Can We Actually Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
"Don’t let anyone trick you into believing that the solutions to the climate crisis don’t already exist. We have MANY of them. But do we have the leadership to implement what actually needs to be done? That’s the hard part."
Do you want the good news or bad news first? As we are the harbinger of the article, let’s get the bad over with.
And we aren’t talking about how bad Adele’s ex must feel right now, we are talking about the outcome of COP26.
We’ve Got 26 Problems & The COP is One
COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, held in Glasgow, Scotland, was branded as the summit to end all summits. Where the policy changers and Big Business Bros would get together to fast-track action towards the goals lined out in the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
It was a groundbreaking event where climate policy was finally put into action by governments and big businesses. Global carbon emissions were reversed, polar bears were brought back from near extinction, and they ditched their private jets, sat in coach seating, and biked to and from events.
We can dream, right?
Protesters outside of the COP26 talks (image via Bloomberg)
After nearly two weeks of talks and negotiations they struck a deal and the Glasgow Climate Pact was born. What did all the world’s leaders agree on? They all acknowledged that this agreement falls short of what we need to actually cut emissions to keep the planet from warming above 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above pre industrial temperatures. Here are some quick takeaways on where the COP26 deal missed the mark:
Glasgow Climate Pact is lucky enough to be the first climate deal of its kind to reduce the use of industrial coal-burning without any carbon capture or storage. The catch-22? China and India, two of the biggest coal-burning countries, refused to agree to stop using coal as an industrial fuel source.
According to a review by Journal of Sustainable Mining, the coal combustion processes releases two to four times more CO2 into the atmosphere than that of oil-based chemical processing. As such, both the CO2 and CO gases released “concomitantly correlated with many health issues directly and indirectly including malaria, cardiovascular diseases and asthma.” And don’t even get this study started on the post-combustion heavy metals that are released into the air, water, and soil leading to severe environmental and health impacts.
Implementation of this reduction is a step in the right direction. However, the canary in this mine has already been dead for a long time. If we want to keep global temperatures below 1.5C we need a complete phase-out of all coal and fossil fuel subsidies.
A few of our fearless world leaders from over 100 countries also promised to stop deforestation by 2030. But is that soon enough?
From The Narwhal, on the recent surge of storms in BC:
“The bottom line is that our landscapes have become less resilient to handle these new heavy rainfall events due to human-caused disturbances such as clearcut logging and the associated road building — which has resulted in a huge-fold increase in surface runoff conditions.”
Keeping forests intact is crucial for keeping carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere. If want to keep the world from warming 1.5 degrees, deforestation is going to have to stop immediately.
One research article found that the loss of old-growth forest and tropical deforestation is one of the largest contributing factors to the rise of GHG emissions around the world. According to a recent data analysis by Stand Research Group, deforestation in the Amazon for cattle ranching alone, accounts for about 2% of global CO2 emissions a year. To put it into perspective, that's equal to all the emissions from all airplane flights globally.
You Ask, Arbor Answers
How do we actually accomplish a reduction of GHG emissions, especially on a scale that accounts for the inaction of governments and the responsibility of the individual. We asked the team at Arbor what they think and here is what we got back:
Mindful of The Gap
Just this month, a new study and notably the largest of its kind, was released about the overall fatalism towards climate change. The study conducted by Futerra looked at the overall fatalism towards climate change and identified what they call the “optimism gap” in consumers. They found that out of the 20,000 people surveyed, one fifth of those 35 years and under said they believe it is ‘too late to fix climate change’. This highlights a fatalism about their future not found in older groups.
They study also found that the younger cohort is 66% more fatalistic about our collective chances of reducing emissions to a level that can legitimately slow climate change.
And not much of a surprise here, but the bar set for politicians to act is lower than the height restriction to ride a ferris wheel. Marked with less than 30% of people worldwide have faith that governments and policy makers are doing enough to lead climate action.
At Arbor, we aren’t a bunch of nihilists. And turns out, neither are most people. 68% of those polled, agree that new technology makes them feel optimistic about fighting climate change. In contrast, only 32% of people believe that businesses are leading the effort. Governments and corporations are literally and deliberately blocking our ability to provide solutions. They are sticking a big wedge in the gap between knowledge and action instead of following the science, evidence, and public concern for climate change.
We are reframing the approach to climate change as an opportunity to harness new technology with data to drive the momentum of climate science. We’re helping bridge the gap and are working tirelessly to find ways to take actionable steps towards legitimate climate action.
Time for the Good
The governments and big wigs have dropped the ball, so does the onus fall on us to pick up the pieces?
Katherine Hayhoe, Canadian climate scientist at Texas Tech University, had this to say about personal responsibility:
"Is it up to individuals to change their lifestyles and is it up to sacrifice to fix climate change? Or is it up to system wide solutions at the levels of governments, states, companies, large organizations? This debate will never end, but I have an answer. My answer is, 'Yes.'"
Thusly, we the people have to be involved because the system just happens to be made up of people. Every step we choose to take gives us a sense of control over the situation. We have the capacity to take even the smallest of measures in our own hands.
And maybe if we see more local businesses intertwining sustainability and transparency into their strategies (hint, hint) that might ease you into doing the same.
This article isn’t just a plug for the Arbor dashboard, a ping in our slacks, or a push-notification for Doordash –this an Emergency Response message and a direct call to action.
It’s our turn to be disruptive, demand change, and expect more.