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You will most likely have read or heard about the seismic IPCC report on Climate Change which was published in August. Authored by 234 scientists from 66 countries the report confirms:

‘It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land', Peter Thorne, Irish Times. Influential voices were quick to urge the need for swift and significant action.

 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guerres said:

"The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.” He said the report “ must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet."

Demonstration

climate change

The cumulative effects of human impact on climate change have been devastating.  Many of these changes to earth’s systems – particularly to the oceans, ice sheets and global sea levels – are “irreversible”, the authors say.  Abrupt changes and “tipping points” – such as rapid Antarctic ice sheet melt and forest dieback – “cannot be ruled out” (carbon brief.org).

The IPCC issued a report in 2013-2014 that was notable for its muted tone. One of the key developments since that report is the strengthening of the links between human-caused warming and increasingly severe extreme weather, the authors say. This is now “an established fact”, they write.

What Is Causing Climate Change?

This most recent IPCC report in August was harder hitting.  Bloomberg Green extracted key facts of the state of our climate and atmosphere:

 

  • The last decade was hotter than any period in 125,000 years;

  • Atmospheric CO2 is now at a two-million-year peak;

  • Emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, caused by fossil fuel consumption and emissions from agriculture, are at the highest for 800,000 years;  

  • The increase in these greenhouse gases has raised the average global temperature by about 1.1 degree Celsius (above 1900 levels).

“We’re already experiencing climate change, including more frequent and more extreme weather events.

the consequences will continue to get worse for every bit of warming, and for many of these. consequences, there’s no going back."

Prof Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading

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Spirograph of the increase in temperature since 1850’s.

According to the report future scenarios are not making for pretty reading. In almost all emissions scenarios, global warming is expected to hit 1.5C “in the early 2030s”, the report says.  

According to climate scientist Dr Emily Shuckburgh: “This report is clear that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5C or even 2C will be beyond reach.” The report also provides clearer projections of the atmosphere’s likely response to industrial emissions - if emissions double vs preindustrial CO2 levels the likely range in temperature increase will be between 2.5- 4 degrees.

The IPCC report is damning but also its implications are scary. While an increase in 1.5 degrees C may seem small or insignificant, the actual impact of such small changes on the balance of the planet’s ecosystems and weather are likely to be severe.

We have all been reading and watching the severe weather of 2021: heatwaves, heavy rain, floods, storms as well as sea level rises, and worsening forest fires. It will only get more extreme, more severe.

See how artic ice has melted:

Climate crisis: one month of flash floods, wildfires and heatwaves


The reports findings may appear overwhelming and for some the temptation may be to stick their head in the sand. However, there is much we can do. In the next newsletter we will focus on key initiatives we can take:

 

  • As voters

  • As leaders in business or part of any organization

  • As consumers and buyers of goods and services

  • How we act in our lives

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What are the sources of greenhouse gas emissions?

Every sector of the economy produces greenhouse gases (see the chart below) however, the biggest sources will be different for each country.  As an example, transport accounts for nearly 30% of emissions in the USA (epa.gov 2019)


Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide and other fluorinated gases (f-gases) - these are commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning systems, asthma inhalers, amongst other uses.)

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Sources of Greenhouse Gases

  • Electricity and Heat (25% of heat-trapping emissions) – This isn’t the electricity you use in your home, it’s emissions from large scale power plants that produce electricity and heat.

  • Agriculture and Forestry (20%) – Growing and producing food generates significant emissions from processes relating to animal digestion, fertiliser use, rice production and manure management. It also includes greenhouse gases resulting from deforestation - forest fires, decaying wood, emissions from tilling - ploughing the soil before sowing crops.

  • Industry (17.9%) – Combustion of fuels used in industry, production of steel, cement and plastics.

  • Transport (14%) - Mainly from oil-based fuels for road, shipping, air and rail.

  • Other Energy Emissions (10%) - ‘Fugitive’ emissions come from fuel flaring and leakages of methane from gas pipelines and unused coal mines. Proper maintenance and plumbing of oil and gas pipelines to prevent leaks would help curb methane emissions (Clean Air Task Force).

