As we have learnt over the years, the climate crisis is impacting much more than global temperatures. If all climate change meant was a generally warmer planet it would almost be welcomed.
But that isn’t all it means.
Life on Earth has evolved to survive within a delicate balance of conditions. Where one of these conditions is altered too quickly – like temperature – widespread areas of both land and sea risk rapid deterioration and with them, the ecosystems they support.
This ominous reality has turned much attention to the importance of biodiversity. Once a niche topic amongst amateur and professional scientists, the critical importance of protecting biodiversity is becoming clearer to others outside the scientific community and, particularly, to the world of business.
Biodiversity is an umbrella term for all varieties of plant and animal life within an area or habitat, right down microorganisms such as bacteria.
You may remember the classroom wall posters from your school days featuring big, apex predators at the top and working all the way down in a neat line to the likes of aphids and plankton.
Intended to be child-friendly, a more accurate representation of biodiversity would need the side of a building to depict and would show an almost impossibly complex web of lifeforms, all dependent on each other for survival of the ecosystems in which they live. In which we live.
A healthy ecosystem rich in biodiversity provides everything human beings need to exist with comfort, including food, clean water, shelter, and medicine.
However, it is often the case that mere words are insufficient to press home just how dire the consequences of damaged biodiversity can be. Sometimes, only real-life examples will do.
So, let’s take the Aral Sea that lay between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Once one of the largest lakes in the world it began shrinking in the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted for large scale irrigation. By 1997, it had declined to 10% of its original size, inflicting a devastating impact on both local commerce and human health.
The Aral Sea fishing industry, which employed some 40,000 people at its peak was experiencing dangerously unsustainable commercial harvests by the early 1980s. No action was taken and by 1987 commercial harvest collapsed in its entirety.
The destruction of the Aral Sea ecosystem and the biodiversity that once thrived within it has since affected the health of particularly women and children in the region. As a key source of drinking water, what little remains is highly polluted and salinated.
Toxic chemicals associated with pesticide use have been found in the blood and breast milk of mothers and have been shown to pass on to their children resulting in low birthweights and children with abnormalities. Indeed, the rate of infants born with abnormalities is five times higher in this region than the European average.
The story of the Aral Sea ecosystem isn’t a story of something that might happen, it is happening. And for the once proud Aral Sea fishing industry, it has already happened.
Humans is the depressingly blunt answer. With the Aral Sea, it was man-made irrigation and the excessive use of pesticides. Elsewhere, multiple causes are responsible, these include:
Land Clearing and Deforestation
As the global population began to explode, deforestation and land clearing intensified to support livestock industries, provide commodities such as paper and wood, and develop coastal regions to make space for sprawling urban conurbations.
Consequently, natural habitats have been wiped out and continuing activities have resulted in the loss of two billion hectares of forestry. Put differently, since deforestation reached industrial levels the world has lost one-third of its forest – an area twice the size of the United States.
For the wildlife that live within these diminishing habitats, it means less food and less shelter for reproduction, resulting in population decline and even extinction for many species.
Current rates of fishing are reaching the point that fish are being caught at a faster rate than their stocks can be replenished, taking ecosystems to the brink of collapse. Today, more than one-third of all sharks, rays, and chimaeras (fish related to sharks and rays) are at risk of extinction because of overfishing.
With overfishing also comes bycatch. Bycatch is where unwanted sea life is captured during fishing activity then discarded. Each year, it is responsible for the unnecessary loss of billions of fish and sea creatures.
Though many might assume it won’t have quite the widespread, devastating effect of the likes of deforestation and overfishing, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade is the biggest direct threat to many of the world’s most threatened species and a heavy contributor to biodiversity loss.
Whether caught legally or illegally, wildlife is variously harvested for food, trophies, ornaments, and supposed medicinal purposes and has led to the extinction of species including the Dodo, Passenger pigeon, Steller’s sea cow, and Tasmanian tiger.
Invasive species are those that have entered an environment to which they are not native and have gone on to cause ecological harm. A highly documented, infamous example of an invasive species is the brown tree snake, introduced into Guam by military traffic in the 1950s.
In fewer than 20 years, the brown tree snake’s numbers exploded, leading to extinction of most of the island’s native vertebrate species. The snakes also caused power outages that affected private, commercial, and military activities, killed large numbers of domesticated animals, and traumatised residents and visitors alike by entering homes and attacking children.
More recently, factors such as enhanced international trade, greater movement of people, and extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and hurricanes have resulted in various species moving outside their native habitats.
In our oceans, plastic pollution in contributing to invasive species proliferation within marine ecosystems. Marine wildlife and organisms are transported on plastic debris hundreds of miles from their native habitats. Upon arriving at their new ecosystems they then out-compete native organisms for resources and introduce pathogens causing further biodiversity loss.
