Britons leaving their homes that morning were met with a glow of heat they’d have expected more from the midday or early afternoon hours. As the day progressed, the heat intensified.
By sundown, the UK had experienced its hottest day in recorded history with Coningsby in Lincolnshire topping the table having boasted a thermometer-busting 40.3°C. It was a temperature that also surpassed the previous record by a full 1.6°C when Cambridge posted a sweltering 38.7°C only three years earlier.
From collapsing ice caps and barren rivers to forest fires and melting roads, the evidence that our planet is getting warmer is moving off pie charts and bar graphs and into real life.
In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what it is that’s happening to the planet’s climate; the causes, the myths that must be neutralised, and what we can do to safeguard a future for life on Earth.
We’ll begin our journey by stepping into a time machine and keying in the year 1712 and the location of Dartmouth, UK.
Upon arrival and from the window of our time machine we’d see inventor, Thomas Newcomen, putting the finishing touches to his ground-breaking ‘atmospheric engine’ that would be used to draw water from deep within mines to prevent them from flooding. Crucially, we’d see that Newcomen’s engine is powered by burning coal.
However, the atmospheric engine did more than burn coal, it the lit the blue touchpaper that would usher in the Industrial Revolution only a few decades later.
And with that, we key 1764 into our time machine’s dashboard and to the old Lancastrian town of Oswaldtwistle where James Hargreaves, a carpenter and weaver, was proudly showing peers his latest invention – the Spinning Jenny.
The device was so adept at producing cloth at scale that northern England became one of the cotton manufacturing capitals of the world. It also ramped up the need for coal so the cotton mills function and by some margin.
From 1760s Lancashire, we now key in 1886 and head to Mannheim, Germany, and to a factory in which an engineer by the name of Karl Benz was firing up the ignition of his latest innovation, the Motorwagen. His machine etched into the annals of human history as it is widely believed to be not only the first practical automobile, but the first to be put into mass production.
By now, the industrialisation of humanity was well underway and with it, the first seeds of climate change had been planted.
Our final journey takes us forward over half a century to 1938. With the human population now standing at two billion and carbon emissions hitting the grim yardstick of one billion tonnes in a single year, a Canadian-born, England-based steam engineer by the name of Guy Callendar makes a sobering discovery.
Callendar was able to show that temperatures had risen compared with the previous century and in line with the drastic increase in CO2 concentrations that had occurred during this timeline. The ‘Callendar Effect’ as it became known was studied by the meteorologists of the time; they roundly dismissed it.
Today, some eight decades since Guy Callendar’s observations were snubbed by the scientific community, the global population has more than trebled, each year 34 billion tonnes of C02 are pumped into Earth’s atmosphere, and the average global temperature has risen by around 1.2°C.
Moreover, from the dismissive attitudes of 1938, 97% of today’s scientists now agree that the cause of this global warming is down to humans and their voracious appetite for fossil fuels.
For starters, it’s important understand that it is humanity that’s responsible for what’s happening today. A common refrain from sceptics is that climate change is cyclical and the planet has always warmed and cooled. It’s a position that has gained traction because it contains a kernel of truth; the planet has always warmed and cooled.
However, what’s never happened, is the planet warming at such speed. And, when the rising temperatures can be traced back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it doesn’t take a PhD in Meteorology to see where blame can be apportioned.
As we have steadily burnt our way through oil, gas and coal to power our homes, factories, and modes of transportation, greenhouse gases, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), have settled in the Earth’s atmosphere. Indeed, since the 1800s, the volume of C02 in the Earth’s atmosphere has risen by around 50%. When rays of heat from the Sun meet this cloak of C02 they get trapped, meaning everything beneath gets warmer, hence the term global warming.
No, to be blunt. Although sun-worshippers may have enjoyed the July 2022 heatwave, rising global temperatures are already unleashing chaos and this is while the increase is still within the margins of what’s manageable.
Despite looking increasingly unrealistic, the target set by scientists is to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C by the year 2100. On current projections, we’re likely to exceed that target by at least 0.5°C. In fact, a 2021 report commissioned by the Climate Action Tracker group put the figure at over an entire degree, taking global average warming to a scary 2.7°C by the end of the century.
