
With between 1.5-2°C warming (the UN’s target) there will be 153 million deaths as a direct result of pollution. That’s the equivalent of 25 holocausts every year.
Global GDP will be 20-30% lower as a result of climate disasters, an impact worse than the Great Depression.
Contributing to this, Forest fires in California are expected to rise by 64-fold, that’s over half of the state burning
Similarly, flooding in the UK is expected to increase 50-fold
Believe it or not…
We are currently on track for 4 degrees warming… and the last time we reached this level there were palm trees in the arctic!
What are our current efforts?
So far, we’ve covered what climate change is, it’s causes, and why it is important.
Now it’s time to take a look at what we are currently doing and whether it’s enough.
This question is relatively easier to answer, considering the wealth of climate studies and number of scientists inspecting every detail of our effect on the environment.
The overarching message: we are on the right tracks, however much more needs to be done.
On a global and governmental level, The Paris Agreement is the largest entity dedicated to tackling climate change to date.
Joined by almost every country in the world, it’s goal is to limit global warming to less than 2°C by monitoring its members’ carbon emissions and helping them to set goals to bring them down over time.
These countries will do so by switching from their non-renewable energy resources, e.g. fossil fuel burning, to renewable energy sources.
Let’s see how they’ve been getting on?
This steady growth proves we are moving in the right direction, however leaves less than five years until 2030 when, according to the UN, we need to have increased this by another 22% to reach the goal of 50% less atmospheric CO2.
If we’ve been closing this gap by 2% each year, that means it’ll be another 11 years before we reach that target.
This proves we are not doing enough at the moment.
Up next, we’ll take a look at some actions on the individual level that’ll help us speed along our progress.
A common complaint by the average citizen in response to the call for action against climate change is the feeling of futility. They are not in control of the large-scale industries damaging the environment, so what are they supposed to do?
Here are the top six ways you, as an individual, can reduce your carbon footprint:
– Fly or drive less
– Eat less red meat
– Try to use less power in your home
– Reduce waste
– Go plastic free
– Spread the word
The good news is a global consciousness centered around climate change has evolved with many opting to eat less meat, turn off lights when they leave the room, recycle and much more.
Here are some statistics to demonstrate this:
- Global meat consumption per capita is at its lowest in 9 years
- In 2015, 20% of global plastic waste was recycled, compared to the 9% average from 1950-2015
- In 2018, the total number of electric vehicles increased 64% compared to 2017
These statistics highlight the power we hold as individuals to make a difference by changing our habits and behaviour.
So why is it some people are not able/willing to make drastic changes in the way they live their lives.
There are three general reasons: deeply engrained habits, limiting socio-economic factors or a lack of awareness.
This is partly why we’ve created zero effort/one click methods of being carbon neutral on the individual level, so people can continue to live their normal lives and still have a positive effect on the environment.
Check out our Origin Story post & Planting Trees for The Future posts to learn more about our platform where we plant trees for every purchase.
Why aren’t we doing more?
I’m sure many of you reading these stats about the potential repercussions of our actions and how we know we aren’t doing enough are thinking “well if this is the case then why the hell isn’t more being done?”
I struggled to answer this question for a long time, until the day when I watched Sir David Attenborough’s Witness Statement where he made a point about our banks continuing to invest in fossil fuels despite their detrimental effect on the environment.
This made it all click for me.
The problem is not the individual, but the way we govern our societies and business systems: capitalism.
I’m not saying that we should do away with this system, or that I’ve got a better idea for how things should work, I just think it’s important to understand the unseen manner in which our societal systems influence our behaviour if we truly want to bring about positive change.
Let’s look at a quick definition of capitalism before we go too far:
It is “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” (Lexico)
What’s important here is the fact that we all work towards earning more money, whether we’re an employee, an entrepreneur, a CEO or a company as a whole; for all the end-goal is the same: make more money.
Employees want to earn the highest wages possible by making as much money for the company as they can.
CEOs want to earn as much money for their company as possible to keep their shareholders happy.
A company wants to sell as many products/services at the highest price possible to keep their stakeholders and stay afloat.
In sum, capitalism relies on a meritocratic reward system, those who are more efficient are better rewarded.
This means everyone is disincentivised to give money away to a cause that doesn’t bring about more money in their own life or company…
To explain, causes like climate change or the preservation of our wildlife do not make a company or person money, therefore it goes against the nature of the societal system to support them.
This is why Sir David Attenborough raised the point about our banks investing in dirty energy, to illuminate the problem capitalism has created: we have all been trained to be greedy and individualistic.
Banks continue to invest in burning fossil fuels and further destroying our planet because it makes them good money.
They aren’t focused on the negative chain-reaction caused by their actions, so long as they see enough zeros on their income reports each month.
This is why we originally wanted to start an eco-initiative for our platform, so that we can take the power out of the hands of big companies and put it into the hands of everyday people.
It’s also why we’ve started this blog, to educate, inspire and spread the word that now is the time for change!
A CEO has pressure from hundreds of stakeholders to make more money for the company, therefore, it’s likely we can count them out to help with climate change.
Whereas the everyday person like you or me only have the will of one person standing in our way from contributing to climate change… ourselves.
Where our systems fail us it is our responsibility to override them by doing what we can on the individual level.
If there’s one thing history has taught us…
It’s much easier to sway the opinions or habits of one person, yourself, than it is to change that of hundreds, thousands, millions, or in our case, billions.
If enough people alter their definition of what it means to be a successful company, big change can happen.
Moreover, beyond the company the individual can also contribute towards an eco-friendly future by staying informed.
Rather than looking at short term profit in terms of money, we need to start looking at long term profit in terms of the survival and health of the consumer.
What do we need to do now?
Sir David Attenborough’s solution in A Life On Our Planet focuses on four key areas when it comes to saving our planet:
- Re-wild our planet and restore it’s biodiversity
- Stop human population growth
- Move to a largely plant based diet
- Transition to renewable energy
In the coming weeks we will explore how to tackle each one of these on an individual basis.
Join us next time on The Exploratory Blog where we’ll delve deeper into this topic…
“If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.
It is time for our species to stop simply growing.
To establish a life on our planet in balance with nature.
To start to thrive…”
Thanks for reading!
Green Lantern Out.