Climate Science and the need for action

 

By Stephanie Koch*

In summer 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 heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones have increased in frequency and severity.

Even without 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 on 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 of temperature of the hottest or coldest days.

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

As we can see, knowledge on 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 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 global population were responsible for around 52 % of global greenhouse gas emissions over a time of 25 years. Regardless the exact numbers, reading these 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 with the environment in mind. Still, there are some things all individuals can do to influence 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 on 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, 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 in 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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