This summer has been one of the hottest since records began. In eastern Siberia, July temperatures exceeded 30 degrees (20 degrees hotter than usual). The permafrost in Russia, Canada and Northern Europe is thawing and Antarctic ice is continuing to melt. The time to start combatting global warming is now.
Reason 1: Increasingly extreme heatwaves
Heatwaves can no longer be ignored. In the Middle East, Algeria, Iran and Iraq, temperatures in excess of 50 degrees have been recorded. Such extremes were not experienced in Germany but the country nonetheless experienced wildfires and dried-out fields, and harvest yields were so low as to threaten farmers' livelihoods. Of course there are always going to be exceptional summers. But as Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) explains in Germany's Tagesspiegel, the number of record temperatures is increasingly significant. Rahmstorf believes that most of these records would not have been broken without global warming. If all emissions were to cease immediately, climate change could largely be halted.
Reason 2: The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be
Europe will also have to reckon with the economic consequences of climate change across agriculture, forestry, tourism and the energy industry. Increasing energy costs will affect households as much as business across all sectors. The various studies in this area come to different conclusions, but all agree on one point: it is cheaper to take action now than wait until the problem is more extreme. If we act now, we may still be able to make a difference.
Reason 3: The costs of climate change will be borne by everyone
While many of us continue to travel by air and emit high levels of CO2, most of the world's population has never even seen an aeroplane at close quarters. But climate change affects not just the rich nations that are its principal cause. The population of the poorer global south will feel it sooner and more strongly. Taking responsibility means taking into account the effects of our behaviour (for example, by offsetting our emissions via carbon offset projects).
Reason 4: The principal victims of global warming are humans
For the Earth as a planet, global warming is not especially significant. Seen in the context of billions of years of evolution, individual ice ages or warming periods are of little consequence. But when coastal cities, islands and other low-lying areas are at risk of flooding, our habitats and food supplies are threatened. If we can keep global warming to less than two degrees, we have a good chance not only of saving ourselves but also of protecting the diversity of species on our planet.
Reason 5: Protecting the climate is voluntary – for now
For most companies, climate protection is voluntary. EU emissions trading is mandated only for power plants and large industrial facilities. If we are to have any hope of reaching the ambitious targets of the Paris Agreement – global climate neutrality for the second half of this century and limiting global warming to less than two degrees – the majority of companies will have to be involved. Under a system of voluntary climate protection, companies can decide for themselves how to engage, which areas they prioritise and which projects best suit their company culture. If, as may soon happen, climate protection becomes mandatory, it will be others who take these decisions.
Reason 6: Distinction in the market
Society demands that companies behave responsibly. Consumers are becoming aware of the need for sustainable consumption without effects at the expense of other people or the environment. For many years now, the market for organic products has shown consistent growth. Environmentally damaging behaviour will quickly be condemned through social media, and the reputational damage can be considerable. Conversely, responsible and ethical behaviour is amplified using the same networks. Companies that become climate neutral or offer climate neutral products are demonstrating that they have taken responsibility for their CO2 emissions and can offer their customers the opportunity to help protect the climate. In so doing, they can clearly distinguish themselves in the market and attract new customers.
Reason 7: Carbon offset projects really do work
If you buy or sell climate neutral products, you are helping to support recognised carbon offset projects that also provide immediate benefits for local people (such as no longer having to boil water before drinking it). Illness rates, especially among children, will decline. Children who drink clean water can better absorb nutrition, and rates of malnutrition will fall. Small biogas plants or cook stoves can help reduce respiratory diseases as families no longer have to cook over open indoor fires. Many projects create jobs and provide locals with a stable income. They promote education, health, infrastructure and economic development. Carbon offset projects improve everyday life in some of the poorest regions of the world.