Combating climate change – Why startups are a solution

A special report recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has raised the alarm around the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C, stating that to achieve such a limit will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

The report contrasts the different effects that climate change could have on environmental sustainability as well as the impacts on our society should the global temperature rise beyond 1.5°C and towards 2°C. The impacts are indeed alarming.

“For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C”, the report claims. “The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.”

To successfully limit global warming to 1.5°C, major transitions will need to be made across all levels of society, ranging from how we farm agricultural land, manage industries, design buildings, improve public transport all the while endeavouring to increase the quality of life in our towns and major cities.

What will it take to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

According to the report, “Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.”

The report suggests that in limiting global temperature to 1.5°C the likelihood of achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is far greater than if temperatures exceed or overshoot the 1.5°C limit. Exceeding the limit will be dangerous largely because the efforts and methods of resolving the consequential problems will become increasingly more difficult.  

“Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development”, the report notes.

Debra Roberts, who is Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, states that “the next few years are probably the most important in our history”. This statement is an urgent call to action, one that requires collective acknowledgement as well as an immediate response at every level of society, because if we fail to limit global warming as the report suggests, we will inevitably find ourselves in a more desperate and dire situation, the reality of which is almost unimaginable.

So what can we do to combat climate change?

There is, in fact, a huge amount we can do to combat climate change beginning at the individual or ground level. A few such methods range from: conscious consumption (aka ethical consumerism – e.g. eating less meat), demanding corporate change, minimising our waste and switching to renewable energy wherever possible. These are all rather simple ways in which we as individuals can change our habits and make more conscious decisions about how we live, all accumulating as small steps in the right direction. But are these steps enough? Will they be sufficient to combat climate change? Surely we need more impactful methods for enacting wide-scale change on a global level?

One way to enact wide-scale change is to create an organisation that operates on a global level. Such organisations are otherwise called businesses. And some of the most impactful businesses today are startups.

The reason we believe that starting a business is an effective means of combating climate change lies in the fact that many of the problems that we are facing in the world today are rooted in the traditional industries and economic systems of last century. What startups are doing so successfully is that of rethinking the old traditional ways of business and industry and conceiving new models and systems that leverage the power and scale of cutting-edge technology.

A buzzword often used to describe startups today is ‘disruptive’. There is good reason for this; startups are disruptive because the founders and their teams are able to dream up and envisage new and better products, services and business models that are more efficient and effective than the old models, usually made possible by leveraging new and innovative technologies. Startups such as Uber and Airbnb are disruptive because they are quite literally reinventing how the old systems work; for Airbnb, not only have they completely changed how we find accommodation when travelling abroad but they have also opened up an entirely new kind of travel altogether, namely that of being staying in the homes of complete strangers. Uber has quite simply changed the way we hail a taxi cab – all done at the touch of a button instead of searching for a taxi to pass down the street.

Other good examples of such disruption and systemic change can be seen in the development of electric vehicles and renewable energies. Vehicle manufacturers such as Tesla have completely changed our perception of electric cars and have managed to solve many of the fundamental issues with owning these vehicles such as charging them efficiently, both at home and on the highway.

For us at Whyable, we are seeing world-changing solutions every day in the work that we are doing with our own clients. One example is Sharebee, a platform for sharing your unused or idle goods at home or at work. The impact that sharing has on the world is not to be underestimated; one benefit is that sharing our owned goods with one another firstly decreases the demand for consumers to go out and buy brand new products which in turn decreases the amount of raw materials required to produce more of the same products to meet consumer demands. To hear more about Sharebee’s vision, you can listen to our podcast where Henry interviews the Founder of Sharebee, Samuel Carter. Click here for the podcast.

While many of the world’s problems appear insurmountable and beyond our control, the fact is that our ecosystems and global climate can recover from the heavy human footprint of human civilisation and restore itself to good health. Time, however, is not on our side. What we must now do is continue to rethink, reinvent, design and implement solutions that operate at all levels of our civilisation.

Only when new solutions and systems are implemented on a global scale will our world respond and change accordingly. We believe that one of the most effective way to combat global problems is to test and experiment with new ideas and concepts, turn them into powerful solutions and then set about building and growing sustainable businesses. This is why we at Whyable are on a mission to build world-changing technology.

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