This is a time of environmental emergency: What can be done to reduce the impact of climate change?
Picture: Biodiversity International (Flickr)
By Jenny Teward
In today’s society the impact of climate change is evident in almost all aspects of life: rising global temperatures, increasing land, air and sea pollution, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, food insecurity and the energy crisis. As the current generation of young people is becoming increasingly aware of their uncertain future as a result of human activity (John Urry, 2009 p.96) on climate change, it is clear that immediate action needs to be taken to prevent further damage to the planet and to limit the impact that climate change has already had on it. In recent months students have taken part in protests against climate change in the hope to ensure immediate action is taken to reduce the impact of climate change. This article focusses on what can be done to reduce the impact of climate change.
8 essential elements
The Earth Statement (2015) discusses the ‘8 essential elements’ that need to be followed to reduce the impact of climate change, by achieving these elements the impact of climate change could be greatly reduced.
The first element involves limiting global warming to below 2°C, the report shows that we are currently (2019) on a path to reach around 4 °C by 2100, committing to limiting global warming to less than 2 °C will limit the serious risk of unmanageable climate change. To achieve the first element, we must remain well below the remaining carbon budget of 1 trillion tonnes if we want to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to below 2°C.
The ‘8 essential elements’ also state the need to begin deep decarbonization, hoping that we will have zero carbon emissions by 2050. Furthermore, all of Earth’s 193 countries must develop decarbonization plans. The Earth Statement declares that rich and progressive countries can and should lead the movement in decarbonizing before 2050. As well as reducing carbon emissions, the statement shows that safeguarding carbon sinks and vital ecosystems are essential for both protecting the environment and for reducing emissions.
The statement also postulates that we must make a meaningful effort to achieve 100% clean energy, to accomplish this, it is essential that we enable universal access to the technology solutions we currently have to maximize the likelihood of reaching this goal.
Although the previously mentioned ‘essential elements’ focus primarily on preventing future damage as a result of climate change, the next ‘element’ focuses on both the present and the future as it argues that we must increase the support for adaptation, loss and damage measures across the globe, especially in developing countries, so we can limit the current impact of climate change as well as providing us with ways to deal with the future impact of climate change.
The final ‘essential element’ states that governments need to provide support to developing countries to allow them to deal with climate change at a similar level to current global development aid, which in 2019 stands at around $135 billion per year. By providing this additional support, we will be able to deal with climate change on a united global level.
Human efforts are not enough.
Although the Earth Statements’ ‘8 essential elements’ do set out the essential steps needed to limit the impact of climate change, it can clearly be argued that individual human efforts will not be enough to limit the impending consequences of climate change; this can be said as The Carbon Majors Report (2017) showed that the distribution of climate emissions is concentrated, only 25 corporate and state producing entities account for 51% of global industrial GHG emissions. The report also showed that just 100 producers account for 71% of global industrial GHG emissions. It is obvious that a significant effort to reduce the impact of climate change requires serious action aiming at the reduction carbon emissions. This must be followed by corporate and state producers and companies, as individual human efforts cannot have the same impact as those of large-scale businesses who are responsible for the most of carbon emissions.
To conclude, when looking at what action can be and has been taken in an attempt to reduce the impact of climate change, a strong argument can be made that by ensuring large corporate and state producers and companies make a conscious, regulated, effort to reduce their significant contribution to climate change and as well as society as a whole continuing to limit the impact we have on climate change we can hope to have a greater chance at reducing the impact of climate change both today and in the future.
- Urry, J. (2009) ‘Sociology and Climate Change’. The Sociological Review 57. P.96.
- The Carbon Majors Database (2017). CDP Carbon Majors Report p.8.
- Earth League Members (2015) ‘The Earth Statement’. Available at: https://globalchallenges.org/our-work/earth-statement-2015/statement (Accessed 7/11/2019).