Our Climate Responsibility
In the wake of the devastation facing much of the nation due to extreme weather events, let's take a moment to reflect on our past, future, and choices. Less than three months before COP26, a major global climate summit, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report, solidifying the impact of human influence and the burning of fossil fuels on the warming atmosphere, ocean, and land. It is the strongest and most definitive statement that the IPCC has ever made.
The report states that the global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than any other 50 year period over the last 2000 years. The last decade was hotter than any other period in the last 125,000 years, and hot extremes are just getting more and more frequent. Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than over any other preceding century in the last 3000 years, and atmospheric levels of CO2 in 2019 were higher than any other time in at least the last two million years.
The information presented in the report is worrying, as the evidence of obvious changes in the environment has strengthened since the IPCC’s fifth climate report in 2013. The impacts of climate change will be irreversible and unavoidable if we do not act quickly to commit to plans that will lower emissions. If we do not, compound extreme events will become more frequent, and the catastrophic weather events that historically have happened every 50 years will begin to occur every three to four. With no swift action, we will be on the fast track to a future that will be unrecognizable.
Implications for industry
The news stories and social media storm that followed the release of this report are not surprising – people do care about climate change. More Americans than ever before say that addressing climate change is their top personal concern, and among those that share this sentiment, Millennials and Generation Z are leading the pack. This may be due to generational differences in ideology, or it can be attributed to social media, or both. Climate-engaged social media users express more urgency about climate change, offer broader policy support, and have stronger emotional connections to content that is climate-related. Younger generations are more likely to be concerned about climate change, and they are also more likely to take action on it, either on social media or in daily practice of sustainable routines.
However, when young people look towards industry and government to reflect our concern for fighting climate change, they are sometimes met with radio silence. There are choices people can make individually to combat climate change, but our planet needs a top-down approach for reducing carbon emissions that starts with the entities that can have the largest positive impact (because they already have the greatest negative one).
Image: Greta Thunberg on Twitter
Businesses and major corporations should learn from young people in taking this report seriously. Industry contributes the most to climate change, but that also means that it can gain the greatest momentum when it comes to working towards a positive impact on the natural environment. Luckily, lots of businesses in industry are interested in studying and addressing their impacts on both ecology and society, with many establishing sustainability initiatives and working towards becoming more transparent with clients and consumers in their processes. While businesses starting to engage in sustainable initiatives is a step in the right direction, there is no concrete definition for terms like sustainable, all-natural, or eco-friendly in the world of industry. A green business should be concerned with the health of local and global environments in addition to their company mission.
But then the question becomes: how much should a company do, or at what point does a company become a leader in sustainability?
Quantifying change (but beware)
Because the market for green products and services has boomed over the past 15 years, greenwashing has unfortunately become more common. Greenwashing occurs when companies are deliberately misleading about the environmental performance of a product or service, or just when companies are not truthful about the positive or negative impacts of their processes. This phenomenon presents an environmentally conscious, responsible image, while the company cooking up the claims does not live up to their own standards.
Greenwashing is done by companies to win over the support of the greater public, but this is bad news for consumers and investors that have good intentions and want to see environmental progress. A company that is found engaging in greenwashing tactics and held accountable for it by the public can result in negative effects on consumer and investor confidence in the entire industry, not just for that specific company.
Image: Ecosystems United
In addition to organizations like the Federal Trade Commission that monitor marketing schemes for greenwashing, one tool that comes in handy to back up claims is a Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA. From raw materials to product use and disposal, every stage of the process is accounted for, which can help companies analyze the environmental impact of their processes. A LCA can be done in any industry, though around a quarter of all assessments come from the food and beverage industry.
Green marketing is only effective when the process is also truly green. With the helpful information that life cycle assessments can provide, consumers and clients have the power to effectively call out and shut down greenwashing campaigns, making way for actual sustainable development.
Image: Changing by Alisa Singer
Reversing the Damage
The new report that the IPCC put out is certainly daunting, but there is hope. We still have time to set ourselves on the right course by cutting emissions and investing in alternative, planet-saving technology like carbon capture and storage. Carbon capture doesn’t just have the potential to mitigate damage, it can reverse it.
We acknowledge that companies have an ethical responsibility to act with the best interest of the environment in mind. Here at Carbon Reform, reading this report and the technological summary just motivates us to stay strong in our mission of clean air for people and planet. We are analyzing every part of our process to ensure that it meets our standard of carbon neutral or negative, as we believe it is our responsibility to help in the fight against climate change.
We can only hope that the IPCC report puts pressure on world leaders ahead of their meeting in Glasgow, and it will be the impetus for real change on a massive scale. In the meantime, we are holding ourselves and larger corporations accountable for doing everything we can to reverse climate change.
To learn more about our mission of clean air for people and planet, visit our website: www.carbonreform.com.