Which natural factors affect the business?

Different causes of climate change

The earth's climate has developed in different phases since the beginning, but these changes progressed slowly, unlike the current one. It is important to look at the rate of change, the so-called "timescale" of change, in order to understand the different contributions of natural and anthropogenic activities to current climate change.

The average temperature is regulated by the balance between incoming and outgoing energy, which determines the energy balance of the earth. Any factor that changes the amount of energy in or out over a long period of time (decades or more) can lead to climate change. Some of these factors can be natural or “internal” factors of the climate system, such as changes in volcanic activity, solar power, or the earth's orbit around the sun.

Others, on the other hand, are “external” factors to the climate system and are referred to as “climate shifters”, creating the idea that they are shifting the climate towards a new permanent stage. This can be colder or warmer, depending on the reason for the change. Different factors operate on different time scales, and not all factors that have been responsible for climate change in the past are relevant to current climate change. The two natural factors behind current climate change are changes in volcanic activity and changes in solar radiation.

These factors primarily affect the amount of incoming energy. Large volcanic eruptions, emitting enormous amounts of haze and sulfates, cool the atmosphere, but this post is episodic and has a relatively brief impact on the climate (from a few months to a few years). Changes in solar radiation have been contributing to climate trends for hundreds of years, but since the Industrial Revolution, the effects of rising greenhouse gases have contributed approximately 10 times more to "climate shifts" than changes in solar radiation.

Fluctuations in ocean currents or air currents (e.g. the El Niño phenomenon) can also affect the climate for a short period of time. Although these influences are relevant as they cause hotter years, extreme droughts or heavier rainfall, these internal climate variability does not contribute to long-term climate change. This is caused by the amount of anthropogenic “climate shifters”, mainly the greenhouse gases that have entered the atmosphere. Scientists believe that natural changes alone cannot explain temperature changes over the past 50 years. With the help of computer models, they reproduce the various “climate shifters” (natural and anthropogenic).

If the models only include natural climate factors (such as solar radiation and volcanic eruptions), they cannot accurately represent the warming measured over the last half century. If man-made climate factors (greenhouse gases) are also taken into account in the models, the current temperature increases in the atmosphere and the oceans can be reproduced.

When natural and man-made factors are compared, it becomes clear that the immense amount of carbon man-made has been by far the largest climate-changing factor in the past 50 years.

Stefano Caserini - Istituto Oikos

Are we equally responsible for the increase in CO2 emissions?

We all live on the same planet and one of the aspects that we share with other inhabitants of this earth is the influence of climate-changing emissions, which are rapidly leading us towards disaster.

Greenhouse gases that affect the climate spread very quickly through the earth's atmosphere.

Therefore, climate change will have serious consequences for certain regions of the world without any direct connection to the regions in which the emissions were originally caused. How can we measure each country's responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and ongoing climate change? The point is not to blame anyone. Until 50 years ago, few people knew or suspected that climate change is one of the greatest threats to human life on earth.

Nonetheless, each country's responsibility should be taken into account in international climate negotiations. But the real goal is to find the fairest possible way that every single person, every region and every single government can adopt to defuse and reverse the emission trends.

There are three main criteria for this. The first is based on the measurement of the per capita emissions of each country. Over time this number has to become progressively smaller and more uniform in order to stop emissions (before an irreversible threshold is exceeded.) But how can we measure the emissions of each country in relation to the life cycle of products? Some emissions are caused by the production of goods that are consumed in other parts of the world. Should these emissions be assigned to the producing or consuming country?

The second criterion is historical: industrialization, the cause of most emissions, began in different countries at different times (in many countries it has not even started). In order to create comparability, the shares of C02 emissions of each country were accumulated for a period of 200 years (these are estimated values), this is called historical responsibility.

After all, some countries are now past the most intensive phase of industrial development, the cessation of polluting production activities is proof of this, but some economies are sticking to production development and this causes a large amount of climate-damaging emissions. Especially if they are not based on environmentally friendly technologies and knowledge that are a monopoly of the industrially advanced countries.

