In this whiteboard animation, I explain what is climate change, what causes it and I present the 10 most impactful (and perhaps unexpected) solutions suggested by Project Drawdown.
0:38 Definition of climate change
2:17 Emissions per economic sector
3:10 Inertia, feedback loops & permafrost
3:52 Implications & risks
4:47 Top 10 solutions
7:57 Final thoughts
Climate change video on Vostok ice cores: https://youtu.be/8BgD9xul16g
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Videos are created by Alexandre Magnin using years of experience drawing and working as a sustainability consultant with businesses and communities: http://www.amcreative.org
Resources & credits:
Project Drawdown table of solutions: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions
IPCC website & reports: https://www.ipcc.ch/
Interview of Katharine Hayhoe on the CBC for the two quotes: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/sunday/april-30-2017-the-sunday-edition-with-michael-enright-1.4087030/donald-trump-versus-the-climate-a-conversation-with-katharine-hayhoe-1.4087037
Ice cores & climate change: https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/
Definition of climate change
Climate change usually refers more specifically to anthropogenic climate change, meaning the rapid rate at which the temperature of our planet and its atmosphere have been increasing over the past century due to human activity, in particular since the industrial revolution. It is NOT about individual weather events, although climate change can result in large-scale shifts in weather patterns.
Causes of climate change
Some gases present in our atmosphere make it work like a greenhouse so we call them greenhouse gases (GHG): The higher their concentration, the more they trap heat. This is great for starting your tomatoes during a chilly spring but this is not good for human beings on this planet. These greenhouse gases include the well known carbon dioxide of course but also methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, HFCs), etc. Since the industrial revolution, we have been burning a lot of fossil fuels (such as oil, coal and natural gas), therefore our human activities have contributed to a 45% increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, from 280 ppm in 1750 to 415 ppm in 2019. But there is a correlation between CO2 concentration and temperatures (as we found out in my video about ice cores in Antarctica) therefore as CO2 emissions increase so does the global average temperature on Earth.
Ok, so greenhouse gases cause climate change but more precisely, which sectors are these emissions coming from? The Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) breaks down our carbon emissions like this. A few things are interesting here. Although GHG emissions and climate change are often pictured as cars and airplanes, you can see that it would be more accurate to draw them as fields, steaks, concrete buildings with heaters and air conditioners and factories building things as these three sectors combined represent about 76% of our global GHG emissions. Although we often talk about emissions, another issue from a climate change perspective is the reduction of carbon sinks, like deforestation which reduces CO2 absorption.
A few things make this a little more complicated. Firstly: The rise in temperature has a lot of inertia, meaning it is not going to stop overnight even if we stopped our emissions today. Secondly: Positive feedback loops: smaller white surfaces on the planet reflect less the rays of the sun resulting in more heat absorption. Also, the hotter it gets, the more air conditioning we use. We saw this is already a major challenge but it is also an opportunity as we’ll see in a minute. Thirdly: the permafrost conceals huge amounts of methane which would act like a climate bomb if liberated.
The implications for us humans are numerous: more catastrophes such as forest fires, hurricanes, tsunamis, draughts, viruses like Covid-19 and sea level rise resulting in refugee crisis, conflicts, loss of crops and biodiversity, diseases and economic downfall. In a 2016 report, the IPCC strongly suggested keeping the global warming under 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels to avoid dramatic outcomes. Even it it does not look like much, 1.5° makes a big difference on planet Earth!