  • Buildings (6.4%) – This includes the energy used in commercial and residential buildings, including heating and air conditioning, hot water and cooking. ‘The chemicals (f-gases) used for cooling and refrigeration can escape causing further emissions.' (Source:  drawdown.org)

  • Food Waste (6.7%) - A third of the food raised or grown does not make it from the farm or factory to being eaten. This uses up resources including water, energy, land, labour, fertilisers, seeds and financial capital and generates greenhouse gases at many of the stages – including methane when uneaten food ends up in the landfill. (Source: drawdown.org)

Green Energy Innovation

We are in a time of extraordinary innovation, not to mention a time where the cost of renewable energy is collapsing.  Since 2010 the cost of solar photovoltaic projects has fallen by 82%.  And many new renewable projects are now cheaper than even the lowest cost coal-fired plants (Source: weforum.org and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). )

Solar Energy
Windmills

Wind farms

A Norwegian company Wind Catching Systems have developed a prototype for a floating offshore wind power generator that could produce renewable energy for  80,000 homes.  (Source: dezeen.com)

Fusion Power

The power of the future?  The design here shows a prototype power plant design that is to be built in Oxfordshire, in England.  The fusion demonstration plant will be used to prove the viability of Canadian energy company General Fusion’s nuclear technology. The fusion technology in its reactor, will be used to combine atoms to generate heat, mimicking the way the sun creates energy. This is different to traditional nuclear power in which atoms are split in two, known as nuclear fission.  (Source: dezeen.com)

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what can we do?

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Sources of Greenhouse Gases

  • Electricity and Heat (25% of heat-trapping emissions) – This isn’t the electricity you use in your home, it’s emissions from large scale power plants that produce electricity and heat.

  • Agriculture and Forestry (20%) – Growing and producing food generates significant emissions from processes relating to animal digestion, fertiliser use, rice production and manure management. It also includes greenhouse gases resulting from deforestation - forest fires, decaying wood, emissions from tilling - ploughing the soil before sowing crops.

  • Industry (17.9%) – Combustion of fuels used in industry, production of steel, cement and plastics.

  • Transport (14%) - Mainly from oil-based fuels for road, shipping, air and rail.

  • Other Energy Emissions (10%) - ‘Fugitive’ emissions come from fuel flaring and leakages of methane from gas pipelines and unused coal mines. Proper maintenance and plumbing of oil and gas pipelines to prevent leaks would help curb methane emissions (Clean Air Task Force).

  • Buildings (6.4%) – This includes the energy used in commercial and residential buildings, including heating and air conditioning, hot water and cooking. ‘The chemicals (f-gases) used for cooling and refrigeration can escape causing further emissions.' (Source:  drawdown.org)

  • Food Waste (6.7%) - A third of the food raised or grown does not make it from the farm or factory to being eaten. This uses up resources including water, energy, land, labour, fertilisers, seeds and financial capital and generates greenhouse gases at many of the stages – including methane when uneaten food ends up in the landfill. (Source: drawdown.org)

Image by Mika Baumeister

Where will you start your actions to help combat Climate Change? 


There are so many simple changes that we can make, which will also benefit our air quality and take advantage of new clean and cheaper energy.

  • For individuals. Act. Share the Message. If you make a change, your action while seeming small can be contagious. And as we know, humans are social, so let others know about the changes you are making and maybe you might start a movement…

  • Enjoy more plant-based meals - this would help reduce methane emissions, help reduce reforestation, not to mention being good for your heart health. You could start plant-based meals one day a week in your office, school, college or home. Meatless Mondays gives some great suggestions on how how to get started. (Mondaycampaigns.org)

  • Give a thought to food waste - a staggering 40% of food in the US goes to waste (nrdc.org). It’s easy to make a change. Plan meals in advance if you can; make a list before you shop; buy only what you need; and try to use up any leftovers. If you can, avoid throwing food in the bin (or trash). Composting is a better option. Food in landfills rots anaerobically (without oxygen) and this releases methane gas. (Methane is even more warming for the planet - about 84 times more so than (CO2) over 20 years.)

  • How about walking, cycling or using public transport where you can.

  • If you are planning on buying a new car, think about moving to a 100% electric model. It'll be better for air quality too!

  • Support Tropical Forests - Deforestation has a substantial impact on climate change, particularly tropical forests. WWF offer guidance on how to help the amazon and organisations such as Rain Forest Trust work to save rainforests through land purchases and land designations.

  • Aim for a carbon neutral home. There are grants available in many countries supporting the change to more energy efficient homes. Better insulation will make for a more comfortable, ambient temperature. If your home boiler has seen better days, now would be a good time to switch to a greener alternative such as air source or geothermal heat pumps.

  • Make the change to Led bulbs.

  • Be aware of home energy – how about installing an energy meter for your home? They show which appliances are using electricity (in real time). For homes with solar panels, some monitors come ‘solar ready’, allowing you to read how much electricity you are producing. And not only that, they tell you when and how that energy is used.

Eating less meat is the best
thing you can do for the planet

Recycling or taking the bus rather than driving to work has its place, but scientists are increasingly pointing to a deeper lifestyle change that would be the single biggest way to help the planet: eating far less meat.
Cattle at Sunrise

The ACt section has more easy changes where you can make a difference. If you want to do an extra deep dive into solutions for climate change, drawdown.org has done extensive work in this area.

