Most people have noticed some changes in the weather over the past decade; that’s because the world is getting hotter, and weather patterns are changing. These effects and others will only worsen as we move past the planetary boundaries and tipping points of a healthy planet.
Climate Change: More Than the Weather
In short, climate change refers to the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases, including methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and nitrogen, prevent heat from being released into space, increasing the temperature of the earth’s systems.
Of course, climate change affects the weather. Changes in air temperature influences wind patterns and rainfall; ocean currents are also changing and make some places warmer or cooler. But climate change also affects habitats, settlements, and other planetary boundaries.
Climate Change: A Planetary Boundary
The nine planetary boundaries were devised by Johan Rockstrom at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. With other scientists, quantitative boundaries were established to determine the thresholds within which humans can live and thrive in harmony with the planet for generations.
Climate change is one of the primary thresholds in the model. At present, the climate change boundary is breached, but not to the same extent as biogeochemical flows or biosphere integrity. However, climate change affects and influences most other thresholds in the model.
Physical Feedback Mechanisms
One devastating effect of global warming is the loss of polar sea ice, which has been disappearing for decades. Contrary to popular belief, melting polar sea ice does not raise sea levels - it’s land ice that does that - but melting sea ice speeds up climate change processes.
This is an example of a physical feedback mechanism. A physical feedback mechanism is a tipping point that changes the natural dynamics of earth systems. Melting sea ice reduces reflection of sunlight and absorbs it instead, accelerating the disintegration of sea ice overall.
There are many other examples of physical feedback mechanisms in the processes of climate change. Scientists have identified 16 tipping points that are likely to be crossed as global warming moves from 1.1 - 3.0, including the loss of the Amazon rainforest and permafrost.
The Impact of Climate Change
Climate change is set to have a devastating impact on the planet. Rising sea levels will displace coastal populations; the rainforests will diminish and become deserts, further increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and changes to permafrost and rain patterns will affect food supplies.
While there is a risk of runaway climate change - an ultimate tipping point from which the planet cannot recover - it is unlikely, according to scientists. The world is on course for a 2-3C rise, but reducing human-caused CO2 emissions in the atmosphere can rebalance natural systems.
Meeting Challenges With Climate Action
The climate of the planet is changing more rapidly than ever before, and the catalyst is human activity, but global carbon emissions continue to rise. The UN climate change conference is an excellent example of international cooperation; now, strict policies are needed for climate action.
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Climate change is top of the agenda for some businesses; for others, it is somewhere near the bottom of a checklist, and the majority of businesses sit somewhere in the middle. All businesses need to start talking about climate change to protect revenue and build resilience.
Why are Climate Conversations Important?
Climate conversations can be challenging, especially when business as usual appears to operate like clockwork, but unless businesses face the stark truth - that current business models will be outdated in the medium term - their businesses will face shaky and uncertain futures.
At the moment, there are no government restrictions in place for reducing commercial emissions to meet Net Zero, but that is unlikely to be the case for much longer. Not only that, public demand for greener businesses is increasing, so there is a commercial incentive to take action.
How Does Climate Change Affect Our Business?
It’s clear that climate change will affect businesses of all shapes and sizes, but how will it affect your business, in particular? Firstly, businesses of all kinds will be affected by the rising energy costs and disruptions to supply chains caused by extreme weather, but there’s more to consider.
Climate change is likely to affect energy prices, supply chains, raw materials, and consumer demand. The effects of climate change might also influence the location of a business, the personnel, and the working practices. Ensure you have the right conversations for the business.
What are the Benefits of Taking Action?
Currently, the global climate change conference is held annually to accelerate the protocol needed to achieve Net Zero by 2050; but governments around the world have yet to implement restrictions. Many businesses are not waiting to be told; they are making changes today.
Staying ahead of the curve on climate change is good for business. Consumers respond to genuinely green business practices, and early changes can make a business more resilient to future shocks. Having the right conversations and taking action can safeguard the business.
What Action can we Take Within Our Business?
Climate change will affect businesses in different ways; some will need to adapt their supply chain, while others will need to change the raw materials for their products. But climate change will also affect businesses across the board thanks to energy prices and transport issues.
When it comes to climate change, there is always action you can take within the business. Start a future conversation with managers and employees, and create a list of objectives and priorities for action on climate change. Try to have climate action working in the background.
Further Resources on Future Conversations
When it comes to the issue of climate change, it is sometimes easier to put your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, but climate change is already affecting the planet as well as businesses around the world. If you don’t know where to start with climate change conversations, consider a facilitated workshop to get your business moving in the right direction.
Here’s a collection of some of our articles which have been in our newsletters or published elsewhere.