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Sat 12 Jan 2019 11:35 AM

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The greenhouse effect: Counting the cost of climate change

Climate change could mean a world without chocolate and coffee

The greenhouse effect: Counting the cost of climate change
Alarming oil and gas facilities contribute around 30 percent of the world’s methane emissions

Recently the IPCC (International Panel of Climate Change) body released a report looking at the impact between an increase 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees in temperature, and what it means for the community. Initially, it was thought that there was a margin between 1.5 and 2 degrees to avoid catastrophic conditions.

However, this margin no longer exists. Our inability to reduce the net emission globally has led to a more negative outcome for the future.

It can be difficult to comprehend the scale of the problem, until we break this down into a language we all understand – budgets. A carbon budget is no different from any corporate budget, only instead of talking about dollars or dirhams, it talks about carbon emissions as an economic measure of resource efficiency.

Carbon emission in this specific case is not the amount of CO2 in the air but it’s the unit of measure of anthropogenic emissions across the six different gases. So essentially, CO2 utilised in economic terms has the least common denominator of the unit of measure of resource efficiency, resource consumption patterns and everything related to how we utilised global resources that generate greenhouse gases. Different gases cause different global warming potential.

For example, it takes a year to metabolise a tonne of C02 emissions. But it takes the globe 25 years to metabolise a tonne of methane. Therefore, one tonne of methane is equal to 25 tonnes of CO2.

Carbon neutrality

We have a finite number of CO2 emissions for the 21st century, which is roughly 1,500 gigatonnes (GT) of CO2. On average, we consume 49 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Just by applying a very basic maths, we have consumed 833 billion tonnes in the last 17 years, which basically shows we consumed 60 percent of the carbon budget, in 20 percent of the time. So how do we go about living the rest of the century with that same available budget? Likely by giving up on valuable but vulnerable crops such as cocoa and coffee.

This is exactly the focus of this latest IPCC report showing that by 2050, we are no longer seeking an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, but we are seeking carbon neutrality.

Now, what does it mean for us? Dubai is in a privileged position because it has the ability to apply change, which is uncommon in many other countries.

Dubai loves the pursuit of business excellence, is very entrepreneurial and has a proven approach towards challenging conventional practices. It leverages long-term strategies with pursuit of excellence in a way where it actually showcases its state-of-the-art approach.

Here, our strategies are longer than the typical Parliamentary or Presidential term in a Western country, which helps this long-term strategical approach.

Business and climate

What does it mean for business? Climate change is essentially a change element in our everyday approach. The world around us is changing and we have two streams happening in parallel. One is called adaptation, which is us building climate-resilient goods and services, for example the adaptation of building towers which are earthquake proof or more resilient to hurricanes.

On the other end, we have all the efforts, which are more short-term, up to 2050, which are focused on mitigation. Mitigation in the sense of more parsimonious in the use of resources especially with virgin resources, which at the moment are being taken for granted. And there is an adverse culture of overconsumption, which is not met with the longer-term vision of replenishment.

When we look at the short-term, the change is not visible yet, but it’s already there, and it will gradually and exponentially increase. We have buildings which are more energy-efficient and are more water-efficient. Five or 10 years ago, this wasn’t the case, but now we will start seeing labels comparing the annual utility cost of an apartment or a villa versus another.

Villas which are more energy efficient have solar rooftops that can actively compete with the similar villas that have none of these investments, and the end-user wouldn’t be aware of. At the same time, there’s a shift in transport and waste, such as electric vehicles on the roads.

Waste is being both decentralised through community specific platforms, and this is being centralised in big waste to energy frameworks. All this has direct impact on the business owner, and might mean an increase in fees to dispose of waste.

Dubai has been very opportunistic. There are a lot of incentives and opportunities for early movers in Green Economy, as nobody wants to be left behind when the shift occurs.

There are numerous incentives and ways in which you can begin to contribute. For example, you can drive an EV without paying for the charging. You can still participate in recycling schemes, where you actually get paid for your recyclables. These are tangible incentives that exist now, but may not be there tomorrow.

If we sit on our laurels and don’t act, everything that is impacted by climate will simply cost more, including our everyday luxuries. The chocolate and coffee industries are seriously threatened by climate change.

Other industries under threat include land. Just imagine a scenario with water temperatures rising and the impact it will have on all the islands. There will simply be less islands. Trips to Maldives will cost even more.

Shipping and air travel will cost more because of fossil fuel base prices collusion. Everything which is petroleum-driven and element of organic component will cost more.

Resources will not be easily accessible as they are now, and to change your iPhone every year would probably require a permit because you cannot just use resources and throw them away.

Ivano Ianelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon

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