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Climate change, hoax or imminent catastrophe?

The coastline of the Netherlands is slowly being washed away because of the wind, sea currents and rising sea-levels due to global warming.

Since 1990, tons of sand have been transferred from the North Sea to mitigate this erosion, but despite this my favourite family holiday island of Ameland in the north of the Netherlands could disappear in the coming years. 97% of the climate scientists agree that the rising temperature of our planet over the last 100 years is most probably due to human activity. Climate change is not a hoax, if we don’t act humanity will face a planetary catastrophe. Despite all the scientific evidence there are many non-believers and sceptics: in politics, industry and the general population. It’s a complicated topic and I’ve spent years reading and learning to better understand where we stand. I now want to pass this information on to others who, like myself, don’t have an engineering or scientific background. In this blog, you can read my learnings backed by credible sources. I hope it will help you to better understand the complex subject of climate change.

It’s getting warming
In a 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body, stated that it has become warmer by 1 degree Celsius since the pre-industrial era, mainly caused by human activity. This IPCC report, developed in collaboration with 60 scientists from all over the world confirmed that if we continue at this pace, we will reach an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052.  Worryingly the pace of change is increasing. Since 2005 we’ve seen the 10 warmest years on record and the last five years were the warmest years ever (source: NASA).

Irreversible impact
The impact of climate change is already visible. In my home country, the Netherlands, 2018 saw the warmest summer ever since 1706 which had a huge impact for farmers, plants, animals, nature, roads and rivers. If we don’t act, the average temperature is set to rise by 3 degrees Celsius, causing irreversible and damaging change to our environment, and to humanity. We will have more floods, extreme weather, less drinking water, bad harvests and plant and animal species might disappear. You can find out more about the impact of climate change on the Netherlands on the Dutch Governments website. To learn about the global impact, take a look at the videos, pictures and graphs on NASA’s website.

An increase in greenhouse gases is the main cause for global warming
Until 1950 nature had more impact on the climate than human beings. The fast increase of the global temperature after 1950 can only be explained by human activity. According to the IPCC there is 90% chance global warming in the past 50 years has been driven by an increase in greenhouse gases, of which 56% is from CO2 emissions. CO2 is released when we burn fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal. There is hard evidence that current CO2 concentrations in the air are the highest they have been for over 800,000 years and most probably for over 60 million years. You can read about it in this article from the University of Wageningen (in Dutch) or on  NASA’s website. If you still think that CO2 emissions are not rising, please check out this graph from NASA which clearly shows the recent increase of CO2.

The Paris Climate Agreement
The Paris Climate Agreement, developed in 2015 is meant to limit global warming to 2 or 1.5 degrees, prepare the world for a changing climate and ensure a clear communication approach. To meet this target, we need to do everything we can to make our energy supply, industry, transport, food, agriculture and forestry cleaner and more energy efficient. 185 of the 197 UN members have signed the agreement, including The Netherlands. In the Netherlands, it has been transposed into the Klimaatakkoord.

CO2 emissions still rising
But things are not going according to plan. In the Netherlands, we are aiming to emit 49% less CO2 2030 and 25% less by 2020. As things stand we’ve reached 21% and sadly look set to miss our target. In the last three months of 2018 we emitted more CO2 than in the same period in 2017. The main culprits are transport, households, agriculture and industry.  Only the electricity sector made progress. External forces are now putting pressure on the Dutch government to act, with the NGO Urgenda suing the government, to force it to take adequate measures to reduce emissions and protect the Dutch people from the impact of climate change. The sad news is that, at a global level, CO2emissions rose by 1.7% in 2018. If we want to limit global warming, we need to reduce our energy use and switch to using clean renewable energy from the sun, wind and water. For personal and heavy transport, heating and cooling of our houses, we need to change to electricity.

We need to speed up the energy transition
In DNV’s Energy Transition Outlook 2018 we predict that even with 70% of electricity in 2050 coming from wind and the sun we will not meet the Paris climate targets. The only way to mitigate the impact of climate change is for all sectors of society, including industry, transport and the public, to make drastic changes.

According to the United Nations, 1 trillion US dollars a year is needed in clean energy investments and climate adaptation. This seems a lot. But in 2016, USD 1.7 trillion was invested in the global energy industry, of which 70% was for fossil fuels. So, USD 1 trillion for clean energy should be feasible, considering the huge advantages of cleaner air, food security, liveable cities and better public health. If we act now, we save lives and money that we would normally have to spend on the negative impact of climate change.

The inhabitants of the island of Ameland are aware, more than anyone else, what the impact of climate change could be. As such, they plan to be energy-neutral and self-sufficient by 2020. If they can achieve this, it will set a best practice benchmark for the rest of The Netherlands on how to make a transition to a clean energy future. I for one, hopes this beautiful island will exist for a long time.

Do you care about a climate and energy discussion, based on facts and not on fake news and emotions? Than please share this article.

About the author: As Vice-President of Marketing & Communications at DNV – Energy and Chair of the Board of the Kiemt foundation I have access to thousands of energy and sustainability experts from all over the globe. With their help, I try to understand and explain complex topics in a simple way for anyone who is interested in fact-based information from credible sources. This is way I hope to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable world.

Click here to read the Dutch version of this blog post.

5/21/2019 9:00:00 AM

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Caroline Kamerbeek

Caroline Kamerbeek

Vice President Marketing, Communications, Public Affairs, Energy Systems