Climate change may as well be viewed by many as the challenge of the century, a monumental problem that has far-reaching consequences that we can consider to be existential. This is a multifaceted challenge that has raised scientific, economic, societal, and ethical questions as the world works together to find a solution for a problem that may have far-reaching consequences well into the future.
Since the industrial revolution, with the mechanization of processes such as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, and the discovery of a new source of energy, greenhouse gas emissions have been a major cause of climate change problems. Coal has significantly affected the standard of living of billions of people worldwide, but has also set in motion climate change. Humanity is committed to some measure of climate change, even if we stopped emitting greenhouse today, future generations would still experience some kind of climate change
The question then becomes, “To what degree will future climate change have an effect on the world in 50 years, 100 years, and so on?” Well, a lot of that depends on today. We can already see the effects of climate change in the world today. We now have more intense droughts, heatwaves, a higher frequency of wildfires, and stronger storms, all accompanied by intense flooding. The list can go on and on. With this, we can easily draw a rather horrible image of what the world will be if we do not begin to mitigate the effects of climate change today.
The increase in awareness of the effects of climate change has not had as significant an effect on greenhouse gas emissions as we would hope. Less than a decade ago, we surpassed 400 parts per million in the daily levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The last time levels were that high was about three to five million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch. Over the last few years, we have seen a turnaround in how nations and multinational organizations are seeing climate change, especially with how the effects have become more and more frequent. Our commitment to fighting climate change involves a multifaceted approach, which is:
- Climate mitigation: Reducing the part we play in encouraging and aggravating climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions and exploring several mitigation strategies.
- Climate adaptation: Adapting to current levels of climate change and to its persistent effects.
What is climate mitigation?
Mitigation in a climate change context leans heavily towards reducing the flow of heat-trapped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, this can be achieved in two ways, firstly by reducing the source of these emissions, in this case, an example would be the use of fossil fuel for heat, electricity, manufacturing, transportation, etc. Another way would be to enhance emission sinks that accumulate these gases, such as forests, soils, and oceans. The concept behind mitigation is reducing as much as possible human interference with the climate and stabilizing emissions so that earth’s ecosystems can adapt to climate change.
Cutting emissions and engaging in as many mitigation strategies as possible are absolutely vital. In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Change, warning that greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline by 43% by 2030, in order to likely limit global warming to 1.5 °C. Secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, clarified that for this “Main emitters must drastically cut emissions starting this year”
Climate change mitigation is one idea behind the Paris Agreement, which calls for keeping temperatures below 20C and making efforts to keep global temperatures below 1.50C, and government policies such as the EU Taxonomy disclosure. Transitioning to renewable energy for industrial processes and adopting a circular economy, stopping deforestation, exploring more efficient means of transportation, and so on. All of these can be seen as mitigation strategies with the common goal of achieving net-zero emissions by no later than the year 2050.
What is climate adaptation?
Adaptation is one of humanity’s great qualities throughout history. People and large societies, regardless of their levels of civilization, have had to deal with varying forms of climate change, no matter the extremes presented. The stability of climate conditions directly affects the productivity and growth of our current civilization. As the climate changes, we need to adapt, and the more volatile the change, the more difficult it is to adapt.
Climate adaptation actions have various categories to which they apply, one of which is physical adaptation, which focuses on how we intend to adapt to the effect of climate on the environment, ecosystem services, technologies, and so on, ensuring that systems are in place to reduce as much as possible any effects it may have economically, socially, etc. Another looks at institutional adaptation, which requires the cooperation of nations and economic organizations and the policies and regulations that aim at enabling climate adaptation. Social adaptation also highlights educational, informational, and behavioral adaptation to the current climate situation.
Understanding local risk plays a huge role in how effective adaptation strategies are. Combined with research and various adaptation actions, it becomes easier to anticipate and prepare for adverse situations, such as deploying early warning systems and flood defenses, making plans for drought or heatwaves, and adjusting socially and economically to these situations. 2022 saw the first international breakthrough in climate adaptation strategies at COP 27, where countries came together to establish a fund for developing nations that usually experience extreme climate conditions and do not have the resources to deploy adaptation strategies.
Why should businesses integrate adaptation and mitigation strategies?
Mitigation and adaptation strategies are best deployed together because they are simply more effective. It is easy to draw a straight line from businesses and organizations to our current climate complications. If mitigation and adaptation strategies must be adopted, they should be implemented first and foremost by these businesses and organizations, regardless of where they are located. In reality, climate change poses risks to businesses worldwide, the impact depends on the location and type of business. Exposing these businesses to direct and indirect risks. Analysis of 2021 data gathered by CDP for 93 major companies estimates climate hazard impacts of $250–273 billion.
Climate change adaptation presents opportunities for business growth, innovation, and sustainability. It creates a unique opportunity for organizations to provide solutions, and adopt a sustainable revenue model that will not only no longer contribute to existing climate problems but will also provide solutions. $1.8 trillion worth of investments in early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland crop production, mangrove protection, and resilient water resources from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in net benefits, including avoided losses and economic, social, and environmental benefits.
How do businesses integrate mitigation and adaptation strategies?
Climate mitigation strategies can be classified into two major stages:
- Carrying out assessments of emissions, tracking the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions, and weight the positive and negative impact these emissions can have on businesses as a brand and on the environment
- Developing a climate strategy that focuses on financial decisions geared towards sustainability, reducing emissions limiting environmental damage as much as possible
Adopting adaptation strategies requires:
- Enhancing resilience through assessment of external climate risks, including scenario analysis, identification of suitable adaptation strategies, implementation of these measures, and review of their effectiveness
- Capitalizing on opportunities by adapting old products and creating new products which provide an adaptation solution to communities and businesses. Pursuing opportunities that contribute to sustainability.
- Collaborations are essential for climate adaptation. It is in fact only through collective efforts, significant progress can be made. Engaging governments and other organizations to contribute insights, and assessments, which will ultimately translate into better policies and planning processes for the present and future.
There are several international businesses that have integrated these strategies and are doing all that is necessary to make environmental sustainability a reality in our day. Companies like Microsoft, which has released detailed science-based mitigation and adaptation plans. Several other companies, such as Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola, are making similar efforts to keep reducing their emissions and pollution and ensure all-around sustainability by following the principles of mitigation and adaptation.