Sustainability: Context of the Climate Crisis

We have seen the rise of a new mindset in the workplace. One that is climate conscious and engaged with understanding the impacts that all forms of human activity are having on our planet.

Emergency measures put in place to help tackle the pandemic have given many the opportunity to reassess the way that they live, work and consume. Organisations and individuals have used the upheaval of ‘normal’ to reconsider the way we work and the impact we have on the planet. For many, it has also created an urgency to accelerate climate action. 

However, sustainable change is facilitated through sharing of knowledge. We believe it is important to understand the roots of the climate crisis so that action is sustained. Being ‘environmentally friendly’ shouldn't be a passing trend. Hence this short blog explores why integrating sustainability into your workplace could be beneficial for your organisation, employees and the planet.

 

The cause

A changing climate is not a new phenomenon. Geological records stretching back millions of years show large variations in our Earth’s climate. This is down to natural causes such as volcano eruptions, changes in the sun, Earth’s orbit, and CO2 levels. These natural fluctuations have been used to deny that our current changing climate is a consequence of natural activities, not human ones. However, it has been shown with greater than 95% probability that the current warming trend is the result of human activity since the mid-20th century, and is continuing at an unprecedented rate.[1]

Human activities have led to the release of CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere at unnatural levels. CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere and subsequently causes warming.[2] Examples of these unnatural human activities include burning fossil fuels, deforestation, dumping waste in landfill and agriculture.

 

The consequences

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified a range of concerns regarding the warming climate:[3]

  • Irreversible impacts – even at more moderate changes in global temperature, particularly for Arctic ecosystems and coral reefs.
  • Extreme weather events
  • Severe impacts on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations
  • Environmental and economic damage
  • Large-scale singular events (such as further sea level rise as major ice sheets melt over Greenland and Antarctica)

To bring this home to the UK:

  • The average annual temperature in is around 1°C warmer than the pre-industrial period
  • The chances of experiencing hot summers like in 2018 have doubled in recent decades and are now about 10-20% per year. This will rise to 50% by 2050
  • Sea levels have risen by 16cm since 1900, and will continue to rise for centuries due to time lags in the climate system.

Don’t be seduced by the tantalising prospect of hotter UK summers! An increase in temperatures has already been found to increase heat-related mortality[4] among our population, threaten animals and plant species that cannot adapt[5], and weaken food security in UK agriculture and imports.[6]

 

The solutions

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to address climate change that have been thoroughly researched and are well understood. In 2015, leaders from across the globe signed the Paris Agreement which aspired to put solutions into practice.[7]

In the UK, we have seen an increase in low carbon policy announcements from the Government in an attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change and promote a sustainable society. An example is the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan. This plan details a suggested recovery route from the pandemic with the objective to ‘build back better and / greener’ and enable the UK to enter the era of the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. The plan will mobilise £12 billion Government investment, and potentially 3 times as much from the private sector, to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs.[8]

Aside from government policy, there has been an inspiring wave of public activity driving the climate agenda forward and integrating climate-friendly conscience into our society. The world’s largest survey of public opinion on climate change found that the majority of people believe it is a global emergency and calls for wider ranging action.[9]

In summary, it’s of the moment to care about climate change, and we hope that it stays that way. Rhino strives to be a part of the sustainable transition, partnering with organisations to help them reach objectives. Working together, we create workspaces which support the planet and set the precedent for our future.

 

[1] IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers

[2] The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature - Callendar - 1938 - Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society - Wiley Online Library

[3] What are the risks? - Climate Change Committee (theccc.org.uk)

[4] The health effects of hotter summers and heat waves in the population of the United Kingdom: a review of the evidence - PubMed (nih.gov)

[5] What is climate change and how will it affect the UK? | Bradford Council

[6] Climate change and agriculture - POST (parliament.uk)

[7] What is the Paris climate agreement and why does it matter? | Greenpeace UK

[8] The ten point plan for a green industrial revolution - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[9] World’s largest survey of public opinion on climate change: a majority of people call for wide-ranging action | UNDP

 

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