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“In just days our planet’s population will cross a new threshold. The 8 billionth member of our human family will be born. This milestone puts in perspective what this climate conference is all about. How will we answer when (this baby) is old enough to ask … “What did you do for our world and our planet when you had the chance?” - Antonio Guterres, COP 27

What would your answer be? Can you even begin to imagine how you might begin to speak for yourself, your company and its actions?

Yet, even when faced with research-based facts, data collated by hundreds of scientists from across the globe, many still put forth the notion that the Climate Crisis is indeed simply a fairly story, another dramatic headline on continuous circulation to keep us in check and towing yet another agenda-driven government line.

In this blog, we take a look at some of misinformation and conspiracy theories filling social media timelines and water cooler airspace.

“There is no such thing as Global Warming.
It’s all a myth!”

We hate to break it to you conspiracy theorists but Global Warming is very much a reality and a potentially catastrophic one at that.

In fact, Summer 2022 saw the hottest mean temperatures ever recorded in Europe, hitting just under half a degree hotter than previous records. In Ireland alone, mean temperatures have been above average for over a decade – we need look no further than the temperatures recorded for the months of October and particularly November, to realise that something is seriously amiss with what has always been a pretty reliable “seasonal” climate.

Data shows that since the ‘80s, areas such as Antartica are recording temperatures far in excess of what is normal, or safe, for their geolocation resulting in large swathes of glaciers and ice sheets disappearing from the landscape.

Currently, the warmest years on record* rank as:

  1. 2016
  2. 2020
  3. 2019
  4. 2015
  5. 2017
 

*Data provided by NOAA – the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

All in the last decade! And as things stand, 2022 might just be set to take a top 3 slot.

Global temperatures are typically impacted by factors such as:

Greenhouse Gases (a build of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons resulting from emissions and solid fuel pollution) which trap heat resulting in higher temperatures;

Aerosols (releasing sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere), typically volcanic eruptions which capable of releasing transglobal sulphuric emissions;

Deforestation (large scale such as that being carried out in the Amazon) which increases outputs of carbon dioxide from the burning of wood;

ENSO – Also known as El Niño (words this author first heard mentioned during the heatwave of 2006!) a “climate pattern” associated with warming of sea-surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean which seriously impacts weather patterns in the Americas and most recently, Northern Europe, due to its ever-increasing circulation.

“The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing. Greenhouse Gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make Climate Chaos irreversible” - Antonio Guterres, COP 27

Climate Chaos? Weather patterns change all the time. Yes, some countries are experiencing heatwaves, but they’re just a fact of nature. They’re not that serious! Anyway, we all like a bit of sun don’t we?

Sure, most of us do like hot sunny days filled with blue skies and bright sunshine. But, extreme heat kills. It scorches the earth, making tillage difficult and can wipe out sources of fresh water within days. It’s not so long ago that widespread drought across mainland Europe saw large tracts of the River Rhine in Germany with a water level so low that boats could not sail down it, bringing EU and local shipping of goods close to a halt.

Hotter average global temperatures – especially in the Summer months – can have a catastrophic impact on all life forms – animal, plant and human.

In its latest study, published in August 2002, the (Irish) EPA issued the stark warning that “extreme weather events (in Ireland) will become more frequent and severe” and that nationwide adaptation needs to be expedited if we are to avoid critical long-term impacts across the board, from an environmental social, economic and agricultural perspective.

It estimates that average temperatures have increased by c.1.4 degrees, growing to an expected 1.6 degrees, which will cause meteorological events such as:

  • Reduced Precipitation – leading to drought, seriously impacting agriculture and horticulture, animal welfare and our national water reserves
  • Heatwaves – longer and more severe
  • Rising Sea Levels – worsening nationwide coastal erosion, impacting road infrastructure and causing extensive structural and environmental (habitat) damage
 

According to UN Presidential envoy John Kerry, Climate Change has been proven to impact the poorest in society. More than any others, Third World and developing countries have felt the wrath of Climate Change, particularly in the last decade, which has seen horrendous Floods (Pakistan), Tsunamis (Thailand), Cyclones/Hurricanes (Hurricane Katrina – Caribbean/Americas), Earthquakes (Haiti) and Volcanic Eruption (Tonga) devastate communities, wildlife populations and infrastructure.

Just because Ireland isn’t yet subject to life-threatening meteorological events doesn’t mean we should take the complacent “We’re alright Jack” view of the ravages climate change has dealt to those nations more susceptible to its increasingly damaging weather patterns.

If successive governments worldwide keep kicking the climate can down the road, we will eventually run out of road, and a pathway to a sustainable and liveable future.

In its recently published and much discussed report, the UN warned that we are fast approaching the point of no return, with the target of 1.5 degrees moving further out of reach.

Humans have caused global warming. There is no-one else to blame!

We need to own it. We need to do everything in power, collectively and individually, to make reparation for the damage we have done to our beautiful planet before its beauty is a distant memory, consigned to images on the History Channel.

Hold on! Humans didn’t cause Climate Change. It’s the Weather!

