Climate Science and the need for action

By Stephanie Koch*

In the summer of 2021, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a new report “Climate Change 2021”. The general message is, unsurprisingly, what we all already know:

Human-induced climate change leads to changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere, and those changes are happening on a large scale. Due to human influence, climate and weather extremes like heat waves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones have increased in frequency and severity.

Even without a scientific background, we can see that climate change is ongoing as people are experiencing the signs and consequences of it in their daily lives already. In 2021, so far extreme weather events include unusual snowfall in Spain, flooding in countries like the UK, Australia, Belgium, Germany, China, etc., cyclones in Fiji and Indonesia, winter storms in Texas, a sandstorm in China, a heat record for June in Moscow and other Russian cities, a hurricane in the US, droughts in Eastern and South Africa, and wildfires in several countries. Even though this is just an exemplary list, it already is quite long and there are many more events to add, and the year 2021 is still ongoing.

According to the IPCC Report 2021, the additional warming of every 0.5°C leads to even further increased intensity and frequency of heatwaves, heavy precipitation, and ecological and agricultural droughts. Some areas are especially prone to heatwaves and will experience an increase in temperature on the hottest or coldest days.

Another finding states that due to additional warming seasonal snow cover, sea ice, and arctic land ice decline further and permafrost thawing intensifies.

As we can see, knowledge of climate change and its consequences is increasing. Understanding the mechanics of climate change and how everything is connected with each other is one important step. However, it is just the baseline for climate adaptation and mitigation. Being well informed about climate change doesn’t help our planet. What we really need is action.

However, actions are still lacking behind, as they are not happening on the needed scale and are not fast enough. Especially rich countries, which are responsible for a disproportionately higher share of emissions, need to take over responsibility. There are different statistics about the emission shares of the biggest global polluters – some state, that 20 companies produced a third of global CO2 emissions over the last decades, some write that 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of historical greenhouse gas emissions and again other studies show that the richest 10% of the global population were responsible for around 52% of global greenhouse gas emissions over a time of 25 years. Regardless of the exact numbers, reading this kind of statistics often leaves people hopeless, feeling as if individuals don’t have any power or influence. Of course, it is politics and big companies who currently need to be urged to base their decisions on the environment in mind. Still, there are some things all individuals can do to influence the economy and politics.

One way would be voting for parties with an environmental agenda. Another decision everyone can take is, to stop supporting the “big, bad” companies. Instead spending money on products from sustainable brands enables more diversity and more environmental responsibility in the market.

With the help of lots of people shifts in our economic, social, and environmental systems are possible! As a reader of this blog, you are surely aware of the impact you can have, and the value you can create. Are you working on that impact? Or what stops you from going further in your actions?

References

https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/environment/953574/worlds-most-extreme-weather-events-2021

https://stacker.com/stories/3971/90-companies-responsible-two-thirds-historical-greenhouse-gas-emissions

https://www.statista.com/chart/19594/20-firms-produced-a-third-of-global-emissions/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/21/worlds-richest-1-cause-double-co2-emissions-of-poorest-50-says-oxfam

 

* The Author Stephanie is an Environment and Climate Change Expert. She studied at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science and University of Natural Resources and Life Science (Austria) for her Master’s program in Environmental Science. She is based in Vienna, Austria.

In the footsteps of the carbon footprint

By Stephanie Koch*

“Leave nothing but footprints” is rather well-known advice for visiting places in a sustainable way. But not even footprints are necessarily environmentally friendly, at least not carbon footprints. What a carbon footprint is? The concept of a carbon footprint is to show all the greenhouse gases that get emitted due to corporate or personal activities. The bigger the carbon footprint, the more carbon dioxide emissions and the less sustainable – that’s the idea.

A personal carbon footprint is influenced by the lifestyle of a person. Traveling, commuting, possessions, diet, consumption choices – all of these things are accounted for when calculating a personal carbon footprint, usually as an annual estimated value.

A product’s carbon footprint summarizes the emissions over the lifecycle of a product. This means that for one specific product the emissions caused by production, transportation, sale, use/consumption, recycling, and disposal of landfills are being taken into account.

A company’s carbon footprint presents all greenhouse gases emitted due to all corporate activities along the value chain. These emissions are accounted for over a certain time frame, like a year for example. Basically, a company should not just include its own activities (manufacturing e.g.) that lead to greenhouse gas emissions, but also earlier steps in the value chain like material supply, and later steps in the value chain like retail, into the corporate carbon footprint.