Image by Marcel Strauß

For Companies.  Act.  Time to Move to Net Zero (greenhouse gas emissions)

  • Time to set climate neutral/net zero goals.

  • Look to increase energy efficiency in your business, for example, install photovoltaic panels and geothermal or air source heat pumps.  Find ways to save energy - even small things, like asking people to turn off computers, printers, lights, when not in use can make a difference.

  • Use less single use plastics - 99% of them are made from fossil fuels which cause emissions when being produced.

  • Manage food waste - send it for composting rather than landfill, to avoid methane emissions.

  • Make the change to Zero Emission Vehicles, ones running on green fuels - like renewable electricity or green hydrogen.  An Post (Ireland’s postal service) is the first postal service provider in the world to reach zero carbon emission deliveries for a capital city.  Way to go An Post!!  Why can't more companies do this for their delivery vehicles?

  • Consider moving away from linear (take, make, send to waste) business models to more circular ones. These tend to be less energy intensive resulting in lower emissions.  

Voter Action

Governments must act decisively at the Cop 26 Conference in November 2021.   Let's lobby our representatives to have them support real changes at the conference.  

 

This isn't something we can postpone.  

Further, we can support calls for a global agreement on methane emissions - which arise mostly  from oil and gas infrastructure (Climate Change News) 

Hurricane Map

Bedford 2030

Grassroots action for climate change
Bedford 2030 is a fantastic site highlighting key areas for focus and how we can implement change!
Iceberg
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The Earthshot Prize

The Earthshot Prize is the most prestigious global environment prize in history, designed to incentivise change and help repair our planet over the next ten years.
 
The Prize aims to turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about change, and inspiring collective action.
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Sir David Attenborough defines the change we need to make in clear and immediate words.

Sir David Attenborough's 6 Actions to Save The World

1 - Put people and the
planet before profit
2 - Replace oil with renewable energy
3 - Create no fishing zones in the oceans
4 - Farm smarter and consume less meat and animal by-products
5 - Protect the forests
6 - Raise people out of poverty to slow population growth
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Countdown is a global initiative to champion
and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis,
turning ideas into action.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is dedicated to the protection
and wellbeing of all Earth's inhabitants 

 

More Resources We Recommend

A Way Forward: Facing Climate Change by National Geographic
Predictions of Future Global Climate by Center for Science Education
Predictions of Future Global Climate by Center for Science Education
Johan Rockström – the state of the planet and what we need to do
 

In The News

What is the Paris climate agreement and why is the US rejoining?

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BBC News, Thurs 21st Jan 2021
"One of US President Joe Biden's first acts in office was to start the process of rejoining the Paris climate deal - reversing Donald Trump's decision to withdraw.
The historic agreement, which came into force in 2016, united nearly 200 countries in a global pact to tackle climate change."

Greta Thunberg Hears Your Excuses. She Is Not Impressed.

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The New York Times Magazine, Tue 20th October 2020

"Greta Thunberg has become so firmly entrenched as an icon — perhaps the icon — of ecological activism that it’s hard to believe it has been only two years since she first went on school strike to draw attention to the climate crisis. In that short time, Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swede, has become a figure of international standing, able to meet with sympathetic world leaders and rattle the unsympathetic. Her compelling clarity about the scale of the crisis and moral indignation at the inadequate political response have been hugely influential in shifting public opinion. An estimated four million people participated in the September 2019 global climate strikes that she helped inspire."

How Birds Eye's pea-growing farmers are leading an agri-eco ambition in the Humber hinterlands

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Image: Red Stag Media

Business Live, Thursday, 2 July 2020

A landmark farm-based project that could help return atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels has been launched in East Yorkshire. As well as having the potential to counter the effects of climate change, the Sustainable Landscapes Humber Project could also drastically reduce flooding and improve soil health. A collaboration between Birds Eye, Yorkshire Water and supply chain consultancy Future Food Solutions, research expertise is being provided by the University of Hull, with support from Teesside University.

At its core are more than 40 farmers from across East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, who grow peas for the frozen food giant, to be processed in Hull.

The project involves growing specific cover crops - described as pop-up rainforests - in the window between harvesting and sowing their next peas.

Aware, confused, leaderless: How Irish people feel about climate change now

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Photo: iStock

The Irish Times, Saturday 4th April 2020

"...Whatever the exercise people set themselves, the same core messages emerged from the research. Specifically, the average individual is somewhat bamboozled as to what exactly they should be doing to help stave off the effects of climate change, and uncertain whether the seemingly small efforts they do make (eg using a keep cup, recycling and composting) will have any impact at a global level."