Our planet is in crisis and it’s complicated. We’re breaking it down for you.
Get the facts straight and act now.
The pressure is on
– 29th of July 2019 –
Earth Overshoot Day
Humanity has officially used up more ecological resources this year than the Earth can regenerate by the end of 2019. Put simply, we are consuming more than we have. Earth Overshoot Day marks the point at which we have used more from nature than the planet can renew in a year. July 29, 2019 marks the earliest Earth Overshoot Day, ever. This is not just a threat to nature, but to human society too. To borrow a phrase: time’s up. 1
It is getting hot in here
As we are outpacing our planetary boundaries, our planet is warming. To calculate this warming, pre-industrial temperatures are compared with current ones. After all, the industrial revolution and related greenhouse gases are seen as the major reason why sweat is dripping in places it didn’t before. Since 1750, the global average temperatures have increased by 1° Celsius 2. Critical scientists even argue the rise is as high as 1,2° Celsius. 3
It is predicted that in the next century, the earth will warm between 2- to 6° Celsius on top of the warming of 1° Celsius. To our earth, climate change is nothing new, think the end of an ice age.
During these periods, global temperatures rose a total of 4- to 7° Celsius over 5000 years. Humankind has created a warming which is similar in intensity but has a life-span of 100 years instead of 5000. 4
Sadly, the movies Ice Age 1-4 didn’t teach us enough about the fatal consequences of climate change. It didn’t stop humans from emitting even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. With their heat-trapping properties these gases lay at the basis of the climate change our planet is currently enduring.
not as green as they sound
In 1988, the United Nations (UN) founded the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC meets every few years to analyse the latest scientific findings and to write a report with the most recent updates on climate change. 5
One of the first things that the IPCC sat straight, is that there are several greenhouse gases responsible for warming our planet and that we, humans, emit them in different ways. The majority of these gases come from the burning of fossil fuels in our cars, buildings, factories and power plants. Carbon dioxide, or CO2 is the hottest gas out there as it is creating the most warming. Other contributors are methane coming from landfills, natural gas and petroleum industries and agriculture (this is the notorious impact of cow farts that everyone is talking about), nitrous oxide coming from fertilizers, gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes and the loss of forests that would otherwise store CO2. 6
In order to sustain our modern lifestyle, we are releasing these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which are creating what we call the “greenhouse effect”. The gases work just like a greenhouse, they let light into the atmosphere but trap the majority of the reflecting heat. This messes with our planet’s temperature balance as the heat is supposed to be released back into space. The more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the more heat that gets locked. 7
Melting ice caps, Garrett Sears
Pressures on mother earth,
what is going on?
Mother earth is under pressure. And this is not only reflected in the record-breaking temperatures all around us. There are other direct and indirect consequences at stake, some of them are already apparent and taking their toll on humankind. Worldwide, temperatures are increasing, but this warming is every stronger in the polar regions, where sea ice is melting at an insanely rapid rate. It is estimated that by 2050, the Artic will be completely ice-free 8. The impact of this melting ice is global because it makes the sea levels rise. The seas have been rising on average 3,2 millimeters a year and this rise has even been accelerating in the last years. 9
Extreme weather events such as severe heat waves, droughts, floods and hurricanes are becoming more frequent. If we open our eyes, we can already see climate change in action around us. Wild fires, for example, are a natural part of the ecology in many regions. However, rising temperatures and limited rainfall increase the frequency and risk of exceptional large wild fires.
At the moment the Arctic is suffering from abnormal wildfires. The fires are so big, they are visible on satellite images, Google it 10. The fires are contributing to a vicious circle that amplifies climate change. Falling smoke particles make the ice darker, which makes it absorb more sunshine and melt faster. The fires also make the permafrost melt faster. Permafrost is a permanently frozen layer below the earth’s surface and contains methane, which when released again intensifies the greenhouse effect 11. 12
Arctic fires, Copernicus Sentinel data, Pierre Markuse
As temperatures rise, worldwide, species are on the move, looking for cooler areas as their natural habitat is getting hotter than a Finnish Sauna. In May 2019 the UN has reported on a warning report written by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report states that nature is disappearing and species are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate. Due to our actions and the resulting climate change around 1/5 of all plants and animals have become extinct over the past century 14. 15
How is climate change measured?
