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 statistic 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?
* 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.