As the amount of greenhouse gases emitted through single activities are typically not directly available, calculating or measuring the amount of carbon emissions can be fairly difficult. Even for professional calculations, approximations via standardized factors and assumptions on the quantity of emissions per unit have to be made. For company and product carbon footprints, there are guidelines from international institutions on the calculation methodology. Even though product or company carbon footprints are not yet commonly published, an increasing number of companies reports on them. To find out about your personal carbon footprint there are quite some online tools and questionnaires that you can fill out to learn about the approximate amount of carbon emissions you cause per year.

No matter if it is about personal or product or company carbon emissions – usually there are always some emission-causing activities that could be more or less easily reduced or avoided. Therefore, it is important to know which actions cause how many emissions or which changes could lead to the highest reduction. Companies that seek to reduce their carbon emissions usually use their carbon footprint as a basis to decide on where or how to reduce emissions.

Consequently, people who want to reduce their personal carbon footprint could start by evaluating single lifestyle decisions, estimating the magnitude of emissions caused by them, and taking decisions based on that information. For example, switching the energy provider to a renewable one saves more emissions than switching off the light every time one leaves the room (even though that is a good idea too!). Another way to reduce CO2 emissions is by buying sustainable, long-lasting, timeless products instead of following seasonal trends. For example, a POLI bag, made of natural sustainable raw materials like jute or leather, is produced in an environmentally friendly way!

* The Author Stephanie is an Environment and Climate Change Expert. She studied at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science and University of Natural Resources and Life Science (Austria) for her Master program in Environmental Science. She is based in Vienna.

 

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At The Poli, we envision a sustainable, Eco-Lifestyle future. Our mission is to protect the climate, environment and human health. Our blog writing has the intention to create awareness about the environment, responsible consumption and sustainability among the people. Your contribution is valuable in order to continue our efforts to manifest a more sustainable consumption and future. Thank You!

THE POLI: RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

The products that we use in our daily lives can create massive environmental footprints and health burdens if we are not aware of where and how what we buy is manufactured. It requires about 2 billion barrels of oil to serve the plastic bag industry annually and it then takes anything from 400 to 1000 years for plastic bags to degrade (Bell & Cave, 2011). Paper bags are not much better as their production requires four times as much energy compared to plastic bags. Producing paper bags generates 70 times more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bags and requires the cutting down of 17 trees per ton of paper. So this is not a simple issue! Bangladesh’s leather industry is worth a billion dollars a year, but that value comes at a significant environmental and human cost. The process of tanning leather hides in most cases is highly toxic. Chrome tanning is the most popular and controversial method due to its wide-spread use in the fashion industry. The chromium salts that are used in chrome tanning are carcinogenic, persistent, and harm both environment and human health.

Our Solutions: traversing from East to West and meeting with people from different cultures and backgrounds, I came to an idea to raise environmental awareness among people (particularly on how to be responsible as consumers) and reduce environmental footprints, starting with eco-friendly bags and accessories, through our Scandinavian startup, The Poli. I have identified vegetable-tanned genuine leathers and jute, the most sustainable natural fibers, to produce bags and accessories which also solve the environmental issues that arise from the present unsustainable production system. The vegetable-tanned leathers mostly employ plant-based dye which is favorable for the environment and human health. The bags produced with jute can create huge attention to global consumers, where jute contributes to offset carbon emissions and global warming. Jute cultivation is considered afforestation and reforestation. Jute requires almost no fertilizers or water for production. Also, a hectare of jute cultivation can absorb 15 tonnes of carbon and release 11 tonnes of oxygen into the environment during its whole life cycle of production. We are working in collaboration with Bangladeshi factories to produce our bags and accessories. We have team members from Sweden, Norway, Italy, and Bangladesh. We have designed and developed backpacks, tote bags, laptop cases, and wallet items with our sustainable resources so far.

Through seed funding support from GEN for the project The Poli: Responsible Consumption for a Sustainable Future, we plan to scale up our initiatives by developing new eco-friendly products such as shoulder bags and jute shopping bags. In addition, we want to improve the environmental standards of existing items through research and development and improve our production and supply chain to create as little environmental footprints as possible. Finally, we would like to reach more audiences through blog writing, web and social media content development, product display, and sales collaboration development. The ultimate aim? Responsible consumption.

