World Environment Day: climate change explained for everyone to understand
This year’s World Environment Day topic is #OnlyOneEarth. It’s an acknowledgement from businesses, governments, civil society and individuals that we only have one planet to live on and we must do all we can to protect it.
But how can we take action collectively if most people struggle to understand what’s happening? Most official sources talking about climate change are full of jargon, and in our opinion that simply doesn’t work if we want to make people passionate about a problem and willing to act on it.
So here it is, our simplified guide to help you understand what’s happening to the environment and how you can take action. Not just on World Environment Day but every day.
Special thanks to the book “Small Gases, Big Effects” for helping us put together this guide.
What is happening
When we say “climate change” we mean how average weather conditions vary over long periods of time. The weather can change in unpredictable and relatively quick ways. Climate on the other hand changes very slowly.
Climate has changed regularly over the years, and it actually only stabilised during the past 11.500 years. Which is in fact what made human evolution and societal development possible. This however started to change since the end of the 19th century.
With the industrial revolution average global temperatures started to rise sharply, leading to what we call “climate change” today – i.e. rising temperatures from the industrial revolution to our present days.
Surprisingly, greenhouse gases are not the bad guys. In fact, without greenhouse gases such as CO2 or methane our planet would freeze, and we wouldn’t be able to survive. These gases create a layer in the atmosphere to make sure thermal radiation is retained on Earth and keeps our planet relatively warm and liveable.
However due to human activity the concentration of these gases has rapidly increased over the last 150 years. This means that at present our atmosphere absorbs too much thermal radiation. Thus making our planet warmer and warmer. At the moment the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is significantly higher than at any other points in the past 800,000 years. So you get the picture…
Meanwhile, during the past decades we also kept cutting trees at exceptional rates. For example, between 2000 and 2009 forests have lost an average of 35 football fields per minute. Yes you heard that right: per minute! And of course it goes without saying that trees store CO2 over time and release it in the atmosphere when cut or burned down.
Overall, this type of human-led climate change is having some serious consequences on the delicate balance of our ecosystems. And in turn on human wellbeing as well as the economy. To mention a few,
- Extreme weather events such as floods or storms are a threat to human life.
- 9 out of 10 people had to breath unclean air in 2019. With air pollution being responsible for 1 in 9 premature deaths every year.
- Higher temperatures and more frequent droughts mean that agricultural production suffers, as plants struggle to grow in these conditions.
- Tourism is also affected by climate change. Think about winter sport tourism for example. With less stable snowing seasons attracting tourist will be a major problem for ski resorts.
- Ocean acidification – i.e. the ongoing decrease in the pH value of the Earth’s oceans – has consequences for the wellbeing of sea life. And with the global seafood market currently valued at over $250bn the hit to the economy will be significant.
The good news? We can still alter the process, live in harmony with the environment and save our planet (and ourselves!).
How you can take action
- Learn about what’s happening
- Plan and commit to sustainability
To alter climate change and avoid all the terrible consequences we’ve discussed above it’s absolutely crucial for you to take action. Make sure your business is aware of its impact and has a plan to become more sustainable. Committing to sustainability is the most important thing you can do to be part of the solution, not the problem.
- Raise awareness
With a plan in place it’s time to tell others about what you’re doing so they can get inspired and hopefully do the same. Engage your suppliers, partners, customers and employees. Spread the world about sustainability and how you’re taking action. To save our planet we need to work together, collaboratively, and support each other in this transition to building a better future for all.
- Get in touch! If you’re keen to get started or boost your sustainability journey do get in touch. We can help you align your purpose to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, engage your stakeholders and build an action plan to plan, measure and communicate your sustainability commitments.