Climate change basics.

A refresher on exactly what climate change is and why it matters.

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It’s the topic on the tip of so many tongues, but many of us have a vague understanding of climate change without a firm grasp on the basics. You might tell your kids to switch the lights off when they leave the house, but could you tell them exactly why it matters to the planet? Keep reading for a refresher. 

A changing climate.

The first thing to note is that the climate has changed consistently throughout our planet’s history. In the last ice age, for example, the climate was very different to today’s. So why all the fuss? Because the climate has been relatively stable for the last 11,700 years, allowing favorable conditions for the development of agriculture and human civilization itself. That stability is fading fast.

As human civilization progressed we created industry on an incredible scale, powered by burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. The result is that the global climate is now changing 50 times faster than ever before in the history of human development. Our species is disrupting the very stability that allowed us to become so successful in the first place.

Global warming and climate change.

Human industry releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gasses trap and radiate heat within Earth’s atmosphere, causing the planet to get warmer and warmer. The more greenhouse gasses there are in our atmosphere, the quicker that warming happens. 

For 800,000 years before 1950 the level of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere had never been above 300 parts per million. Since 1950 that level has risen at a rapid rate, and in April 2021 the level of CO2 in our atmosphere reached 420 parts per million — the highest ever in recorded history. 

The result is that the 10 warmest years on human record have all occurred since 2005, and 7 of those 10 have occurred just since 2014. In 2020 global temperatures were 1.2°C (2.2°F) higher than pre-industrial temperature levels.

Image source: NASA

Why does climate change matter?

We should care about climate change because it throws out of balance the stability of the very conditions that allow human society to thrive. A rapidly changing climate leads to more extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods, extreme heat waves and wildfires. 

Climate change also causes slower, long-term effects like drought and desertification which threaten food security and lead to water scarcity.  Extreme weather events have cost the United States economy more than 500 billion dollars in the last 5 years alone. 

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change we need to prevent the global temperature from rising more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. At the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions that number will be as much as 5°C by the end of the century.             

What can we do about climate change?

We need to urgently and dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and the most immediate and effective way to do this is end our addiction to fossil fuels. This means moving to cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar. Practically speaking on a personal level, it means supporting political candidates who prioritize taking care of the planet in their policy making.

On an everyday level, we as consumers have the ability to influence the way things are produced by choosing products that are sustainably made. By supporting brands and products with carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative products and operations, we ensure that our footprint is as small as possible. Learn more about brands measuring their carbon impact by following CO2negative.

As brands, we believe that we have a responsibility to take a long hard look at our impact on the planet. That's why SOLE has committed to becoming a totally carbon-negative business by the end of 2021.