Climate change is mostly measured using the average surface temperature of our planet. When looking at changes in the last 100-150 years scientists use observations made by modern scientific instruments 16.
For older periods, scientists can research the temperatures of the past by looking at tree rings, ice cores (as long as they are still there) and corals. For example, when a tree grows older, every year it gets a new ring. A warmer and wetter year comes with a thicker ring. 17
Dying coral, Brett Monroe
The UN says we are
not on the right track
Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCC) hosts an annual climate conference with all their members, called Conference of the Parties (COP).
At COP21, in Paris on 12 December 2015, the members of the UNFCC decided to team up against climate change. Out came the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to combat climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century bellow 2° Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels. In an ideal world we would even keep the temperature rise below 1,5° Celsius. 18
By now, the Paris Agreement has been signed by nearly all 200 existing countries. Even initial boycotters such as Nicaragua and countries at war, such as Syria have signed the agreement. There is only one odd duck out there. After the dramatic move from the US President, Donald Trump, to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the US is the only country in the world that is not dedicated to decrease greenhouse gases to limit warming to 2° Celsius. 19
The UN warns in their latest Emissions Gap Report that the world’s collective attempt to limit carbon emissions is not going to be enough to stay within the range of 1,5- and 2 ° Celsius. If we continue the same way we will not be able to limit the effects of climate change, which will have catastrophic consequences. 20
We better be quick
In 2018 the IPCC reported that in order to keep the warming below 1,5° Celsius this century, CO2 emissions have to be cut by 45% by 2030. Climate scientists emphasize that politicians have time until the end of next year to finalise their game plan on how to cut down in carbon emissions. Governments usually scope their plans over 5- to 10-year timeframes, if a 45% carbon reduction needs to happen by 2030, the plans need to be on the table by 2020. Which means politicians have 18 months to go. 21
Aral Sea Uzbezikstan, Nasa
So, what are we waiting for?
Why are we not taking climate change seriously? Why are people, governments and companies not acting fast enough?
“People like to see change, but don’t want to change themselves.” Paul Watson
People are in denial about the urgency of the problem, the severity of the consequences or even reject the fact that man-made climate change is happening. A 23-country survey showed that 13% of Americans agree with the fact that the climate is changing but think that “human activity is not responsible at all”. Only Saudi Arabi (16%) and Indonesia (18%) have an even higher proportion of climate deniers. Germany is the first EU country on the list and comes 7th with 6% of its population denying man-made climate change. 22
In order to limit climate change to 1,5- or 2° Celsius governments and companies have mainly (but still not sufficiently) focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency and avoiding deforestation. As the UN said in the Emissions Gap Report, these efforts are not going to cut it. Therefore, it is needed to look at new and innovative business models, such as the circular economy to tackle climate change. 23
The circular economy as one
of the solutions
The circular economy is a regenerative system where waste and pollution does not exist. Products are designed for reuse, recycling and upcycling and kept in a closed loop. 24
This year Circle Economy published The Circularity Gap Report 2019. Circle Economy finds that today only 9% of the global economy is circular. The report highlights the importance of the circular economy in limiting climate change. It states that greenhouse gases can be reduced by implementing the circular principles of re-use, remanufacturing and re-cycling and stepping away from the linear Take-Make-Waste model that is dominating today’s world. 25
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries worldwide and therefore a major contributor to climate change. However, a positive impact can be created by doing things radically different. With our circular denim we are doing our part in limiting our planets warming.
1. www.overshootday.org | 2. www.forbes.com | 3. www.nature.com | 4. www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov | 5. www.ipcc.ch | 6. www.nationalgeographic.com | 7. www.science.sciencemag.org | 8. www.campaigncc.org | 9. www.nationalgographic.com | 10. www.independent.co.uk | 11. www.nationalgeographic.com | 12. www.edition.cnn.com | 13. www.un.org | 14. www.ipbes.net | 15. www.nytimes.com | 16. www.climate.nasa.gov | 17. www.forbes.com | 18. www.unfccc.int | 19. www.independent.co.uk | 20. www.edition.cnn.com | 21. www.bbc.com | 22. www.theguardian.com | 23. www.unfccc.int | 24. www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org | 25. www.unfccc.int | 26. www.theguardian.com | www.eea.europa.eu