To give some perspective as to what these temperature increases mean for the planet, here’s what happens with each incremental rise:
This is the territory we’re already breaching. For example, in France, abnormal temperature fluctuations have wrought havoc on the wine making industry as warmer spring months have caused vines to grow earlier than usual. Vines are more vulnerable to the cold when in full bloom and as they have been heading into the colder Autumn months at this stage in their lifecycle, freezing temperatures have decimated their numbers.
At 2°C the ice sheet that blankets the world’s largest island, Greenland, begins to melt, dumping enough water into the sea to raise levels by as much as 10 feet and permanently altering global coastlines.
In countries that are susceptible to extreme weather, such as the USA, the CO2 enriched atmosphere slows down oncoming hurricanes, causing them to release more precipitation, and become more powerful. Communities living in known hurricane paths face even greater peril.
Should the dial tip past 2°C, around 99% of the planet’s coral reefs are expected to perish. Though making up only 1% of the ocean floor, coral reefs provide habitat for a quarter of all marine life. If they go, the impact to marine biodiversity would be so devastating it would inevitably lead to mass extinctions.
With the loss of marine life comes the ensuing collapse of coastal fishing industries. More than just battered economies, a staple food source of island-dwelling communities is all but lost.
By now, extreme heatwaves are more common and last longer. This has the effect of diminishing productivity as workers wilt in the heat and profit margins plummet.
We can only hope we never see a global temperature rise of 3°C or higher. If nothing else, it will have proved that with all the evidence in front of it, humanity did not do enough. It will also likely be too late to reverse the damage.
At this point, melted ice caps have brought sea levels to such highs that floods devastate the lives of around 290 million people and a fifth of global GDP vanishes. Other parts of the world have the opposite problem with 40% of the global population subjected to severe and prolonged droughts.
With extremes of heat and cold and wetness and dryness, the Earth’s crust swells and contracts, breaking up roads and compromising the safety of buildings.
Countries that maintain more temperate climates are not resting easily either. As populations flee their now inhabitable lands, uncontrollable mass migrations are commonplace and conflicts for resources break out across the globe.
Amidst the chaos, the likes of polar bears and elephants pass into extinction as their habitats collapse. Those that survive move closer to human populations in search of food, water, and shelter and transmit novel viruses that quickly become pandemics.
In short, the planet is a very different, very hostile place with survival the sole objective of almost all forms of life.
Not enough is the depressing if not predictable answer. Held in Glasgow, the 2021 COP26 saw the world’s leaders come together to formulate plans that might halt the freight train that’s hurtling towards us.
Though a consensus was reached and the attending nations committed to slashing CO2 emissions, scientists believe their plans will limit global warming to just 2.4°C. This is partly because the governments of China and India would agree only to ‘phase down’ their dependency on coal, rather than ‘phase out’.
However, all is not lost. Climate change has us in its crosshairs and is coiling its finger around the trigger, but the trigger is yet to be pulled.
Here’s what you can do to stop it from ever being pulled:
They say charity starts at home. It’s also where the fightback against climate change needs to start.
Consider how you heat your home
We use most of our energy at home keeping them warm. If you haven’t already, look for the suppliers that source their energy from renewables. Such is the demand now for energy sourced from the likes of wind and solar that the best energy tariffs in the renewables column are as cost-effective as those in the adjacent non-renewables column.
Also, insulate. The initial outlay from having walls and rooves stuffed with insulation will soon be paid back (and then some) when you don’t need to have your radiators on all day.
Examine how you use transportation
Start with the types of journeys you make on an average year. If the main places you go are along public transport routes, do you need a car? Taking an entire vehicle off the road makes quite the impact. If you do need a car, consider switching to an electric vehicle (EV). Despite some initial question marks hanging over the eco-friendliness of EVs, research is showing they are far greener than their internal combustion engine-powered counterparts.
If you can, take fewer flights too. For work purposes, the growing sophistication of video-conferencing technology has negated the need for many business flights but holidaying is a different matter. Consider taking more city breaks in your own country. Not only will you help boost native local economies, you’ll realise just how many hidden treasures there are across your own lands.
Recycle with extravagance
Most of us recycle every day anyway as we slip various plastics, glasses, and paper-based products into our recycling bins but there are other ways you can recycle too. Such has been the human need for consumption, charity shops today are brimming with designer labels and high-quality items that have barely been used. There is also a growing trend for constructing the likes of outdoor seating areas from reclaimed materials, instead of buying mass-produced flatpacks.
If you can learn to view recycling as a fun challenge where rubbish is turned into something gorgeous, you’ll wonder why you ever bought anything new in the first place.