I am Azim. I am the Founder of the Poli.

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How we can be a Catalyst for a resilient future in the time after Covid-19

In 1992, The Agenda 21 action plan was proposed to reduce the human impacts on the environment, forests, and biodiversity at local, regional, and global levels during the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro (Cohen, 2020; UN, 1992). However, the recommendation was not followed which has put ourselves and the Earth subject to great damage. There has been continuous exploitation of earth’s resources in an unsustainable manner, which has resulted in toxic substances being released into our natural environment for the last 30 years. We are releasing more than 30 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere through fossil fuels use, forest damage, and other means every year (Kell, 2020). Forests are destroyed for agriculture and human settlement purposes and also through global warming-led wildfires and illegal logging. The damage to forest resources is causing stress on the natural habitat of wildlife and creating a pathway for animal-borne infectious diseases. As a consequence, dangerous viruses have spread – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Swine flu, Zika, etc. Scientists have warned that we may experience more animals to human transmission of infectious diseases from the industrial production of livestock, and encroachments to wildlife through destabilizing ecosystems (UNEP, 2016). We are now observing the effects of COVID-19 on our lives and the destabilization of the world economy.

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change has also warned that we may encounter new kinds of viruses if the present economic pattern continues. Melting permafrost, as a consequence of global warming, can potentially release ancient viruses and bacteria as well as the possibility of northern countries encountering southern diseases such as Malaria and Dengue fever if the earth heats up more (Skelly, 2017).

What is the realization of COVID-19?

The planet can not bear our destructive behavior anymore. COVID-19 is forcing us to isolate and also showcasing the fragility of our economy. This virus can kill the wealthy, poor, or vulnerable, and is in-discriminant. If we want to protect ourselves from future threats, we need to transition to a new economic model that is based on ‘green’ low-carbon-based systems that allow the environment and circumstances necessary for a resilient future.

Picture: The Poli carries a vision for a sustainable tomorrow, with stylish and Eco-friendly bags and accessories.

How can we live in a way that is conducive to a resilient future?

We can restore our ecology and environment through increased focus on organic and pastoral farming-based regenerative agriculture practices, afforestation and reforestation, fewer materials intensive lifestyle, renewable energy, and sustainable infrastructure use. Fair distribution of business profits to all stakeholders and workers involved in farming or industrial production, can help to achieve a resilient economy.

Global fashion brands source their products from countries around the world. Factory workers of developing countries involved in production are paid poor wages, while the corporations have huge profits. These people are losing jobs and getting reduced wages. In these times, we have not heard from the major brands about how they will help distressed workers survive to afford food, water, and shelter. Though some brands are forcing suppliers to accept their stock at a lesser price than the contract price or withhold payment for completed orders during the crisis period.

All of us are responsible to protect ourselves and the world from these human-caused difficulties. Hence, now is the time to rethink our purchasing and spending habits to choose products that also invest in building a better and resilient world. We often ignore the social value of a product, whether it comes from ethical sources, prioritizing names of famous brands. We have learned that a healthy community allows us to be healthy from the crisis. We can, therefore, influence the income and health conditions of all stakeholders through supporting businesses-major or small-or brands that prioritize environmental and societal commitment in their business model.

Let us create a more resilient future, by protecting ecology and supporting social and environmental economic progress.

The article was written by Mohammad Azim. The writer expressed a special acknowledgment to Nick Winfield, Sebastian Monomosuke Törngren, and Christina Johanne Kjellsen Hjørungdal for their contribution.

References:

Bloomer, P., 2020. Millions of garments workers face destitution as fashion brands cancel order. A commentary. Available at http://www.ethicalcorp.com/millions-garment-workers-face-destitution-fashion-brands-cancel-orders. Accessed June 8, 2020.

Cohen, M.J., 2020. Does the COVID-19 outbreak mark the onset of a sustainable consumption transition?, Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 16:1,1-3, DOI: 10.1080/15487733.2020. 1740472.

Kell, G., 2020. Four lessons we should learn from the Pandemic. Available at https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/four-lessons-we-should-learn-from-the-pandemic/. Accessed May 6 2020.

Skelly, J.F., 2017. Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth’s climate warms. A BBC Report. Available at http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170504-there-are-diseases-hidden-in-ice-and-they-are-waking-up. Accessed May 8, 2020.

UN, 1992. Agenda 21. New York: United Nations. Available at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/Agenda21.pdf. Accessed May 8 2020.

