We’re Responsible for Warming the Earth, and It’s Time to Put Things in Reverse
According to the 2021 UN Climate Report, we have no time to prevent damaging climate change — it’s here. But it’s important to remember that we can take action to reverse it. It’s urgent. It’s necessary. And most importantly, it’s possible.
On August 9, 2021, Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its contribution to the organization’s Sixth Assessment Report. The nearly 4,000-page document is the product of a decade of climate research conducted by distinguished scientists around the world.
As the leading source on the climate crisis, the IPCC is historically conservative in its language due to its global nature. Getting hundreds of scientists to agree on research findings and the language to describe them is no easy feat.
With that being said, the IPCC uses the strongest language to date in this report. The IPCC is more direct than ever before on the following points.
- Humans are to blame for global temperature rise, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events. It’s “too late” to avoid the 1.5°C increase in global average temperature by 2030; we will exceed it.
- Many of the observed climate changes are unprecedented, already set in motion. It can take thousands of years for nature to heal from the impacts we’ve imposed.
- What is perhaps most urgent to remember in light of this information — things will only get worse if we don’t do something. If we start working now to reduce our emissions, we will be able to decrease global warming, even if we overshoot the 1.5°C mark.
In the last year, we’ve heard so much talk about our new normal, but those conversations have not centered around extreme weather and natural disasters. Now, they must. This will be our new normal if we continue on this path.
That’s exactly why we’re discussing direct, immediate changes you (and we) can focus on to reverse any damage that can still be reversed.
What sets this report apart from the rest?
This direct, unequivocal wording from the IPCC Report is both a result of sheer urgency and stronger correlational evidence. This evidence is a product of a practice known as attribution science.
Attribution science utilizes simulations and scientific analysis to answer questions after an extreme weather event. These questions are often along the lines of, “What would this event have looked like if humans didn’t change the climate? Or how often would you see an event like this in a world that hadn’t warmed?”
This line of science definitively links humanity to extreme weather, which is why the IPCC’s red flag report contains an entire chapter attributing extreme elements to humans. While attribution science places deserved blame on us, it also has the unique ability to empower us to do better. It reminds us that these unprecedented changes in our environment require unprecedented transformational change.
The fact that there’s a pathway forward gives us hope, and we must see this as an opportunity to harness it. With that being said, we’d like to highlight a few unique facts from the UN Climate Report in an effort to depict the enormity of the issue and catalyze positive change.
More scientific evidence than ever connects the dots between (human-made) climate change and extreme weather. The planet has warmed by at least 1.1°C on average, and the extreme weather effects are in our backyards.
- Droughts that we may have previously witnessed once every 10 years now happen 70% more frequently.
- Likewise, 75% of California’s most destructive wildfires in history have happened since 2015, and six of the top 10 largest California wildfires occurred in 2020 and 2021 alone.
- In June 2021, a deadly heatwave covered Western North America. Statistical evidence concludes that the event would’ve been “virtually impossible” without help from human-caused climate change.
- Heavy rainfall—the kind that used to happen every 10 years—now happens 30% more frequently. The devastating rainfall of Hurricane Harvey was 15% more intense due to global warming.
While it’s upsetting that these events ultimately tie back to humans, it also means we have the power to reverse them.
What does this mean for the world?
Since 1960, the planet’s soil and oceans (also known as carbon sinks) have absorbed 56% of all carbon emissions released by humans, and they have continued to do so even after we’ve increased those emissions by 50%. Without nature’s help, Earth’s temperatures would be much hotter — and our everyday events unrecognizable. The reality is, as we continue to elevate our emissions, the planet’s carbon sinks continue to show signs of saturation, adding insult to injury.
The planet is on a path to exceed 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, and the UN Climate Report outlines five emissions scenarios. Only one scenario—the lowest emissions scenario in which CO2 emissions are reduced to net zero around 2050—would eventually bring temperatures back below the mark by the end of the century.
This scenario, of course, requires an immediate reduction in carbon emissions.
The UN Climate Report was released at a critical time, just months before the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. We expect global leaders to strengthen their efforts towards cutting emissions, and we encourage you to check out the COP26 Goals. When we’re familiar with their goals, we can hold our global leaders accountable.
The reality is that every fraction of a degree matters for our planet. Every single uptick in the average global temperature brings extreme weather, worsening impacts, and uncharted waters. There are benefits and consequences to the commitments our global leaders set, and it’s up to us all to voice our concerns and ensure we close the gap between their promises and the planet’s needs.
What can we do?
As a platform for change, we think it’s both important and essential to accept science while holding onto hope and focusing on the path forward. If you’re anything like us (we know you are, or you wouldn’t be here!) you’re probably looking for a solution and wondering how to survive climate change.
One thing we can all focus on—as humans, industries, and individuals—is radically reducing our carbon emissions. In addition to reimagining our reliance on fossil fuels and a destructive relationship with our local ecology, this also means placing a laser focus on safeguarding, rebuilding, and strengthening our natural infrastructure—our second line of defense against greenhouse gas emissions.
One place to start on this emission-reduction journey is Project Drawdown. We encourage you to check out their Table of Solutions, which outlines plausible and realistic methods regarding how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This way, you can look out for solutions for yourself and also support organizations that utilize these methods.
To build on this starting point, we’ve outlined some additional action items below — at the government, industry, and individual levels.
