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Why the world continues to ignore climate change

Published on January 31, 2024 by Esther Gonsalves

Climate change remains a recurring subject of discussion globally. However, there are compelling reasons to revisit this topic, with the discernible 1.1° Celsius increase in the Earth's mean temperature in the past few decades.

Are humans responsible for global warming?

Global temperature is rising at an unprecedented pace compared to natural climate variability. While the burning of fossil fuels is the main reason for global warming, attribution studies have compared observed and modelled patterns with and without human influence.

The lack of technology has been identified as a significant reason for humans not being able to increase their part in saving the environment, when, in fact, it is the human mindset that needs to change.

Why the current methods of saving the environment are not working

World leaders have introduced diverse measures – gasoline taxes, carbon pricing, cap and trade, efficient vehicles and increasing use of renewable energy natural gas – to take a holistic approach to mitigating CO2 emissions. This collective effort highlights global dedication to addressing climate change and promoting sustainability.

However, these strategies could have unintended effects if not universally adopted in our interlinked global economy and with our limited oil resources. Their success in delivering the expected benefits is also uncertain.

Moreover, we are not addressing the actual problem, which would affect a true difference in saving the environment.

Human psychology and global warming

All the current policies use the threat of global warming to instil guilt and fear. However, it is firmly established that these emotions not only fail to promote engagement, but more often than not, induce passivity.

Balancing our response to climate change involves a challenging trade-off between immediate gains and long-term benefits. This trade-off is particularly difficult because our natural tendency is to prioritise short-term advantages regarding transport, consumption and living habits that lead to carbon emissions.

One often overlooked reason for the reluctance to address CO2 emissions is that it is a colourless gas. If CO2 emissions were thick black smoke, we would likely be more aware of the harm and be motivated to act. This illustrates that we respond more readily to visible threats, highlighting the challenge of addressing the gradual, less visible impacts of CO2 emissions, such as the drop in the number of polar bears and melting glaciers, within the broader context of environmental issues. It also highlights the need for creative approaches to make the invisible effects of CO2 emissions more tangible and relatable, encouraging greater awareness and action.

Climate change is also a non-linear problem, with gradual growth and rapid acceleration. For example, smoking a few cigarettes would not show the damage caused by smoking. It is continued smoking for years that has adverse health effects. There is no immediate consequence, making avoiding the facts easy.

Human behaviour relating to global warming

UCLA conducted the world’s largest project on energy consumption, showcasing human behaviour relating to global warming. Electricity, like CO2, is invisible, and it is easy to be unaware of how much electricity one consumes at a given time.

The research team outfitted part of the student housing premises and tracked the real-time use of appliances. They tracked which appliances consumed the most electricity and sent these reports to fellow residents. This awareness led them to change their energy consumption; some had refrigerators replaced, and some started turning off appliances when not in use.

The residents were divided into two groups: one group was given tips on saving money by reducing energy consumption. In contrast, the other group was made aware of health risks linked to excessive energy use. Surprisingly, the money-saving advice did not result in action, but those informed about health risks acted promptly to improve their lifestyles.

A chart was displayed publicly, with the residents’ door numbers and the amount of electricity consumed. This drove competition, all wanting to save more electricity than their neighbour. Such competition is a small-scale method of implementing measures to reduce global warming.

The role of business

The biggest game changer will be if businesses change the formats they have followed.

Many fast-fashion brands and retailers have adopted ethical causes as part of their marketing strategies. While this may seem like a positive move to reduce their environmental impact, in the case of many of these brands, it is often a superficial attempt to portray themselves as being socially responsible, masking the deeper issues in the sector.

Responsibility for the waste generated by such big businesses falls on consumers and governments; this cannot be justified. A number of companies have opted for more compact and convenient ways of packing and delivering their products, which only adds to the trash. The US accounts for most of this trash that is harming the environment.

Think about coffee cups: someone who drinks coffee daily receives a disposable cup with a plastic lid 365 days a year. If the company switched to eco-friendly packaging or encouraged customers to bring their reusable cups, it would significantly reduce harm to the environment. This also brings us to the effects of banning plastic bags. Grocery stores started charging for disposable bags, making consumers more mindful of their use. When bags are given free, as in the US, consumers take them without much thought and dispose of them casually.

Businesses need to take charge and opt for more reusable options, as although the trash disposed of daily may not amount to much, over the long term, it would be a major cause of global warming.

Previously, companies would package their beverages in glass bottles; customers were encouraged to return these to the store or take them to a designated recycling centre for cleaning and reuse. This approach was environmentally sound.

Recycling faces a big hurdle: the need for resources. Take, for instance, a brand committed to eco-friendliness by using glass bottles. Effective recycling relies on proper waste disposal and recycling infrastructure; without this, even an environmentally conscious brand’s glass bottles may end up as landfill.

What’s the solution?

We believe that implementing a carbon-pricing system is a highly effective approach to address the growing problem of global warming. It would make organisations accountable for the CO2 emissions from their factories or plants, motivating them to find ways to reduce or eliminate these emissions as part of their operational efficiency efforts.

The responsibility for Earth's pollution rests with its residents who have the power to address it. Businesses must be accountable for their environmental impact, and individuals must actively participate. Saving our planet is not a quick fix; it requires a multifaceted approach. This includes reevaluating business models and products and changing the conversation about global warming. It is not just about technology and resources, but also a psychological challenge tied to human behaviour and mindset.

How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help

We are committed to supporting businesses and organisations in addressing the pressing issues of climate change and promoting sustainable practices. Our engagement goes beyond conventional consulting as we actively collaborate to advance environmental responsibility and climate action.

We work alongside businesses to reassess and optimise their models for sustainability, assisting in the development of strategies aligned with global climate goals. Leveraging our proficiency in data management and analytics, we empower organisations to strategically collate, analyse and implement data for sustainability, facilitating informed decision-making.

Our expertise extends to developing impactful content, including white papers and thought-leadership pieces, focused on climate action, contributing to changing the narrative around global warming.

Recognising the uniqueness of each business, we collaborate closely to provide customised solutions that precisely align with business goals. Whether reevaluating product offerings, optimising supply chains or enhancing corporate responsibility initiatives, our tailored support ensures that the solutions resonate with business requirements.

We offer strategic support for market expansion, aiding businesses in executing initiatives that educate clients on sustainable practices and enhance their reputation as leaders in environmental responsibility.


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About the Author

Esther Gonsalves is part of the Consulting and Corporates team at Acuity Knowledge Partners. She holds an MBA in Marketing and HR from Punjab Technical University. She previously worked with Netscribes Data & Insights. Her expertise spans the B2B and B2C sectors, with a focus on digital marketing efforts that include content development and social media management.

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