We hate to break it to you but the fact of the matter is that from day zero of the Industrial Revolution the human population has been responsible for generating millions of tonnes of emissions, run off and other pollutants into the environment.

Wrapped under Greenhouse Gas banner, these are the main driver of rising global temperatures. While there have been naturally caused environmental and meteorological events that have impacted climate patterns and consequently the planet, the bulk of the changes we are now seeing being played out have our actions at their root.

Of these activities, none has had greater impact than the continuous usage of fossil fuels, particularly the burning of coal, peat, anthracite and wood. Burning fuels such as these emits heat-sealing carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere which automatically causes average temperatures to rise, the ongoing build up of which has led to the current Climate Crisis.

Similarly, the persistent damage being done to our bogs, removal of large tracts of forests and our ongoing heavy reliance on dairy – cows produce methane – have also contributed significantly to the high levels of Greenhouse Gas.

In its most recent report under the heading “The Current State of the Climate”, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that without doubt “human influence” has caused above-normal air, land and sea temperatures.

“We are on a highway to hell with our foot still on the accelerator” - Antonio Guterres, COP 27

So basically we cannot reverse Climate Change now?

Absolutely not. If that were the case, then summits like COP 27 would basically be moot.

The target of 1.5 might be moving swiftly out of reach, but it’s not yet unattainable if we step up to meet the obligations we committed to in the Paris Accord. If humans, from the governmental top down to the domestic individual and commercial enterprises in between do the right things, (see our recent blog on Quality Conscience) we can collectively reduce greenhouse gas levels by c.50% by the target date of 2050.

The most important change we can make today is moving to clean energy without any further excuse or delay. We also need to lower our energy consumption and improve Energy Management (see our section on ISO 5001 Energy Management System Standard).

By transforming how we do things in everything from clean energy production through to smart infrastructure, we can – and if we are to ensure future generations still have a future, MUST – make those changes now. What we do today makes the future of tomorrow.

How? At home we can reduce food waste, in business we can implement systems and policies to optimise waste and water management and at governmental levels we can introduce policies and regulations to control and/or eradicate agri-emissions, fossil fuel emissions and support the development of smart cities, reforestation and rewilding.

Ireland is only a small country. Surely it’s up to the big nations like the US and China to do the heavy lifting?

COP is talking, talking, talking, while people are dying, dying, dying. Governments need to step up to cut their emissions and deliver for those suffering and dying right now as as a result of the human-caused climate crisis.”Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, Chair of the Elders

According to the most recent statistics published by the CSO, our emissions per capita are 50% higher than the EU average of 8.8 tonnes. Only Estonia and Luxembourg produce higher emissions than Ireland, with Sweden coming out cleanest at 5.5 tonnes. (Ireland Greenhouse Gas Emissions 1990 – 2016).

To make things worse, we know that our emissions have actually increased in the past few years, meaning our average has worsened since this data was recorded and published in 2018. Data published by the EPA in 2020 shows Ireland static at third highest contributor of emissions across the EU, at a time when transport and business were severely curtailed by Covid lockdown.

Food for thought!

“In 2015 Ireland ranked 19th out of 28 EU Member States and in terms of total greenhouse gas emissions relative to the base year of 2005. Latvia had the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions relative to 2005 at 100.2, while Greece had the lowest at 70.7.”CSO, EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2015

Ireland’s emissions per sector also come under scrutiny with 2016 figures showing how certain sectors have contributed to emissions:

  • Agri – 32.3%
  • Energy – 20.4%
  • Transport – 20%
  • Industry, Commercial, Public Services – 13.9%
  • Residential – 9.8%

Agriculture was the sector with the largest greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland in 2016 with 32% of the total.

The transport share of greenhouse gas emission increased from an annual average of 10% in 1990-1994 to 20% in 2016, while the share of the energy sector remained stable over the 1990-2016 period at around 20%.” – CSO, Ireland – Greenhouse Gas Emissions by sector 1990 – 2016

Ireland produced a staggering 7.5 tonnes of CO2 pc in 2019, a figure which excludes other gases such as those produced by the agri sector.

Just because we have a small role in the play, doesn’t mean we don’t make a significant contribution to the overall production. While the G7 leaders and big powers take centre stage at COP 27 this week and will be expected to up their game in terms of reducing emissions, smaller countries like Ireland can and must set an example, take on our fair share of climate change mitigation policies and act on them without further delay.

As the jingle goes, “every little helps” and if we can all help in our own small way, then we will begin to see the benefits both at home and across the globe. Quality of air, life and land begins at home. Make a start today, and see the results tomorrow and into the future.

Watch Antonio Guterres full speech at the opening of COP 27 here.

For more information on Sustainability System Standards, head to CG Business Consulting’s ISO sustainability services or leave an enquiry with our expert.

David Whelan, Logistics / QEHS Manager Grundfos Ireland "We found the level of competency from the team to be of a very high level compared with other consultants. CGBC worked to get a very thorough understanding of our business, this made life easier for us and meant they could give us some very helpful advice."