The Devastating Truth of Climate Change
A 2018 study estimated that if global warming reached 2°C an extra 150 million people would die from air pollution alone compared to a 1.5°C world.  That’s equal to 25 Holocausts worth of deaths from just breathing the air around them. Current UN predictions set the projected state of global warming to 2.9°C by the end of the century , way above not only that 1.5°C goal set by the Paris Climate accord, but the worse scenario of 2°C. That, unfortunately, doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the impact humans are having on planet earth.
Upsetting the Balance
Climate change is a multi-faceted phenomenon and not just caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but deforestation, land and water pollution and wildlife destruction; all of which are intertwined in a complex web that support one another in a natural harmonic balance. We are not only upsetting that balance, but we are pulverising it, crushing it and stomping it into the mud. Consider that annually humans:
- add 51-billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, 
- cut down 15-billion trees and caused a 45% reduction of global woodland cover since the start of civilisation, 
- pump 2-million tonnes of sewage into the worlds water bodies daily, 
- dump 8-million tonnes of plastic into the ocean, 
- and have been almost totally responsible for the 68% drop in global wildlife population between 1970 and 2016 .
A Leviathan Issue
These numbers are difficult, if not, impossible to comprehend. This is the inherent issue with the climate crisis: it is a leviathan. Considering the vast numbers, gigantic scale, staggering complexity and bleak forecasts – apathy is the all too familiar adopted condition of solace. The tide, however, may be changing. Driven by pressure from the scientific community and a growing public consciousness, governments worldwide appear to eventually be waking up to the scale and urgency of the issue. In the UK, the 25-year Environment Plan  and eagerly awaited Environment bill  are showing government intent to direct policy toward a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future. Policy, as with all management systems, sets the broad direction of travel.
What Can You Do?
When we consider environmental decisions, it is often the regional and local decisions that can have immediate and positive impacts on us as individuals. Apathy is not an excuse anymore. SMEs can make simple decisions that will not only help the environment but have a direct impact on costs and employee health and wellbeing:
- Risk assessment – risk-based thinking should be the basis of all management systems and environmental considerations should be no different. Completing an environmental risk assessment that reflects the aspects and impacts of the business whilst identifying proportionate controls is a vital starting point.
- Reduce – measuring consumption and setting reduction targets of CO2, waste production, energy and raw material usage can alleviate impact and save money. Switching to electric vehicles, using LED lights that use 80% less power , introducing automatic lighting systems, or implementing behavioural change programmes to encourage workers to turn off lights or use less water are some examples.
- Recycle – introducing a recycling programme, such as the national hard hat recycling scheme , will help ensure that recyclable products do not end up in the ocean. Similarly, consider buying second-hand office furniture and equipment.
- Find sustainable suppliers – considering sustainability within your supply chain allows you to demand the same environmental standards from your suppliers that you adhere to yourself. Look out for accreditation to the ISO 14001 standard or trade stamps when buying raw materials, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) when buying timber .
- Encourage cycle to work schemes – such schemes take cars off the roads and encourage daily activity in the workforce that can lead to fewer workforce absences through illness and stress.
The current climate state of emergency is a mammoth issue and any changes you make may feel like shooting a freight train with a water pistol. To alter our current trajectory will require a global effort driven by government policy, combined with the decisions of businesses and individuals working as a collective whole and playing their part, however small. Those small parts may, however, make immediate big differences to your own business.
For this month only, you can get an exclusive 10% off our Environmental Awareness and Resource Efficiency online training courses by using the code ‘environment10’ during checkout! Don’t miss out on accessing the truly valuable guidance these courses offer to ensure your organisation is doing their part in saving the planet.
To ensure an awareness of the environment is truly embedded in your organisation for a range of business benefits, we recommend implementing the ISO 14001:2015 Management System, something which WA Management are experts in! To learn more, please get in touch!
Written by our SHEQ Consultant, Jake Sansom
 Gates, Bill. 2021. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. New Delhi, India: Allen Lane.