When it was revealed that just 20 fossil fuel companies were responsible for a third of all carbon emissions, the pressure intensified on all businesses to become more sustainable.
Most have responded to this pressure by making changes to certain processes in order to cut down on wastage. However, becoming sustainable in such a way that the dream of net-zero might be achieved requires more than just behavioural changes within a business. It needs a programme of work that is shared company-wide and consists of credible plans, measurable actions, and accountability.
Here are some additions to consider for your business’ programme of work:
Benchmark energy consumption
It’s difficult to reach net-zero if you don’t even know how much energy your business uses. So that accurate benchmarking can be undertaken, you’ll need to commission a thorough energy audit and identify where energy is being used and how.
Equipped with this information, a path to sustainability can then be plotted that contains realistic targets. If you feel you lack the time, resources, or knowledge to execute a proper energy audit, you can always bring in a specialist company to complete one for you.
Reduce energy usage
OK, this is an obvious one, but it’s often the case that the most obvious actions are the ones most overlooked. With a series of simple measures, your energy consumption can be lowered significantly with zero interference to daily workflows.
For example, you could switch to LED lightbulbs which typically use around 90% less energy than halogen and incandescent alternatives. Going fully digital to end the reliance on paper also makes a serious impact as, apart from saving the trees, energy-hungry equipment like printers and photocopiers become largely ornamental.
Perhaps requiring a larger initial outlay, properly insulating your premises and installing sensors or timers for heating and lights all but eliminates unnecessary wastage of both.
Switch to a green supplier
Whatever lengths you go to lessen your energy consumption, if the energy you do use is derived from the burning of fossil fuels, you’re essentially wasting your time.
The business renewable energy tariffs available on today’s market are more cost-effective than they have ever been and switching is a cinch.
Offset unavoidable emissions
The reasons vary, but switching to a renewable energy supplier is not a feasible option for every business. But that doesn’t mean and end to the net-zero vision.
Carbon offsetting allows businesses that rely on fossil fuels to balance – or offset – their carbon footprint by supporting projects that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Businesses can purchase a range of ‘credits’ that support ventures ranging from tree-planting to biodiversity protection.
By offsetting, you can set and reach a gradual net-zero target for your business, reduce your business carbon footprint, and boost your brand reputation among customers and stakeholders.
Monitor your progress
As with any endeavour in life, the real excitement and motivation to work harder comes from seeing the results of your efforts. Historically, the only real way a business could measure their greenhouse gas emissions was by reviewing energy bills and looking for patterns. A time-consuming, inaccurate, and wholly tedious process.
Fortunately, technological innovation has consigned this method of measurement to the great recycling bin in the sky. Using small IoT sensors that connect to your energy use points, carbon management systems track, measure, and monitor your business’ emissions. Data from all areas of your business is then collected on an app and presented on a user-friendly dashboard for a comprehensive and actionable overview of your carbon output.
Involve your teams
Sustainability strategies that achieve the best results come from those businesses that have a workforce culture committed to net-zero.
With anxieties around climate change growing, nurturing such a culture is easy with employees likely to be enthusiastic in their support for any eco strategies and objectives.
By deploying a combination of training, shared best practice, and the setting of departmental energy reduction goals, the road to net-zero becomes much smoother.
Whether you found this guide informative, frightening, optimistic, or a combination of all three, the most important takeaway we hope you leave with is the understanding that climate change is real. It’s happening as you read these words and there’s a palpable danger that the situation could deteriorate further.
And yet, the flame of hope still flickers. With a concerted global effort, we really can save our planet so that future generations – including those alive today – can enjoy the beauty and bounty of planet Earth.
If how to make your business carbon neutral is something you’d like to know more about or if you’ve begun your journey to net-zero but have lost your way, speak to Tariff.com today and together we can act, plan, and change for a better, safer, greener tomorrow.
At Tariff, we’ve made a firm commitment to helping businesses of all sizes and industries go net-zero ahead of the Government’s 2050 target. As one of the UK’s leading energy switch providers, we’re in the ideal position to prepare your business for the future.
Whether you’re uncertain of how net-zero policies will impact your business, or you’re seeking a more affordable solution for your business’ green energy needs, we’ll provide a bespoke package that covers everything from finding the right provider, to organising all the paperwork, to finalising that switch over.
Get in touch today to find out more about how Tariff can help your business begin its green journey.