Climate change over the years
Climate change and global warming both relate to the same thing- increased crisis for people all around the world. The Earth's average atmospheric temperature continues to rise and the impacts are increasingly obvious. With higher temperatures, disasters such as floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts are only getting worse. These weather changes, however, are only a fraction of the impacts of the temperature increase. We've all undoubtedly heard about polar ice melting and ocean temperatures rising as well as the obvious hotter summer months and the constant shifts in temperature in the winter time. These impacts have been and will continue to grow in gravity and frequency if nothing is done to reduce them, posing risks to public health and safety through increases in the spread of diseases, and contributing to animal extinction and the loss of biodiversity.
What part do we play?
More than 97% of scientists agree that humans cause climate change. From the everyday use of mechanical transportation systems such as cars, trains and buses, to the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, humans are constantly causing the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to rise. Deforestation is a major issue because it not only destroys the Earth's natural method of carbon management, but also speeds up the rate of biodiversity loss. As the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises, so, too, does global warming. The reason for this is that the greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide prevent a certain amount of heat radiation from flowing into space. More carbon dioxide adds to the natural greenhouse effect, hence the global temperature rises. In 2018, The Nature Conservancy stated:
The rate of carbon emissions are the highest they’ve been in 66 million years and the amount of warming in the coming decades is expected to be 250 times greater than the average warming during the past century.
This is extremely worrying and is a clear indicator that a lot needs to be done (and quickly) to limit the consequences of climate change; governments, firms and individuals must work together to reduce global emissions.
Firms and climate change
Companies play a huge role in driving climate change. The issue is that companies repeatedly prioritise profitability over focusing on reducing their emissions. Companies should aim to promote the use of clean energy rather than fossil fuels, and some, such as Apple, Facebook and Google have pledged to use 100% renewable energy under the RE100 initiative. Similarly, car companies like Volvo announced that starting in 2019 they would only produce electric or hybrid cars, showing that there have been attempts by some firms to contribute less to the deterioration of the planet. But this is not enough; more companies must make such adjustments if a real difference is to be made.
The truth is that climate change affects the whole planet. Aside from the threat it poses to the safety and well being of individuals, their families and communities, it also threatens businesses. Extreme weather, droughts and resource scarcity limit the availability of scarce resources (resources in general too), cause disruptions in supply chains and fluctuations in the costs and availability of resources, and reduce the demand for goods and services. So, businesses would do well to manage their waste better, ensuring strict guidelines on recycling are followed to reduce the contribution of landfills to methane emissions. Economically, recycling also saves firms money in the long run by decreasing waste costs.
With transportation accounting for 29% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, companies would do well to reduce business travel where possible, making use of alternatives such as video conferencing technology or even just travelling by train or bus more as opposed to air travel. Firms should also prioritise sustainability throughout their supply chain by making smarter purchasing decisions and looking into the sustainability of their suppliers; this will save firms money as they will be using products that are more durable, require less energy and produce less waste. A further motivator is that a large percentage of online consumers worldwide (55% according to a Nielsen study) are prepared to spend more on products provided by environmentally friendly firms.
The wealth and agility of many of these firms is what enables them to have such a huge impact and makes them highly adaptable to change, enabling them to enforce policies that are meaningful and make all the difference for the planet. Significant improvements cannot be made until firms are held accountable for their impact on the planet.