Earlier this week, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) issued its 13th edition of the Emissions Gap Report which provides a science-based assessment of the gap between commitments made by governments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and those levels needed to achieve global temperature targets under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The report is not an encouraging one. As stated in Chapter 4, which specifically addresses the emissions gap,
“… the report’s central finding remains: current policies and NDCs are woefully insufficient.”
NDCs (nationally determined contributions) are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of its long-term goals. NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The executive summary of the report opens with this statement,
“This thirteenth edition of the Emissions Gap Report is a testimony to inaction on the global climate crisis and is a call for the rapid transformations of societies.”
Doomsday awaits the world’s inattention to the degradation of our planet’s climate. Some of us acknowledge that fact, while others call it fiction. Most of us pay little attention to it. How many of you are even aware of the UN report issued this morning, much less its dire contents?
I ask myself how I can be a part of the solution that is slipping through our fingers. At my age, it doesn’t matter much… what’s done is done. But I am attentive to the future of my grandchildren, the youngest of whom is apt to experience the 22nd century.
Here are some ideas I’ve gleaned from the UN report.
According to the report, the industry sector is the largest contributor to global emissions when direct and indirect emissions are included, and the second-largest contributor when only direct emissions are considered (IPCC 2022). With that fact in mind, we as consumers can practice sustainable consumption by using longer-lived repairable products and avoiding short lifespan products. As I gaze around me, I am surrounded by countless items that meet this criterion: clothes, shoes, furniture, tools, vehicles… the list is long. Mrs. tVM and I still have the first bureau we purchased 49 years ago when we set up our first home in Colorado.
Transportation is the second-largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions globally, contributing 25 percent of total energy-related CO2 emissions (IEA 2021c). As an individual, consider active mobility practices such as walking and cycling where ability and distance allows. Public transportation is another good option if available.
Avoid long-haul flights when other options are available like trains.
Direct emissions through building operations are relatively insignificant compared to other sectors and are estimated at 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but this number increases to 17 percent when accounting for indirect emissions from electricity and heat consumption (IPCC 2022).
We should practice energy-saving behavior by setting our thermostats at temperatures that do not greatly differ from outside temperatures, switching off unnecessary lights, and being mindful when using appliances.
Meat was responsible for approximately 54 percent of GHG emissions from agriculture between 2018 and 2020 (OECD and FAO 2021). Life cycle analyses indicate that meat production—from inputs in its production to retail—has a median value of CO2e per 100g of protein that is significantly higher than alternative plant-based sources of protein (Poore and Nemecek 2018). For example, beef has a median GHG intensity that is more than 5–10 times higher than pork and poultry, and 50–100 times higher than plant-based protein sources such as beans and lentils. As a younger man, I ate meat six days each week, and four of those meals were beef-based; today, I’ve eliminated beef from my diet. In addition to the climate benefits, eating less red meat, only moderate amounts of poultry, seafood, and lean fish as well as increasing the intake of plant-based foods is associated with a lower risk of major chronic diseases.
Of course, if the environment is of no concern to you, then major chronic diseases shouldn’t make much difference to you either.
Be attentive to the impact that your lifestyle and life choices have on the Earth. Consider ways you can personally preserve the Earth for future generations and put your words into meaningful action.