We’re living in an extremely unique time in regard to climate change and policy. Stakes are high, pressure is on, and timing is imperative. With COP26 quickly approaching, we’re faced with the harsh reality that we’re entering the last decade we have to avoid the worst impacts of global warming — the impacts scientists have been predicting for years.
COP26 is considered the most important climate meeting since COP21 in 2015, where our world leaders signed the Paris Agreement and committed to creating plans that significantly cut their carbon emissions. Now, it’s time for those leaders to assess and finalize their plans — and for us to hold them accountable.
So, what does accountability look like in this situation? First, understand what to look out for when our world leaders present their plans to cut carbon emissions, for example:
- Do their plans include concrete timelines, national plans, reasonable investments, and specific policies? Examples to look out for include deadlines for transitioning to electric vehicles and ending government support unabated coal power by the end of the year.
- Are wealthier nations sticking to their promise of giving $100 billion a year to help poorer countries reduce their carbon emissions?
- Are leaders using carbon markets and carbon offsets as an excuse to continue to pollute the environment? Or are they making sound plans to reduce emissions at the source?
Now, it’s time to take action in your country by advocating with local groups and pressuring your local, state, and national leaders.
- Volunteer with local environmental organizations, especially during Climate Week (September 18-26). If you’re in the UK, you can join a local Greenpeace volunteer group to campaign close to the COP26 headquarters. However, you can find local environmental groups everywhere, or you can create your own! We’re hosting our own Climate Week event at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge with our partner, Oceanic Global.
- Hold your national leaders accountable. This is particularly important in the U.S., a world leader trying to regain credible climate leadership with the Biden Administration. You can hold the administration accountable by writing a letter or email to the White House. For inspiration and guidance on what to include in your letter, check out this letter written by our partners at Intersectional Environmentalist.
Reaching out to your representatives (especially after COP26) is one of the easiest ways to make your feelings known, but it’s critical to do it effectively. This includes finding the right representative to reach out to, citing specific policies within your concerns, how it affects you, and exactly what action you want your representative to take.
Consider following these instructions for more suggestions on reaching out — and always remember that we won’t meet our climate goals without policy, and we must make our voices heard before, during, and after COP26.
From day one, 1 Hotels has been built upon a mission to protect our one planet. As leaders in the hospitality industry, we know that the planet is our most gracious host, and we cannot thrive without allowing it to do the same.
This mission is not a response nor a disaster relief plan—it’s a compass. It has allowed us to build a responsible operation and community, rather than piece one together when times get tough. We hope to inspire others to do so too.
The truth is that extreme weather is literally in our backyards. Droughts, urban heat, floods, and sea-level rise in coastal areas are crises that affect our operations every year. Often, the most delicate locations—coastal cities, West Coast charms, and island oases—are the most desired vacation destinations, making our deep-rooted mission simply critical.
To be more specific, here’s a look at our current initiatives that directly support our mission and a few plans for improvement.
- Our newest urban sanctuary, 1 Hotel Toronto, upholds a one-of-a-kind Zero Waste Initiative, redefining waste in the hospitality industry.
- Our loyalty program, MISSION by SH, is the first mission-driven rewards program of its kind. It allows our guests and teams to support carbon offset projects with every stay.
- Our partnerships with organizations such as the NRDC, Intersectional Environmentalist, and Oceanic Global allow us to further support missions that advocate for equitable and sustainable policies and protect our oceans (which are, as mentioned, the lungs of the earth).
- Our mission is to not only set the stage for positive change but to bring others along with us. We vet all of our partners and vendors in regards to sustainability, we share our best practices with everyone we work with, we continuously raise the bar for our ethical standards, and we always hold ourselves and our partners accountable.
We acknowledge the depth and complexity of the climate crisis, and we recognize the role of large corporations in this space. We know that our efforts alone will not solve the problem, but they will make a difference—in practice and in spirit.
At this point, you must be wondering, “What can I do against climate change?” We’d like to reiterate that even asking yourself that question—rather than resorting to helplessness—is an amazing start. Now that we’ve reaffirmed that, here are a few other recommendations to continue the momentum:
- Revisit our Field Note about your power as an individual in the environmental movement. Similarly, re-listen to the episode, “Is Your Carbon Footprint BS?” on Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Alex Blumberg’s podcast, How to Save a Planet. Here, you’ll find the most practical advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint.
- From those resources, you’ll notice that your impact starts where your personal passions and skills intersect with the planet’s needs. The question is no longer how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, rather how to utilize your personal skills to make a difference.
- Take inventory of these passions and skills now, so you can take action immediately. These skills can range anywhere from having conversations within your own company about emissions to sharing your everyday sustainable practices with your friends.
- Vote for and make your voice heard by representatives (local, state/regional, and national) who make this issue a top priority and support policies to meet the challenge, including holding big polluters accountable.
- Support businesses that outwardly and proactively work to achieve carbon neutrality and partner with organizations that extend outreach and resources to vulnerable communities.
- Stay up to date on the UN Climate Change Conference taking place October 31 - November 12 by visiting their website and social media outlets. Our global leaders are calling it “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control,” so let’s not take this opportunity for granted.
While it’s true that this crisis requires larger government and industry action, our individual actions can be the sparks that ignite a collective movement.
Your mindset matters.
Always remember, there’s a fine balance between facing reality and throwing in the towel. While we need to face the science, we encourage you to use it as a tool of empowerment, not destruction.
There is a path forward, and we’re walking it with you.