There is a fire in the attic! An electrical panel became overloaded, and no one noticed. Then one day, on their way home, someone did notice something, smoke rising from the roof; they assumed it would go out by itself, and if not, someone else would notice before it was risky.
Since then, the fire has progressed, and the inhabitants of the house have become concerned - they can even smell the smoke and feel the heat. With climate change, we find ourselves in a similar predicament, but we are aware of the fire and our need to act now to begin rebuilding.
Key Takeaways: Climate Change
What is Net Zero and Why Does it Matter?
The future is in our hands! The choices and actions we take in the next two decades could determine the future of the planet, which is in jeopardy - due to accelerated climate change - if we continue with our current trajectories and approaches. But, there is also cause for optimism. The world is waking up, and we are starting to make sustainable changes in the right direction.
Net Zero Definition
Net zero is a global target to completely negate the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by absorbing and reducing carbon emissions. The planet is now 1.1°C hotter than in pre-industrial times - the late 1800s - resulting in melted sea ice, heat waves, and droughts. This is happening at a 1.1°C rise, but we are currently on a trajectory for an over 2°C rise.
Throughout the twentieth century, the warming was gradual, though not invisible, but since 1981, there has been an exponential rise in the planet’s surface temperatures. The year 2022 was the sixth hottest on record, according to NOAA data, and records will continue to break.
Climate Change Consequences
Climate change is caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; these are heat-retaining gases that prevent the incoming sunlight from escaping back into space; they warm the surface of the planet and increase ocean temperatures. The primary greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and ozone.
Of these greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide accounts for almost 65% of the total; the majority of it is produced by human activity through energy production, agriculture, transport, and industry. The consequences are seen in rising sea levels, habitat losses, heat waves and wildfires. Without moving to Net Zero, these consequences will worsen throughout the 21st Century.
The impact of human-made climate change could be catastrophic for human and animal life. Rising sea levels caused by melting land ice will make some regions uninhabitable, and there will be food and water shortages. Human and animal communities will be displaced by rising temperatures, and conflicts are likely to break out over limited resources. But there is still time.
Net Zero Targets
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the planet is on course to increase temperature on average by 2°C in the next few decades, affecting all regions of the earth. Climate change already has a significant impact, causing wildfires, hurricanes, and habitat losses, but the severity of the damage will depend on human carbon emissions.
To move to Net Zero emissions by 2050, human carbon emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 to stay on course; this is a massive challenge for humankind - perhaps the biggest existential threat we have had to face. One key to cutting emissions quickly is resolving our global energy consumption, which accounts for three-quarters of the planet’s overall emissions.
Net Zero Business Changes
Everyone has a part to play if we want to reduce carbon emissions and reach Net Zero by 2050, but businesses and industries produce the majority of greenhouse gases and must be tackled head-on. It’s crucial for businesses of all sizes to make a Net Zero strategy as soon as possible.
Creating a Net Zero company seems like a daunting task, but The Surefoot Effect can help to optimise your business for Net Zero emissions. Creating an effective Net Zero change plan can be done over 3 to 12 months by your own Net Zero team, working with Surefoot consultants.
Net Zero Strategies
When it comes to creating a Net Zero strategy for your business, there are two steps - quick wins followed by significant changes. Quick wins - also known as low-hanging fruit - are the simple adjustments you can make today to reduce emissions, like switching energy providers.
After the quick wins, it’s time to turn your attention to systemic changes that can make you a carbon-neutral organisation. The Surefoot Effect operates a series of in-house workshops, instilling teams with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to develop a tailored action plan.
What is Eco-Anxiety and Why Does it Matter?
Everyone has some anxiety and stress from time to time; it is usually a pattern in their life, like the fear of getting onto a podium and speaking in front of an audience of peers or completing a sizable chunk of work before the deadline. Eco-anxiety is slightly different; it’s the fear you have on lunch break about what’s happening to the planet, a fear calling everything into question.
Eco-anxiety means a chronic fear of environmental doom according to some definitions; it has also been described as the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm. This existential fear is as real as the climate challenges facing the planet, and it can affect life quality and life choices.
Anxiety is caused by fears about the future; which range from mild to severe; but when faced with climate catastrophe and the idea of an uninhabitable planet, the sense of dread is crippling. People with eco-anxiety might experience some sleep disturbances, nervousness, and stress.
Causes of Eco-Anxiety
Eco-anxiety is caused by observing environmental changes caused by climate change; these include more frequent heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and floods; there are also visible habitat changes for animal and plant life. The changes coincide with increased media and lead to a proliferation of catastrophic images in the collective imagination, causing deep fears.
Eco-anxiety - or solastalgia, is still a fairly recent phenomenon. It does not have a place in medical terminology yet, but psychologists around the world are noticing its effects. When fear and confusion are triggered by news of information about climate change or environmental destruction, you are experiencing eco-anxiety, which requires emotional resilience to manage.
Although solastalgia can be experienced in the short term, it is more likely to be a persistent long-term condition with elements of anxiety and depression - it can also be accompanied by other mental health issues. Solastalgia tends to affect people in different ways. Someone predisposed to the condition will experience more distress when they encounter climate news.
