The Path to Climate Change

The Path to Climate Change – Where are we now?

Seven years ago, world powers collectively gathered to consider the world’s environmental state and reconsider the actions that brought us there. Since then, we have been talking, planning, and pledging to cap the global temperatures at a 1.5 – 2oC, but that has not stopped us from emitting like never before. Despite using buzzwords like climate change, GHG emissions, net zero, and science-based targets, megacorporations have in reality, done very little to reduce their global impact. There are undoubtedly impressive and commendable efforts towards decarbonization in different industries and scales, but the truth is, on a collective scale, we are falling extremely short!

The image below from the climate change tracker shows a global heat map of the sufficiency of the pledges, existing policies, and overall progress towards decarbonization. Except for Costa Rica, Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Nepal, and the UK (a total of 6 countries), the global effort to reduce emissions is yet to be nearly compatible with the Paris Agreement. We have not even scratched the surface.

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I do not share this information to elicit fear, but to show realistically just how much we lack. It has been seven years, and only now have countries amended policies to accommodate for a failing possibility of a future; policies that will probably, it is important to note, take well over a decade to yield positive results.

In their latest Emissions Gap Report, the UN Environment Program said that the world needs quick wins, or the 1.5°C goals of the Paris Agreement will slip out of reach. That is a terrifying notion, but to move forward, we need to understand why we are lacking and what challenges are making leading countries fall short when combating climate change?

It has been said before, and I will repeat it because I cannot emphasize this enough. We lack conviction. We lack acknowledgment. We lack the desire to change our economic habits for-profit and comfort. For all the greenwashing companies worldwide, we are still predicted to be underwater soon.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Bernard Shaw.

This quote is hauntingly accurate when it describes how the world seems to handle the issue of climate change. Let’s consider a company that has switched one of its ingredients to be eco-friendly; the product still comes in a plastic bottle with unnecessary packaging. The product, however, is still marketed as ‘green.’ All that plastic and packaging emit GHGs and set us back.

Global warming due to increased GHGs in our atmosphere is not a myth. It’s not even a theory. It is an absolute fact based on observable examples from our solar system. Look no further than our sister planet– Venus. One could be easily mistaken to believe that Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has the hottest temperatures, but it is Venus that is the hottest planet in our solar system at 300°C. This is because of the unique composition of the planet that we see the Green House Gas (GHG) effect in motion. No space probe has survived even entering the planet’s atmosphere, much less landing there.

Why are we stressing about a few degrees?

The answer is simple. It took a mere 5°C increase in global temperature for our move out of the Ice Age. Can you imagine what another few degrees will do? What are they already doing?

Climate change does not just affect the penguins and polar bears. It affects our coastlines as we know them. Cities like Miami and Jakarta are already sinking, and floods are more frequent than ever, as are hurricanes. If corporations do not make a bee-line towards meaningful action and change, catastrophe is inevitable.

The image below shows the CO₂ concentration over the past 800,000 years. While global temperatures fluctuate naturally, it took 100,000 years for the Ice Age to conclude. The beginning of the Industrial Age significantly aided the rise in global temperatures and continues to do so in unprecedented ways. This degree of change does not come without human interference.

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Based on current global policies, science has predicted the Higher Emissions Scenario as the ‘bad scenario’. It is in no way a cap. We will exceed that amount by 2100 if left unchecked; that is not a far-off date. It is very much a reality that Gen Z will observe.

To put some meaning behind the numbers, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has identified that a budget of 790 GtC (Giga Ton Carbon) is what we can deal with to maintain temperatures below 2°C. We’ve already consumed 515 GtC of that budget and have only 275 GtC to spend.

There is another scary little piece of information associated with these numbers. This “budget” does not guarantee that we will stay below 2°C. It only gives us a 66% chance to remain below that dangerous level. We could do an outstanding job by complying with the budget and still have a frightening 33% chance that we’re still headed towards a disaster, albeit a “smaller” disaster in comparison. That is, if we don’t completely miss the mark.

Who is responsible?

The threat of climate risk weighs more heavily on companies than on everyday citizens.

For US Public Companies, climate risk is the top risk factor identified by the World Economic Forum in the 17th edition (2022) of The Global Risks Report. Climate change has negative implications on business continuity, profits, operational costs, competitiveness, and business risk aversion.

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Source: 2019-2020 NACD Public Company Governance Survey

The graph above reflect the concerns of public companies based on a survey. The results are color-coded based on whether or not the risk is amplified by climate change (since climate change is considered a risk multiplier). Over 40% of the concerns are directly amplified by climate change, yet these companies only weigh 13% of the fears of climate change. See the discrepancy?

To citizens: While it is true that using a metal straw will not save the earth, it does, however, signify changing economic behavior. If no one buys plastic straws, companies will not make it.

Change is coming, and countries are altering policies based on an objective, looming threat. However, beyond avoiding risk, we can only mitigate and reduce it; it all depends on the habits of companies that people like you and I work in. We have lost the second we believe that we have no control over what giant corporations do.

We create demand, and we make the change. Let’s keep George Bernard Shaw’s quote in mind and critically understand what information corporations feed us. We are not above engagement and holding people accountable. We are not above forcing change. If only we keep talking, planning, and committing to change.


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