January 10, 2021
Cause intro: Environment
Toestees is committed to creating a better world, with our emphasis placed on four key focus areas. Today we'll be taking a more detailed look at "Environment"
Humans are the most successful species and it’s not even close. Putting discrepancies in wealth and access aside for a moment (a large thing to park I know), our resources are so plentiful we prescribe diet and exercise to maintain a “healthy lifestyle” - gone are the days of feast and famine, we are thriving. We have organized ourselves, optimized for one (species), and put Earth to work. Well, Mother Nature is putting her hand up now and it’s clear she’s overworked and underappreciated.
As we advance in agriculture, tinker with our toys, and create convenience for our kind, we’ve been a little inconsiderate and have a couple large issues looming overhead:
Climate change: a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional, and global climates. Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the early 20th century are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature (i.e., global warming)
Biodiversity loss: the decline in the number, genetic variability, and variety of species, and the biological communities in a given area, which can lead to a breakdown in the functioning of the impacted ecosystem.
In general, scientists believe a 2-degree Celsius increase is the upper limit before we are on track for irreversible catastrophe. A consolidated view by Climate Action Tracker shows with current policies by country, we are on track for 2.8 - 4.8 degrees Celsius warming in the next century.1) So let’s lock in 2 degrees and see what the experts believe will happen with just the 2 degrees of warming
At a global level, the expected impact is frightening: 170% increase in flood risk, over 400 million people exposed to severe drought, 50 million people may lose their homes due to rising sea levels (2 feet), and 6 trillion dollars of GDP loss.2)
What might it mean to the average American? The future of your Starbucks cup of coffee is no longer guaranteed (or at least at a reasonable price). Latest studies suggest that ~60% of land for coffee will be unusable and directly impact total supply. In 2013, a disease known as stem rust cut coffee supply by 15% and the prices jumped 33%4). Taking the same ratio, a grande Starbucks Caffe Latte goes from $3.65 to ~$8.49, not including taxes. We also don’t need to go too far back in time to remind ourselves of the 2020 California forest fires.
Project Drawdown is a non-profit organization that is widely considered the world’s leading resource for climate solutions. Their mission is to help the world reach “Drawdown” — the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change — as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. The infographic above shows our carbon emissions by source, how much carbon is absorbed by natural sinks (i.e., forests and oceans), and the delta that is then added to the atmosphere.
The average American carbon footprint is 5x greater than the average global citizen, which means we’ve been the greatest contributors so far. It also means we have the greatest opportunity to reduce our impact and reshape the trajectory. Here are five things you can do starting today to make a difference:
1. Lobby for electrification and renewables. With the exception of agriculture and some niches, almost everything can be electrified (e.g., cars on the road, furnaces in homes) and coupled with renewable energy sources can result in net carbon zero emissions. EDF and RMI are both great places to start to have your voice heard and learn more.
2. Change your diet and try to waste less food. It’s pretty well known at this point that a meat heavy diet is much more carbon intensive than any other diets. A few numbers to help wrap your head around this: the global warming coefficient of beef is 71 vs. chicken at 10 vs. beans at 2 and root vegetables at 0.4. This means a pound of beef has a carbon footprint about 7x that of chicken and 35x that of beans.
3. 4Rs - refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle (in that order). Refuse waste and any unnecessary packaging or accompaniments. Reduce dependency on anything that cannot be recycled and use less. Reuse and purchase things that can be reused - you can even think of creative ways to repurpose these items. Recycle anything can be given that it is still the most environmentally friendly disposal method.
4. Take care of your home. Renovating and incorporating the latest home improvements won’t only make things look nicer, it also could help you save on ongoing expenses as well as improve energy efficiency. Building envelope improvements (e.g., insulation, windows) are where you’ll see the most impactful differences, while changes to lighting are the most accessible. LED is 80-90% more efficient than state minimum requirements.
5. Contribute to sinks. Consider donating to organizations that plant trees or help with ocean cleanup and restoration activities. Support local businesses that have included social impact into their business model.