Therefore, when calculating the share of each country in climate change and when determining how much each country is allowed to produce before the irreversible threshold is exceeded, we have to take into account that economies that are still in the process of industrialization are lagging behind in development. The alignment and definition of common goals in order to counteract climate change should therefore be based on the three factors mentioned above.

Guido Viale - Cies Onlus

Short, medium, and long-term effects of climate change

In the last few decades, climate change has caused a multitude of effects on humans and the environment on all continents: In addition to an increase in global warming, further effects are expected in the coming years. Many land creatures, freshwater fish, and marine animals have changed their habitat and habits in response to climate change.

The rate of climate change is faster than in the past, making it more difficult for animal species to adapt; therefore it is to be expected that global warming will accelerate the extinction of species.

In many regions of the world, changes in rain and snowfall and the melting of alpine glaciers lead to changes in the hydrological system and effects on the quality and quantity of water resources. Glaciers are melting all over the world as the Arctic Ocean's seasonal decline increases.

For human communities, the consequences of climate change worsen pre-existing crisis situations (poverty, food shortages, poor land management, etc.), which affect the poorest and most vulnerable people the hardest.

Extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and storms have already made it clear that there are direct effects on living conditions through floods, forest fires, the decline in agricultural yields and the destruction of houses and infrastructure.

There are also other indirect consequences, such as rising food prices and migration. A further increase in global warming increases the likelihood of further widespread and irreversible negative consequences. If one considers the officially recognized increase in global temperature (on average approx. 1 ° C higher than the pre-industrial level), other aftereffects are inevitable. The forecast increase is in the medium term, i.e. in the coming decades, by a further degree.

Without serious measures to reduce greenhouse gases, the global average temperature can rise by 4 ° C or more, with many and widespread impacts on the most fragile ecosystems, significant reductions in biodiversity and threats to global food security. The combined effects of high temperature and humidity can make normal activities, such as working outside, difficult in certain areas.

The future consequences of climate change will vary widely depending on the region; the impact will not be fair or evenly distributed due to a variety of factors, such as low-lying coastal areas and small islands in the Pacific being hit harder by rising sea levels. However, it is not just a question of geography: rich countries will be less prone to destruction and could potentially benefit as these countries are typically less densely populated and have resources for prevention and adaptation. In contrast, the poorest countries are hit harder because they are directly dependent on local agriculture and are therefore more at risk from the effects of rising temperatures and changing water cycles.

Stefano Caserini - Istituto Oikos

The daily choice to curb climate change

The term “mitigating climate change” refers to targets to reduce C02 and other greenhouse gases and to increase C02 uptake by forests (read more in Unit 8.1 Edukit). Improving the situation on our planet and supporting affected communities is not only the task of politics, business and administration; our own daily behavior does its part.

Anna Brusarosco - CeVi

A useful tool to understand the impact of our habits is the Ecological Footprint, an index that assesses the consumption of natural resources compared to the earth's ability to renew them. It shows the area that is required to renew the resources that are consumed by humans and to neutralize their waste.

Two similar indices have been developed: the Water Footprint, which measures the consumption of fresh water that has been consumed or polluted, and the Carbon Footprint, which measures the total amount of greenhouse gases that are directly or indirectly related to human activities.

By measuring these indices against a population - an individual, a city, a business, a nation, or all of humanity - we can assess the burden on the planet. This helps us to use ecological goods more sensibly and to take individual and collective measures.

If we compare “our” footprints in terms of ecology, water and carbon with that of the Global South, we recognize inequalities and our responsibility, as citizens of the Global North, for the communities that suffer from the consequences of our development, but at the same time a smaller one Have an impact on the ecosystem. We need to get the message across that change is possible and that we must all think and act locally, starting with our daily choices to curb climate change.