Written by: Aurée de Carbon, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
In a world of diverse perspectives, the issue of climate change mirrors the ancient debates between believers on a round Earth and those on a flat Earth. Today, the acceptance of climate change among those in power hinges on strong scientific evidence. Recent natural disasters, such as bushfires, floods, hurricanes, and the COVID-19 pandemic, have awakened global consciousness about the reality of climate shocks and the urgent need for action.
The United Nations warns that without action, the impacts of climate change will continue to escalate, with human activities and greenhouse gas emissions as the primary culprits. Projections indicate that the global average surface temperature is likely to exceed 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, causing irreversible damage.
To address these challenges, over 190 countries adopted the Paris Agreement, committing to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. The implementation of this agreement is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and building climate resilience worldwide.
Public opinion on climate change, as revealed by the largest-ever survey called the Peoples' Climate Vote, demonstrates broad support for urgent climate action. People across nations, age groups, genders, and education levels demand policies promoting renewable energy, forest conservation, clean transportation, and green investments. Higher education levels correlate with greater recognition of climate emergencies, but significant percentages across all age groups acknowledge the need for action.
In response to growing awareness, the zero-waste lifestyle movement has gained momentum. Companies like Goal Zero, Package Free, and Zero Waste Daniel advocate for sustainable and reduced waste lifestyles, emphasizing the importance of recycling and minimizing the need for production. By adopting such practices, individuals can help mitigate the environmental impact of factories, which contribute to air and water pollution, and exacerbate the greenhouse effect.
The effects of climate change extend beyond natural disasters and also pose significant risks to human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the impact on clean air, safe drinking water, food security, and shelter. WHO predicts that between 2030 and 2050, climate change could lead to an additional 250,000 annual deaths from diseases such as malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. Cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are directly linked to extreme heat, with Europe recording over 70,000 excess deaths during the 2003 heatwave. Climate change also affects the spread of vector-borne diseases like schistosomiasis, malaria, and dengue.
Vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, and those living in poor countries, coastal regions, large cities, and Polar Regions, face higher health risks due to climate change. WHO advocates systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote cleaner energy systems, and encourage the use of public transportation and active movement.
Understanding human behavior is essential in curbing future climate change. Research suggests that human behavior and the climate system are dynamically linked. By factoring in human behavior, global temperature projections from climate models can be significantly reduced or increased. Shifting the focus from uncertainty in the physical climate system to the social components, such as human behavior, can guide resource allocation for maximum impact in reducing future climate change.
Raising awareness of the effects of climate change plays a crucial role in inspiring action. Teaching eco-friendly practices to children, who are more receptive to new information, can have a lasting impact on their behaviors. Encouraging a zero-waste mindset and emphasizing the detrimental effects of unrecycled trash can reduce pollution and contribute to mitigating climate change.
Additionally, countries worldwide are transitioning to a green economy, seeking alternatives to fossil fuel consumption. Governments, international organizations, and institutions are collaborating to develop strategies and alternatives for sustainable economic growth.
One way to understand how human behavior influences climate change is to use the concept of ecological footprint. The ecological footprint measures how much biologically productive land and water area a person, a population, or an activity requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb all the waste it generates. It also compares this demand with the available supply of these resources, known as biocapacity.
According to the Global Footprint Network, an organization that tracks the annual planetary overshoot, humanity's ecological footprint has exceeded the Earth's biocapacity since the 1970s. This means that we are using more resources than the planet can regenerate and emitting more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere can absorb. As a result, we are creating an ecological deficit that is depleting natural capital and accumulating ecological debt.
The Global Footprint Network also calculates the Earth Overshoot Day, which marks the date when humanity's demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. In 2023, Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 29th, which means that by that date, we had already used up all the resources that nature can provide for that year. This also means that for the rest of the year, we are living on credit, borrowing from future generations.
However, not all countries have the same ecological footprint or overshoot day. Some countries consume more resources than others, creating an unequal distribution of environmental impacts and responsibilities. For example, France's overshoot day was on May 5th, while Qatar's was on February 9th. If everyone in the world lived like an average French citizen, we would need 2.7 Earth to sustain our consumption. If everyone lived like an average Qatari citizen, we would need 9.1 Earths.
How human behavior can solve climate change
While human behavior is a major contributor to climate change, it can also be a key factor in solving it. By changing our habits and lifestyles, we can reduce our ecological footprint and move towards a more sustainable and resilient future. We can also influence others to do the same by raising awareness and advocating for policies that support climate action.
One of the most important aspects of human behavior that can solve climate change is education. Education can increase our knowledge and understanding of the causes and effects of climate change, as well as the solutions and opportunities available. Education can also foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can help us adapt to changing circumstances and innovate new ways of living.
Another aspect of human behavior that can solve climate change is empowerment. Empowerment means giving people the ability and opportunity to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and their environment. Empowerment can also enhance people's sense of agency and responsibility for their actions and their impacts.
One group of people who can benefit from empowerment is women. Women are often more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men due to social and economic inequalities. However, women are also key agents of change who can play a vital role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. By empowering women with access to education, health care, family planning, land rights, financial services, and leadership positions, we can improve their well-being and their contribution to sustainable development.
A third aspect of human behavior that can solve climate change is conservation. Conservation means protecting and restoring natural resources and ecosystems that provide essential services for life on Earth. Conservation can also enhance biodiversity, which is the variety of life forms on our planet. Biodiversity is important for maintaining ecological balance and resilience in the face of environmental changes.
One way to promote conservation is to integrate it with health and development efforts. This approach is known as Population, Health, and Environment (PHE), which recognizes the interconnections between human well-being and environmental sustainability. By addressing multiple issues at once, such as family planning, maternal health, child survival, infectious disease prevention, livelihood improvement, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation, PHE programs can achieve greater outcomes than single-sector interventions.
Climate change is a complex and urgent problem that requires collective action from all sectors of society. Human behavior is at the core of this problem, but it can also be part of the solution. By changing our behavior, we can reduce our ecological footprint, increase our awareness, empower ourselves and others, and conserve our natural resources. We only have one planet, and we must do our part to save it.
Aurée de Carbon, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Aurée is the founder and the owner of CARRHURE, an Executive Search Firm specialized in the Not-for-Profit sector. A French native, Aurée has 30 years of professional experience. Her exceptional empathy, expertise in identifying and assessing candidates as well as her servant leadership style make her approach unique. Prior to establishing CARRHURE, Aurée was Director International for several retained executive search firms where she directed engagements for large NGOs specialized in Agriculture, Climate Change and Health. She began her career managing sales and marketing efforts for French medias and the banking sectors (BNP and HSBC) as Wealth Management Advisor. She holds a BA in Arts from University Paris X and a degree in Communication and Marketing. She is a certified professional Coach, PNL technician and she is certified in several assessment Tools, such as 360° and DISC Model. Aurée is fluent in French and English.