Current Climate Control efforts aren’t enough – the world is still heating up faster

In spite of wider global awareness, activism and sustainability efforts regarding climate change, the world is still more quickly than anticipated. This month, a new report from NASA outlined how the amount of heat Earth traps has roughly doubled between 2005-2019, creating conditions for more rapidly warming oceans air currents and land features.

The report highlights two main reasons for this acceleration of global heat absorption – decreasing cloud cover and sea ice (both necessary for reflecting solar heat back into space) and an increase in the emission of methane and other GHGs (greenhouse gases). While the NASA team are still speculating regarding the impact of so-called ‘climate variance’ events that are not caused by human activity, this observable trend has extremely worrying implications for the long-term stability of climate conditions across the planet. 

Breaching the heat rise threshold

With heat absorption rates rising more quickly, this increases the chances that the so-called ‘key global temperature limit’ of an additional 1.5C will be reached within this decade. Just last month, a major study released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimated that there is a 40% chance that the world will breach this 1.5C threshold before 2025. At this point, environmentalists believe that irreversible ecological damage will occur, manifesting in the form of more severe coastal flooding, heatwaves and damage to coral reefs, among other disastrous outcomes.

Globally respected naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough said back in January 2020 that "The moment of crisis has come". 18 months on from this momentous statement, it seems that the warning of the scientific community has not been heeded. Or to put it more accurately, the international response to this warning simply isn’t strong enough. Collectively, we are not doing enough as a species to safeguard the future habitability of our own planet – a long-held suspicion that is being repeatedly proven by increasingly alarming evidence recorded each year. 

Stepping up the response to climate change

While disconcerting, NASA’s new report is only the latest in a long line of warning signs. This makes it just one more indicator of what is already known worldwide – that we need to act faster and more ambitiously on combatting climate change. So where can we see signs that this attitude is being taken up and acted on? 

Firstly, a key development occurring this month is the strategic linking of the issues of climate change and nature loss. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a combined report this month that intrinsically links these two issues together, highlighting the immediate need for ‘Nature-based Solutions' (NbS) as a strategic approach to solving both problems at the same time.

The report outlines how rising global temperatures are accelerating a general loss of biodiversity through habitat destruction and ecosystem disruption, which in turn reduces nature’s ability to store carbon, thus exacerbating climate change further. Fortunately, there are effective NbS approaches that can be put in place quickly and scaled up dramatically. These include the reversal of deforestation and the protection of crucial mangroves, rainforests and peatlands – all of which are hugely effective natural carbon storage systems as well as cradles for biodiversity. Another NbS approach gaining traction is the grazing of wildlife on land prepared for renewable energy production, expanding habitats for pollinators and other wildlife while securing clean energy. 

The report predicts that an NbS-based approach could provide 37% of CO2 mitigation needed by 2030 to maintain global warming within 2°C, another ‘red line’ linked to irreversible ecological devastation. 

Alongside the more long-term plans, there are dozens of more immediate, and often dramatic, solutions being developed. One of the more controversial ones is the brainchild of Tom Green, British biologist and director of the charity Project Vesta. His plan is to transform a whole one trillion tonnes of CO2 into rock and sink it to the bottom of the ocean through a process of accelerated weathering. By depositing sand rich in olivine – an abundant volcanic rock known as peridot to jewellers – the ocean can quickly churn it up while capturing carbon dioxide in the process. While there are ongoing concerns about the unforeseen ecological impact of this experimental approach, Green calculates that depositing olivine-rich sand across 2% of the world’s coastlines would be enough to capture 100% of total global annual carbon emissions.

ESG Investments – Making the Global Financial landscape greener

Last month we highlighted how 2020 and early 2021 have seen a monumental rise in environmental, social and corporate governance investment (ESG). This is one area that is already showing vast, rapid and sustained acceleration, with financial observers viewing the international reorientation of investment priorities toward sustainability as a $30 trillion market opportunity.

Fortunately, leading research points to ESG investment being more than the ‘next financial bubble’, with the Economist citing the rise in ESG regulation, activist pressure and venture capitalist enthusiasm for ESG investment all combining to spur the deliberate growth of this global financial trend.

Beyond the general acceptance of ESG as an ongoing investment reality, specific climate-based financial strategies are emerging thick and fast from all manner of major international entities. This month we’ve covered the ‘greenification’ of major oil and gas companies, while the world of finance is also following suit. The Japanese central bank (BOJ) recently announced its intention to release a climate change funding initiative in July that will focus entirely on funding efforts to combat climate change. This policy change comes off the back the Japanese Government’s issuing of an $18 billion fund to support the development of decarbonisation technologies such as hydrogen and ammonia.

Part of a bigger picture

Contributing to the international effort to limit climate change is increasingly becoming a financially beneficial approach as well as a moral imperative. Across the world, governments, NGOs and individuals want to know how companies are playing their part in this global struggle, rewarding those who actively engage with the drive towards sustainability. 

With this in mind, let us know how your organisational plans in this area are developing. Are you working towards carbon neutrality within your wider operations? Are you investing along ESG lines? Are you working in collaboration with sustainability innovators outside your organisation? What is the focus of your overall sustainability efforts now and for the future? 

While current indications regarding rising temperatures may be bleak, the sea-change of attitudes towards the crisis still offers hope. We look forward to taking the discussion forward with you online and during the next World Future Energy Summit event.