The biggie. Climate change poses the greatest challenge to all life on Earth. Temperatures that are rising quicker than species can adapt to are causing many to migrate to regions they are ill-suited for.
Consensus is moving towards treating biodiversity loss and climate change as a joint issue. Destruction of forests and other global ecosystems is weakening the planet’s ability to absorb and store greenhouse gases and is proving to be the single biggest driver of global warming.
As we can see, biodiversity loss poses an existential threat to humanity and with it, our ability to sustain successful businesses. When ecosystems collapse, the domino effect on resources is dramatic and is something that every business should be taking steps to avoid.
Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken right now. Ending reliance on fossil fuels by switching to renewable energy sources represents a huge move towards combatting climate change but it isn’t the only one.
As an organisation, you can offset your carbon footprint altogether with a range of carbon offset solutions and carbon credit schemes. Often, offsets and credits are used interchangeably but there are differences between the two.
Carbon Reduction Projects: Changes such as the implementation of LED Lighting, Efficient Heating Systems, Solar Panels, or even changing your company’s vehicle fleet to Electric Cars and HGV’s can all drastically reduce your organisations carbon footprint. Huge advances in technology mean that a business can even utilize the use of waste and water sources on it’s property through pyro and hydro tech.
Carbon Offsets: Carbon offsets flow horizontally between organisations so that when one organisation prevents, reduces, or removes a unit of carbon from the atmosphere as a result of its own initiatives, it can generate a carbon offset and sell it to another organisation. Offsets are useful for organisations that cannot reduce their carbon footprint to zero without disrupting workflows.
Carbon Credits: Carbon credits, on the other hand, are more akin to permission slip that ‘allow’ some greenhouse gas emissions to be produced. Typically, a carbon credit equates to one tonne of CO2 and permits the purchasing organisation to generate one ton of CO2 emissions without negatively effecting its overall carbon footprint.
A popular and verifiably effective way of tackling climate change while boosting biodiversity is the purchase of credits that are generated through tree planting initiatives or the protection of existing woodland areas. Both result in maintaining or increasing the volume of captured carbon and projects can be found worldwide, from regions in the UK to the replenishment of dead zones within the Amazon rainforest.
Forestry and conservation projects are a preferred option for many organisations because the plantation and protection of woodland does more than just capture carbon, it creates and maintains whole ecosystems. Moreover, as a result of new technologies, it is possible to calculate and verify the amount of carbon reduction these projects achieve more accurately than ever before.
For organisations wishing to explore this route, the likes of certifiable Woodland Carbon Units (WCUs) are a powerful means of offsetting residual emissions and fast-tracking towards net-zero.
Similarly, Biodiversity Habitat Units (BHUs) – which comply with DEFRA’s Biodiversity metric – bring value to both the organisation and the environment by focusing more heavily on the biodiversity aspect of carbon offset projects.
Yes, it’s true. Investments in carbon offsetting won’t just benefit the planet, they could benefit your bottom line too.
Aside from the cold, hard revenues that can be generated from trading in carbon credits and offsets, today’s consumers are more inclined to spend their money with organisations that can demonstrate sustainability. A report by social impact enablement platform provider, Impact, found that:
By capitalising on newly forged green credentials, earned via carbon credit and offset investments, organisations can produce PR campaigns that attract a whole new swathe of customers while strengthening relationships with those that already interact with their brand.
From a recruitment perspective, younger generations expect the organisations they work for to be ecologically responsible. 2020 research by Porter Novelli showed that a social purpose helped businesses find and keep talented employees. Indeed, 93% of employees surveyed believed that organisations should lead with purpose and 90% of employees who work at organisations with a strong sense of purpose describe themselves as being more inspired, motivated, and loyal.
At a very human level, the loss of animal and plant life should disturb and sadden us all. As the dominant species on this planet, we have a deeply moral and ethical duty to change our behaviours when those behaviours lead to the collapse of ecosystems and the precious life that resides within them.
But it goes further than that. Every lost ecosystem takes us a step closer towards a world that is uninhabitable for human beings. Where businesses fail, communities are destroyed, and lives are lost.
There is still time for us to change course. Find out how you can offset your carbon emissions and carbon footprint to create a world where biodiversity is protected by contacting Tariff.com today.
At Tariff.com, we’ve made it our mission to help businesses make a positive change for the future. Climate change is an issue that affects us all and business leaders have an obligation to join the fight.
Whether you’re looking to switch to a green tariff, manage your energy usage or reach a net-zero goal, our consultants are here to support you and your business.
If your business is looking to start its green journey, get in touch with the Tariff.com team today. Our friendly consultant can provide all the information and guidance you need to take your business to net-zero.
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