Why we need to move away from wishful thinking and get busy instead.
As is typically human, we have procrastinated in our wishful thinking. I certainly know I have. Throughout most of my conscious life on this planet, I have witnessed the looming dangers of climate change manifest into reality through biodiversity loss, glaciers shrinking and wildfires raging, amongst many other perceptible ecological signals. And though I could see the process unfold, action never seemed easy, or even accessible.
Humans are great at ignoring palpable signs, and even greater at remaining inert in the hope of a problem going away on its own. The issue at hand is that climate change does not fall into this category, and hoping it will resolve itself without proactive change may become the single greatest fallacy we ever enact as a species. Facing this knowledge, which arrives in an embodied sense of dread alongside the dystopian futures my mind imagines, I recognised a deep desire to pull the brakes on our inert cascade towards mass migration, conflict and possible extinction. I wanted to become part of the search for solutions, even if I had little idea where to start.
Time to stop leaning on excuses
It wasn’t until recently that I was able to see ways in which I could make a difference in the hugely complicated context of the climate crisis. I began by instrumenting the little dents I could make on a personal level. Only using my bicycle in the city and strongly restricting meat consumption in my household was a start; I changed my electricity provider to one that supplies energy from renewable sources; I consciously began to channel spending into organic, local produce and second-hand clothes, and away from companies and raw ingredients like palm oil I knew were contributing to deforestation; I began offsetting my carbon footprint, since the flights I took continued to weigh my footprint down. With all these efforts in place, I felt I was reaching a limit as to what I, as an individual, could achieve. At the same time, I was painfully aware of the fact that approximately 100 companies have contributed 71% of all green-house gas (GHG) emissions since 1988 and only 8 supply chains currently contribute more than 50% of all GHG emissions. The arithmetic, alongside arguments I had read to this end, painted an asymmetry in the effort to decarbonise - the ‘sacrifices’ borne by individuals did not appear to be mirrored by their corporate counterparts.
Behaviours must, and can, change
My personal example aside, the rise in veganism and vegetarianism in Germany over the past few years is a testament to the growing willingness to change on a personal level. In a survey conducted by German vegan supermarket Veganz in 2019, ‘80 percent [of participants] cited environmental reasons when asked why they became vegan’. Considering individuals could instrument the behavioural changes we know are necessary, and seeing how concentrated emissions are to only a few supply chains and a handful of companies, it seemed like an intersection between these two vectors was possible. Unlike previously, far from feeling paralysed, I saw clearly what the next actionable step would be.
Dedicating my working week to the climate topic
After many years on the lookout for a fitting opening, I now find myself in the fortunate position of having the opportunity to bring individual fervour and the need for company action together. After five years in fintech, I recently joined the team at Cozero, with the mission of shaping their Carbon Action Platform into an impactful digital product facilitating the corporate transition to a low-carbon economy. Preventing a climate cataclysm is not something that can be achieved along a single dimension, and neither is the success of the dimension along which one is working ever guaranteed. The best we can do is get serious about the actions we can take from our personal vantage point. This is why at Cozero, we are looking to weave the unique vantage points of Software Engineering, Climate Intelligence, Data Science and Product Design into a comprehensive and effective decarbonisation tool. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to apply my skills to mediating this cross-functional exercise, aimed at enabling businesses to instrument the organisational and behavioural changes we all know are necessary.
We need to act, now
We can already be pretty certain that things won’t look great in 10-20 years, but how bad it gets is down to collective responsibility, and what each entity - human or corporate - ends up doing in that time. The spectrum of possible outcomes is still relatively open on the cataclysm side - things can get really, really bad, and the only way to contain that side of the distribution tail is by doing what we can, now. Competitively priced technologies and ‘low-hanging carbon abatement fruit’ in many corners of the economy converge to show that impactful change is possible. At the same time, the global pandemic, which resulted in a 6% decrease in GHG emissions in 2020, provides a global moment for reflecting on how much it will actually take: we would need to achieve a comparable 6% annual reduction over the next few decades to ensure the average global temperature does not increase by more than 1.5 degrees.
Let's get busy
I hate to imagine the scenarios bred of inaction, especially when we know we had a realistic shot at preventing the worst. The problem will not resolve itself, and it’s not someone else’s responsibility to fix it - it’s a collective responsibility particularly belonging to those of us who stand at the top of the global wealth pyramid. We’re running short on time, but a window of opportunity still exists, and it’s down to every single entity to do their part. I urge you to look around and identify the dimensions along which you can make a dent, from your own individual vantage point. In the context of my experience, this meant shifting the object of my professional fervor, skills and time to Climate Tech. And there are millions of other dimensions to act on, because we need to touch every single little corner of our system. There’s no time left for wishful thinking. Let’s get busy.
Interested in joining our team and having a direct impact on the fight against climate change? We are hiring. Check out our open positions here.
Text by Anastasia Stoyanova, Product Manager at Cozero