That said, there are some signs and symptoms that everyone with solastalgia will experience. There is likely to be anxiety and depression with accompanying thought patterns; despair, distress, and sleeping issues are also common. People with solastalgia might also experience anger - especially towards governments and industries. Emotional resilience is often needed.
Eco-anxiety doesn’t always require an official diagnosis; someone might be aware of their triggers and choose to practice mindfulness or attend an eco-anxiety workshop, but an official diagnosis can be made. A medical professional will look at the primary cause of the distress - media or climate changes in the local area - along with the medical history and symptoms.
Solastalgia is a form of anxiety and is treated in much the same way. What makes the condition slightly different from conventional anxiety is the lack of agency over the cause - it’s not possible to avoid the effects of climate change. A medical professional can prescribe medications for solastalgia, but it can also be treated with mindfulness, CBT, and online community resilience.
Eco-anxiety, solastalgia, climate anxiety: people of any age can be affected by the stark realities of the global situation. That said, children and young adults are very vulnerable groups when it comes to handling the difficult realities that they will have to confront in their futures.
Emotional resilience is crucial. We must not hide the realities of climate change from people; it is counter-productive. Instead, we need to face the scientific data that shows the planet is in crisis to free up the energy needed to process anxious feelings and create the best possible future.
The Importance of Having Future Conversations
The future starts today because the actions we take on a daily basis determine our future happiness and prosperity. This is true in all walks of life, including creating a sustainable planet for future generations. But if we don’t have the conversations, it will be impossible to adapt.
What are Future Conversations?
Have you ever been on a road trip with family or friends? Unless you have a direction in mind or an idea of where you’re going, you are likely to end up somewhere you didn’t intend; by the time you reach your destination, it might be too late. This analogy is also relevant to climate change.
“Future conversations” is a process of developing and implementing ideas about the future that help individuals and communities to create a roadmap for how they would like to live, relate, and work together in a low or zero-carbon world. The conversations also help bring people together.
Eco-anxiety can be crippling, but it can also be enabling. Future conversations replace future fears with future hopes, building resilience and creating a collective vision that can be pursued proactively. In the end, it is better to have a positive, proactive vision than no road map at all.
Nine Planetary Boundaries
Back in 2007, Johan Rockstrom, a director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, developed the nine planetary boundaries - these are limits that must be met to sustain modern life on the planet. The boundaries include climate change, biosphere integrity, and biochemical flows.
Credit: Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Wang-Erlandsson et al. 2022 More information The “novel entities” planetary boundary encapsulates all toxic and long-lived substances that humans release into the environment — from heavy metals and radioactive waste to industrial chemicals and pesticides, even novel living organisms Biochemical Flows are Phosphorus and Nitrogen - essential for farming Biosphere integrity refers to species loss; e/msy = extinction per mammal species years - technical measurement of extinct rate
In January 2015, Rockstum stated that the planet had moved past four of the nine boundaries needed to maintain stability; as of 2022, it is thought to be six. But Rockstrom’s message is not a doomsday one; the planetary boundary system is an efficient way to gauge how well the world is adapting to a sustainable future. Current performance is poor, but systems exist to improve it.
Resilience and the Future
Bringing the planet back from the brink of disaster and onto a more steady and sustainable footing will require emotional resilience and future conversations. Through decades of inaction and business as usual, the planet has reached a point where the climate is changing very rapidly; species are going extinct, and ecosystems are being lost at increasingly alarming rates.
In order to navigate this perilous course through the 21st Century, governments, businesses, and individuals must recognise the realities of climate change and channel any fearful energy into positive action. Climate action takes place at all levels of society, from governments creating greener infrastructure to businesses using less energy and the everyday changes of individuals.
At one time, people and nature were inseparable, but then agriculture happened for better or for worse, and suddenly, nature was used as a means to an end. Through the centuries, there have been attempts to reconnect with nature - eg, the Romantic movement in the 18th century - but it is needed now more than ever. Connecting with nature and animals again can inspire our future.
When it comes to climate change, our minds ping-pong between positive outcomes and catastrophic consequences. We know that we want a sustainable, thriving planet to live on, but our human habits are not creating this future - it’s the opposite. A dystopian vision can offer a cautionary tale, but a utopian vision is powerful: it is a collective long-term vision for the future.
To continue our analogy, the house fire is upon us. There is black smoke billowing at the top of the staircase, and the walls are becoming hot to the touch, but there is still plenty we can do to save our home. Using the visions, technologies, and creativity of the collective, humans can find a way to collaborate with the planet, reduce consumption, and then build a progressive future.
What are the 5 main effects of climate change?
At present, we can notice at least 5 tangible effects of climate change; these include record temperatures, heatwaves and wildfires, hurricanes and flooding, sea levels and melting ice.
What will happen if climate change keeps going?
If we do nothing to stop climate change, the 5 main effects will worsen and become more extreme. We can also expect there to be food shortages, geopolitical conflict, and displacement.
What does it mean to have a Net Zero planet?
A Net Zero planet is one that is in balance; it means that human-produced carbon emissions are lessened to the point where they can be reabsorbed by the planet through trees, technology, and the ocean. It is not in the atmosphere.
Here’s a collection of some of our articles which have been in our newsletters or published elsewhere.