Understanding climate change and what to do about it

Climate change is a hot topic much in the news these days with increasing messages from our governments telling us we need to act now to save the planet.

We’re hearing new phrases like ‘carbon neutrality,’ ‘carbon footprint,’ ‘personal CO2 emissions’ and ‘climate forcings’ along with old favourites like ‘greenhouse gas’ and ‘ozone depletion.’

Does anyone really understand all this? Is anyone able to relate it to their personal circumstances, ie, do something that will make a difference?

I’ll come back to the personal aspect in a minute.

First, though, there’s a lot going on in business and government surrounding the broad topic of climate change, as I’ve discovered through a communication project I’ve just completed for Lloyds Register Quality Assurance (LRQA).

I’ve produced a first podcast for them containing interviews with some of the movers and shakers in business and government, including NGOs, who provide insight and opinions surrounding carbon emissions and emissions trading, and who’s doing what.

Those movers and shakers include Jos Delbeke, Director, DG Environment, European Commission; Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; William Weld, former Governor of Massachusetts; Kristalina Georgieva, Director, Strategy and Operations Sustainable Development, The World Bank; Bill Kyte, Chairman of the UK Emissions Trading Group; and Garth Edward, Trading Manager, Environmental Products, Shell.

The Carbon Emissions podcast is a key element of a new climate change website launched yesterday at BusinessAssurance.com, a knowledge sharing portal for management systems professionals sponsored by LRQA.

Take a listen to the podcast (or read the transcript) and see if it helps you gain some more knowledge about climate change.

The new website includes a blog; one of the first posts is by Dr Anne-Marie Warris of LRQA who has some additional insight on the challenges facing all of us as consumers

Which brings me to that personal aspect I mentioned earlier. Do people generally understand what the term ‘climate change’ actually means and what they can do about it on a personal level?

Here’s how Wikipedia explains climate change:

Climate change refers to the variation in the Earth’s global climate or in regional climates over time. It describes changes in the variability or average state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes internal to the Earth, external forces (e.g. variations in sunlight intensity) or, more recently, human activities.

It’s mainly the last two words in that definition that’s the focus for so much current attention, often expressed as ‘global warming.’ Is it the same thing?

Wikipedia again:

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation.

However we as individuals understand it, one major difficulty is figuring out what you can do about it that actually makes any kind of difference to anything.

You could start by watching An Inconvenient Truth, the inspiring movie made by Al Gore, the former Vice President of the United States. Even The Day After Tomorrow. No, really – the overall story in that Hollywood movie may seem far-fetched but that story is all about the kind of catastrophic climate changes and the resulting consequences if we take no action that Al Gore’s movie convincingly addresses.

On a practical level, though, there’s actually quite a bit each of us can do to contribute in a meaningful way.

The most practical thing that I find wholly do-able is being able to work out my own carbon footprint and then take action to offset it.

That means I can work out what I’m personally contributing to global carbon emissions based on how much fuel I use at home and my annual travel (car, train, plane, etc), and then look at ways to offset it by doing things like buying verifiable carbon credits.

Visit Carbon Footprint to get started.

It may seem a small step for an individual. But if many individuals take that small step, it can make a measurable difference.

Just as business and government are doing.