Tag Archives: COP21

High tide


Background story: The majority of our blog posts deals with CSR topics; we write about the latest developments in this field and try to relate it to a company’s daily business. Our background stories have a different perspective: Here, we explain trends, scientific background and societal implications of corporate sustainability – sometimes with a personal touch.

What do the cities of Hamburg (Germany) and Lagos (Nigeria) have in common? Not much, one might think. However, they share a property which makes them both vulnerable to climate change: they both lie at a height of only five meters above sea level – and the sea level rises every year.

How would it look like, a world with six-meter higher sea levels? You can now find it out yourself at http://flood.firetree.net/.

A natural phenomenon which has been increasing in the 20th century
Trends_in_global_average_absolute_sea_level,_1880-2013 croppedData from sediments, tide gauge records and satellites show that sea levels changed only little between 0 AD and 1900, but began rising in the 20th century[1]. Two main mechanisms have been identified to be responsible for this, both related to climate change:

  • Water expands along with temperature; as global temperatures are rising, the water body’s volume is expanding
  • Warmer temperatures initiate a thawing of the polar ice caps. The resulting melting water leads to higher sea levels

The average change rate was at about 1.7 mm per year in the last century, which amounts to a total difference of about 19 cm over the last 110 years. 19 cm – this is far from the five meters of Hamburg and Lagos, so no reason to worry? Well, far from it, unfortunately.

At the one hand, the increase rate is accelerating: between 1993 and 2010, it amounted already to 3.2 mm per year[2], which is a drastic increase compared to the values for the preceding century. Researchers from several universities just published a study stating that the 20th-century rise happened faster than any of the previous 27 centuries[3].

And secondly, we haven’t talked about tipping points yet.

Tipping points: when changes become rapid

Tipping points are maybe the biggest headache of climate scientists. This notion refers to a moment when the earth’s entire climatic system changes rapidly and irreversibly into a new state, triggered by a preceding constant change of an input variable (like the atmospheric CO2 level). Regarding sea level rise, such a tipping point might be reached once the Greenland ice sheet begins to thaw – research suggests that this could happen already with a global warming of about 1.6 degrees[4]. Greenland’s ice sheet is 3.000 meters thick; its melting would contribute to a total sea level rise of about 6 meters[5], with the well-known consequences not only for Hamburg or Lagos: About 10% of the world population live in low-lying areas, and 30% live in areas impacted by extreme flooding events. The majority of megacities is located in coastal areas[6].

On a human timescale, processes like the Greenland melting would still happen slowly, taking several thousand years. But if greenhouse gas emissions are not effectively limited, these processes are likely to accelerate. Due to a combination with increasingly frequent and severe rainstorms (also a consequence of climate change) huge investments into coastal protection will be necessary in the coming decades[7].

Thus, sea level rise does not just concern some lost islands somewhere in the ocean – it concerns the livelihoods of a substantial part of the world population. A worldwide and concerted action to mitigate climate change is crucial, if we want to ensure that our coastal areas can stay habitable for future generations. The UN Climate Conference in Paris 2015 has shown that a lot of governmental and private actors are willing to combat climate change – now the decisions made have to come into action.

DFGE can assist also your organization in quantifying your carbon emissions, and to establish a strategy to tackle them. Contact us at info@dfge.de or +49.8192.99733-20 for more information.

Sources:

[1] http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sealevel.html

[2] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_Chapter03_FINAL.pdf

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/02/22/seas-are-now-rising-faster-than-they-have-in-2800-years-scientists-say/?postshare=421456172051268&tid=ss_tw

[4] https://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/archive/2012/gronlands-eismassen-konnten-komplett-schmelzen-bei-1-6-grad-globaler-erwarmung

[5] https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/quickfacts/icesheets.html

[6] http://www.uni-kiel.de/pressemeldungen/?pmid=2015-085-klimawandel

[7] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-flooding-and-coastal-change/2010-to-2015-government-policy-flooding-and-coastal-change

image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Trends_in_global_average_absolute_sea_level%2C_1880-2013.png

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COP21: speeding up climate change actions


for blog

THE UNFCCC 21th Conference of Parties (COP21) was held in Paris from the 30th of November to the 12th of December, 2015. The 195 countries represented here reached an historical agreement to curb climate change.

The Paris agreement at a glance:

  • Objective to keep temperature rise below 2°C and try to limit it to 1.5°C
  • Five-year cycle of actions. 186 countries have published their action plans to reduce emissions.
  • Review mechanism every five years, with a first world review in 2023. This will help increase the transparency, countries will be required to report on their emissions.
  • Focus on climate change adaptation instead of mitigation, which means “adjusting systems in response to climate change, with changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change,”(UNFCCC) while mitigation is about reducing GHG emissions.
  • Finance and burden-sharing. Developed countries are to provide financial resources to help resources countries, up to 100 billion dollars from 2020.
  • Loss and damage principle. The agreement acknowledges the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damage, created in 2013 to deal with the cases when mitigation and adaptation fail.

 

What is next?

The agreement will be open to signature on next Earth day, the 22nd of April, 2016. To be enforced, at least 55 countries must ratify it, and they must represent at least 55% of the world’s emissions.

What can you do?

Every organization can take part in mitigating climate change and reducing emissions! A first step is to assess the carbon footprint to then reduce the identified emissions by implementing many simple actions at local level.

For more information: Paris agreement and a related infographic, UNFCCC, carbon footprint,  or contact us at info@dfge.de

Video: UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres on CDP


Climate disclosure goes mainstream

As seen on http://blog.cdp.net/climate-disclosure-goes-mainstream/

Also check out her blog: http://figueres-unfccc.net/