Climate change is already impacting communities around the globe, giving an unpleasant glimpse of an uncertain climate potential, from increasingly frequent heat waves and intense winds to sea level rise and reduction of biodiversity. Climate change is an existential threat as it threatens to disrupt remarkably stable temperatures that have enabled human civilization to flourish over the past 16,000 years.
In order to respond adequately to climate change, we need to decarbonize the economy as a whole and restore carbon in our soils and ecosystems as soon as possible. The build-up of historical emissions and the emphasis of the Paris Agreement on “negative emission technologies” that remove carbon from the atmosphere mean societies have to go beyond complete decarbonisation to actively reduce atmospheric carbon by becoming net positive.
This can be achieved largely by using renewable technologies, but also by methods such as carbon capture, afforestation and regenerative farming. Businesses as well as governments have a role to play in this process and it is in their interest to lead the way in zero carbon and net positive approaches as environmental impacts will negatively disrupt operations. Climate change’s challenge is global and complex. In order to mitigate and adapt to its effects, industries, governments, citizens and communities will need to work together on an unprecedented scale.
A lot is uncertain in a world marked by climate instability. Disruption will occur in a variety of ways: upheaval of basic systems, including energy, food, transportation and economics; impacts of climate change on human settlements, infrastructure and resource supply; shifts in societal, regulatory and attitudes; and increasingly radical political responses to the crisis.