The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change published today is the latest in a long line of reports which tells us all what we already know – we are destroying the planet. The UN body created to assess the science related to climate change, is now in its sixth assessment cycle. The first report in the cycle, The Physical Science Basis, makes for very shocking reading indeed. What is abundantly clear is that we continue to damage our planet, affecting the lives of millions of people and the action being taken is deplorably ineffective to reverse the damage.

The report states that it is undeniable that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land. The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over thousands of years. Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.

Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since 2014.

Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.

The most obvious and devastating effects of the climate crisis is the impact of extreme weather events. The number of weather-related disasters has tripled in 30 years. Since 2000, the UN estimates that 1.23 million people have died and 4.2 billion have been affected by droughts, floods, and wildfires. These were the number one driver of internal displacement over the last decade, forcing more than 20 million people a year ―one person every two seconds― to leave their homes. The 2021 flooding across Europe and the wildfires in Greece demonstrate that not only is this a huge impact on lives but it is not going away.

Whilst we read many reports stating that poorer nations are ill-equipped to reduce their emissions, the richest 10% of the world’s population accounted for over half of the emissions added to the atmosphere between 1990 and 2015. Oxfam’s report ‘Tightening the Net’ says that many ‘net zero’ promises are relying too much on vast swathes of land to plant trees in order to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. At the same time, governments and companies are failing to cut emissions quickly or deeply enough to avert catastrophic climate breakdown.

Today’s report is not ‘new’ news – this is something that we, alongside many other environmental leaders, have been shouting about for decades. However, the warnings, based on science-based knowledge, are proving correct and the disasters we are seeing around the world are not enough of a wake-up call!

The actions that everyone must take are clear:

  • Reduce Energy Consumption – Small changes in behaviour will have significant impacts over time so turn off lights, lower the demand for heating a cooling by a couple of degrees and optimise your plant running times.
  • Use renewable energy sources – buy green energy and seek opportunities for renewable generation.
  • Measure, analyse and reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions – identify your highest pollutants and target these areas first.
  • Reduce waste – avoid disposable items, reduce paper usage and repair before you replace your equipment. Recycle what you cannot avoid using.
  • Choose sustainable suppliers – develop a supply chain that demonstrates good environmental practices and make this an assessment criterion for new suppliers.
  • Optimise employee travel – use of public transport, car pooling and greater use of virtual meetings will all improve the footprint of your business.
  • Facilitate greener infrastructures and equipment – install electric charging points at workplaces and only purchase the most efficient office equipment.
  • Encourage behaviour change across all stakeholders – your employees, customers and suppliers are all your audience, and you can influence their behaviour.

Everyone must play their part in effecting change – no organisation is too small to contribute to the solution to this global crisis. Setting a robust and challenging Net Zero Strategy will mean businesses are fighting to combat this crisis. It is time for everyone to find the strength to influence the organisations in which they work and for business leaders to put the planet before profit.

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