A Red Code for Climate Change and Waste Management

Red Sky Illustration – Source: Montescudaio/ Unsplash.com

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released a new report on the condition of the earth’s changing climate that are already happening and managed to be observed. The report is made by bringing together multiple pieces of evidence using various methods, from gathering data about the past climate, making global and regional climate simulations, observations, as well as reviewing more than 14.000 scientific publications. 

In addition, the report that was referred to as the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis from Working Group I of IPCC is authored by a team of authors that consist of 234 people from 65 countries and has undergone a long review process before it is finally release to the public.

What makes this IPCC report so important to be looked at?  Because this report is made with humanity’s latest advances in both climate science and technology, which can provide valuable input for decision-makers regarding what actions they should take if they want to pull a break on the warming climate and slow down the climate crisis before it’s all become too late.

IPCC Report and A Code Red for Climate Change 

The recent changes on the earth’s climate are described as “widespread, rapid, intensifying, and unprecedented in thousands of years”. What’s more alarming is that some of these changes, like the rise of sea level, are irreversible over hundreds to thousands years to come. 

Some of the things that need to be highlighted based on the IPCC Report are:

  1. Faster Global Warming

The AR6 report reveals that currently, the global temperature has risen by 1,1  degree Celsius above pre-industrial level, and if immediate, transformasional, and large-scale actions are not underway, then in the next 20 years we are on track to reaching or even exceeding 1,5 degree Celsius. 

What’s more, if we do not shift from a carbon-intensive development track, then the earth’s temperature can increase up to 3.3-5.7 degree Celsius at the end of the century. It’s also important to remind ourselves that 20 years is a short amount of time, taking into considerations the huge amount of work that needs to be done to slow down climate change.

  1. Every Region Facing Increasing Climate Changes

Climate change has affected every region throughout the globe in more ways than one,  and the extreme phenomenon of natural disasters that we witness on the news are prove that the climate crisis is upon us: raging fires in Greece, Turkey, and Australia, deadly floods in Belgium, Germany, and China, heatwaves in the U.S, as well as the loss of 8 million square kilometres of ice sheet in the Arctic.

When global temperature rise reaches 1,5 degree Celsius, heatwaves will become more frequents, warm seasons become longer, and cold seasons becomes shorter. Furthermore, climate change will also intensify the water cycle, which results in more intense rainfall and associated flooding. The IPCC says that heavy rainfall that used to occur once every 10 years now occurs 30% more frequently. The deadly floods in Germany and Belgium, for instance, is a result of a month’s worth of rain that fell in a span of 12 hours (CNN.com). 

The same goes for droughts. Globally, droughts that may have occurred only once every 10 years or so now happen 70% more frequently. You see, climate change is not just about the temperature, but also how it affects other phenomena ranging from heatwaves, forest fires, and even ocean acidification.  

  1. Human Influence on the Past and Future Climate 

Time and again, science has proven that the role of human activities on climate change is undisputed. Emissions from activities like burning fossil fuel and clearing forests has taken a toll on the warming climate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years. From a total of 1.1 degree Celsius of warming, only 0.1 degree that resulted from natural occurrences. 

Even so, humans also hold a central role in slowing down and preventing the worst case scenario of climate change in the coming years and even decades. Scientific evidence has pointed out carbon dioxide as the main driver of climate change, and thus limiting the CO2 emissions in a strong, rapid, and sustained way becomes the underlying work that needs to be addressed if we want to limit the warming before the planet becomes uninhabitable.      

The Impacts of Waste on Climate Change

Sungai yang airnya tertutupi sampah plastik. Sumber: www.cardiff.ac.uk

Although carbon dioxide is indeed the main driver of climate change, other pollutants like methane become one out of three greenhouse gasses that are labeled as Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs).  

This means that methane only lasts for a relatively short period of time, but its impacts lasted for years or even decades to come. To illustrate, in the next 20 years, methane is reported to be 84 times more dangerous than CO2 in terms of trapping the heat in the atmosphere. In another word, every ton of methane gas traps as much heat as 84 tons of carbon dioxide. 

Moreover, every year in the United States, landfills emit over 426 million metric tons of CO2, an amount that is equivalent to the GHG emissions of 124 coal-fired power plants when measured over a 20-year impact (waste360.com). That is why limiting methane emissions can also become a strategic way in slowing down the climate crisis, which mostly originated from the anaerobic decomposition of organic materials in a landfill.   

Not to mention the plastic pollution. In 2050, where the production of plastic is expected to triple, plastics will be responsible for 13% of the earth’s total carbon budget, on a par with what 615 power stations emit. Researchers predicted that the production and incineration of plastic will emit as much as 850 million tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. In 2050, that emission could reach up to 2,8 billion tons (WWF Australia).   

Slowing Down Climate Change with Responsible Waste Management 

In the waste sector, we still have many homeworks in terms of mitigating the climate crisis. The production of waste need to be cut down, and the existing waste needed to managed properly so that it does not end up in landfills. All of these need to be done in a massive and sustainable manner not only relying on individuals and households, but also putting pressures on government and industry at both regional and global level.

Another method that can be performed by business actors in reducing their climate impacts is by offsetting the amounts of pollutants they release into the environment, be it in the form of emissions or waste using mechanisms such as carbon and waste credit
In the context of waste credit, there are many waste management companies that can double as waste consultants and help companies to reach their own zero waste emission. We are currently racing with the warming climate, and we need to make sure that everything that we do counts.

Read Indonesian version article.

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