UNEP, 2016. Frontiers 2016: Emerging issues of environmental concern. Available at https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/frontiers-2016-emerging-issues-environmental-concern.

 

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Why do we require a sustainable consumption pattern?

That the world population is constantly growing and that we are depleting natural resources (water, soil, minerals, etc) faster than ever to fulfill the demand from this population might not feel like news. But that the population is expected to go from about 7 billion to around 9.6 billion by 2050, according to United Nations forecast, puts everything in a new light. In other words, we would require two more planets to supply additional natural resources to maintain the current consumption pattern for our current living requirements. The adverse impacts of our consumption are already pronounced in the nature and environment, but it is still beyond our imagination to discover more planets to supply all the resource requirements for the projected global population.

On our planet, we have less than 3% of fresh water to utilize for drinking, cooking, washing, and even running industrial machinery (UN, 2018). What if I told you that 2,5% of this water is contained as ice in the Antarctica, Arctic, and glaciers. Feels pretty hard to solve the equation, right?

So, the available fresh water is about 0.5% and still, we rely on it for all those purposes previously mentioned. We are consuming this available fresh water faster than nature can recharge it and the increasing global population means that we will have to feed more people with less water when more than a billion people do not even have access to fresh water yet.
As if that was not enough, we are polluting the already very limited water resource through our unsustainable consumption pattern.

We are living in the age of plastic. The widespread plastic consumption is posing a great threat to the fresh water ecosystem such as rivers and lakes. Researchers have found that about 4 million tonnes of plastic waste pass through the river water every year globally (GrrlScientist, 2018). Another research investigated that billions of people worldwide are drinking water contaminated with plastic fibers (Carrington, 2017). Through daily debates, social media, news, and the European Union’s recent regulations e.g. we are made aware of the severe consequences of our consumption. However, we might not think about other water-polluting industries, still hidden in the shadow. For example, the leather industry uses various harmful chemicals such as Chromium which is causing water pollution and can cause severe health conditions for the people working in production.

So what can we do about it?

It is time to replace traditional consumption patterns with sustainable consumption practices to protect our natural resources and environment. The United Nations came to an agreement on 17 global goals to address all the global challenges, including environmental degradation, in 2015 (UN, 2018). One such goal (goal number-12) calls to ensure responsible consumption and production patterns by transforming the way we produce and consume goods and resources. The aim of this goal is to achieve global economic prosperity in such ways that will reduce our ecological footprints and keep our world safe from environmental degradation, faster depletion of natural resources, and climate change. Hence, we are observing increasing numbers of governments, businesses, and social initiatives that go in line with this movement. The European Union has decided to ban single-use plastic to reduce plastic contamination (Shoot, 2018) and an increasing number of Start-Ups are also offering environmentally friendly services and products around the world.

The article was written by Mohammad Azim. The writer expressed a special acknowledgment to Lisa Stedt for her support.

References:

Shoot, B., 2018. EU parliament votes to ban single-use plastics, including plates, cutlery and straws. Available at http://fortune.com/2018/10/24/eu-ban-single-use-plastic-pollution/. Accessed January 1, 2019.

Carrington, D., 2017. Plastic fibers found in tap water around the world, study reveals. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals. Accessed December 24, 2018.

Ayer, D. and Merino, V., 2018. The invisible plastic particle in our drinking water. Available at https://www.earthday.org/2018/03/23/the-invisible-plastic-particles-in-our-drinking-water/. Accessed December 28, 2018.

GrrlScientist, 2018. Microplastics contaminate half of all freshwater insects, study shows. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/09/29/microplastics-contaminate-half-of-all-freshwater-insects-study-shows. Accessed December 29, 2018.

UN, 2018. About the sustainable development goals.
https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/. Accessed December 27, 2018.

UN, 2018. Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/. Accessed December 27, 2018.

 

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Nya väskmärket värnar om både människa och miljö

Mohammad Azim och Olof Engström från The Poli, fotograf Victor Ackerheim

The Poli är ett miljövänligt väskföretag med visionen att skapa en positiv miljö- och samhällsförändring genom hållbar resursanvändning, regenerativ design och etiskt företagande och ledarskap. De är ett av 12 startups som tävlar på regionfinalen av den prestigefyllda tävlingen Venture Cup den 16 maj i Stockholm. Väskorna produceras i Bangladesh, hemland till grundaren Mohammad Azim. (more…)