Picture displaying air pollution

Climate Change – Ten Years On

LCMB has been in existence for ten years and we mark this year by looking at key topics that affect us, and how they have changed in the last ten years.

Climate change has come a long way since “An Inconvenient Truth”, former United States Vice President Al Gore’s 2006 campaign to educate people about global warming.

Ten years ago we still saw spirited debate whether climate change is man made, but now we have now moved on. There is a consensus that our activities cause climate change, and the focus is now on action.

Here’s our take on climate change from 2010 to 2020.

Atmospheric CO2 Concentration since 1960
The Keeling Curve – Source: Scripps CO2 Program

Climate change has accelerated in 10 years

CO2 has increased to unprecedented levels. In the last 10 years, atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by about 25 parts per million, to approximately 412 parts per million which is highest level since Homo sapiens walked the earth. (1)

The hottest years ever have occurred in the last 6 years 2016, followed by 2017, 2015, 2018 and 2014. Arctic sea ice cover, a reliable measure of global warming, has dropped by about 13 percent in the last ten years. (2)

Climate change now costs us

Financial cost of climate change

The simplest way to assess financial cost is to ask insurers. Munich Re says that 2017-18 was the worst two-year period for natural catastrophes on record, with insured losses of $225bn. With the growing trend of more extreme storms, floods, fires and droughts, insurers may struggle to cover natural disasters. They may sell more restrictive policies or simply withdraw cover. (3)

The last ten years saw more than 100 “billion dollar” climate disasters in the US. This is double the decade before.

For example, four of the five largest wildfires in California history happened in the 2010s and at the time of writing, Australian bush fires are still burning and displaced people are still counting the cost.

Displacement cost of climate change

In the last decade, climate disasters have forced more than 20 million people a year to flee homes. Millions more have been driven away by “slow-onset” climate changes such as drought and rising sea levels. (4)

Health and mortality cost of climate change

Definitive numbers on human mortality is difficult to establish but there’s a direct link between rising atmospheric CO2 levels and increased human mortality, caused by malnutrition, heat stress, malaria and other communicative diseases that flourish in warmer environments. 

Pollutant levels tend to rise hand with CO2 levels, causing serious health risks, particularly to children. (5)

Have we reached the climate change tipping point?

The issue of climate change is now mainstream

Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have prompted people to engage in various actions of civil disobedience from demonstrations, to missing school. Importantly, climate change is taken more seriously than ever by governments and organisations worldwide which are now committing to take action.

As of 5 January, 1250 local government and 25 countries have made climate emergency declarations. In declaring a climate emergency, a government admits that global warming exists and that the measures taken up to this point are not enough to limit the changes brought by it. The decision to declare a climate emergency stresses the need for the government and administration to devise measures that try and stop human-caused global warming. (6)

We’re seeing innovations that may mitigate climate change

For instance, among Bill Gate’s choice of top 10 innovations of 2019, several may help us move towards mitigating our climate impact:

New-wave nuclear power – a potentially safe, cheap and carbon neutral energy source

The cow-free burger – may reduce livestock production which causes catastrophic deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse-gas emissions

Carbon dioxide catcher – removing CO2 from the atmosphere might be one of the last viable ways to stop catastrophic climate change (7)

Harnessing the Earth’s heat as a power source – another potentially carbon neutral energy source (8)

Conclusion

Over the last ten years we’ve seen the accelerating impact of man made climate change on our way of life.

We are experiencing the alarming, deep and damaging costs of climate change, to a scale we hadn’t experienced ten years ago.

Nevertheless, we’re starting to see signs that we may take concerted action. We hope that countries and organisations that have declared a climate emergency can find a way to reverse current carbon emission rates and follow through with the action that’s needed.

For things to really change for the better, we think that three things need to happen.

  1. more countries and organisations must declare a climate emergency, and commit to making a change.
  2. we need to see more innovations to help to mitigate climate change.
  3. we need to see more behavioural changes from each one of us.

Has your organisation declared a climate emergency? And what is your approach?

Get in touch we’d love to hear your experience and share ours.

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