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Climate change is the defining issue facing humanity today

Emissions Balance Visual
Credit: Construction Week

Climate Change is the defining issue facing humanity today. Devastating floods in Pakistan, a lethal drought in Somalia and record-breaking summer temperatures in Europe have headlined a 2022 reminding us of the very clear and present danger. As we head into COP 27 in mid-November however, the world's focus is everywhere but where it should be. Energy prices, no thanks to Vladimirs imperialistic aspirations in eastern Europe and rocketing inflation have the center stage. If governments don’t pledge to drastically reduce emissions and tackle climate change head on there will be an economic hurricane which will dwarf any of the current economic worries.

What can we as individuals do about this?

Start by understanding the problem.

The industrial revolution (circa 1760), however meritorious it may be in showcasing humanity’s prodigious technological advances in solving issues such as mass transportation, massive industrial production capabilities and generating the energy to fuel them, forgot one thing, the cost to the environment. Carbon dioxide emissions generated from the period of the industrial revolution leading to the modern era have drastically altered weather patterns and temperatures which have unbalanced the very delicate biosphere.

Climate change deniers say the temperatures of the earth’s atmosphere was going up anyway, part of a natural cycle of cooling and heating that has lasted millions of years. The science behind anthropogenic climate change is undeniable. Carbon dioxide emissions are the cause of the acceleration in Earth's temperatures. Governments are conscious of the problem, luckily most populations in the global north are too. Yet not enough is being done by our governments and climate change finance seems to be in the hands of the private sector and philanthropic organizations. ESG mandates by corporations, however well intentioned they may seem, are more a public relations initiative rather than having a meaningful impact. On the other hand, Voluntary Carbon Credits, which some industries have adopted to at least neutralize their carbon footprint is becoming a crucial piece of a very critical puzzle that we are faced with. The role of high-quality voluntary carbon credits is pivotal in safeguarding vast amounts of the biosphere.

What constitutes “high-quality” voluntary carbon credits?

Credits from projects where methodology, verification and permanence of the carbon being captured is measured by an accredited third party. Buying carbon credits from afforestation projects around the world, peatland areas (swamps that absorb large amounts of CO2 from the air) that are being protected or coastal mangrove projects that either being protected or re-planted are of vital importance in the fight against climate change if we are to have a chance at avoiding a climate Armageddon. Many of these projects that are producing high quality carbon credits are not only capturing carbon dioxide from the air (nature-based carbon capture) but are also safeguarding biodiversity and equally as important, local communities can thrive by protecting the lands they live on. Essentially voluntary carbon credits are bridge financing for the projects, ensuring their permanence. These are more commonly known as REDD+ carbon credits. (Reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as the sustainable management of forests and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries).

Governments worldwide are challenged with which path to take in tackling carbon emissions, some countries have adopted a carbon tax, too few to matter. Businesses on the other hand, are warming, no pun intended, to the fact there is Pigouvian tax to be included in the price of conducting environmentally responsible business. Pricing in of externalities, the social cost of carbon, ushering in a carbon conscious business model for the future. Utopian? Perhaps, but if we are to survive as a species, we need to rethink everything we do in terms of our carbon footprint, and more importantly, neutralize it. This is only the first and critical step on a path to an eventual decarbonized society.

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