A 40 years old anthology of climate change & actions our civilization took (Version 2022)
Since the official theme for 2022' Earth Day is Invest In Our Planet, here a story. The story of how our governments & businesses have adopted environment-friendly practices over the past 40 years.
Well, last month was Earth Day. Like most people probably didn’t give a s***t, we at Atlas didn’t write a Linkedin post about it, but we thought — beyond greenwashing or demagogy — of researching something a bit more interesting: since Earth Day has been around since 1970, we did an anthology, looking at actual actions taken by our civilization to cope with carbon induced climate change. We will produce this piece every year on Earth Day moving forward and track the progress.
One study shows that the world's natural resources may run out in 2040 if the present trends continue. It is predicted that 8.3 million tons of plastic are being discarded into our oceans yearly. A year after the pandemic started, a study shows that an additional 8.4 million tons of plastics that were related to the pandemic were generated.
Sustainability takes into account our present behavior and improves upon it for the future. It was not until four decades ago that the sustainability concept, as we know it today, started to spark interest at the UN conference. Now we see every second business claiming to be green and doing good for the planet… But are they?
One noteworthy insight is that CO2 emission has become a global phenomenon and not a localized problem as seen in the first half of the 20th century. Businesses have also expanded globally with China accounting for 27% of global manufacturing output. Thus, the problem of sustainability applies to all major corporations.
But what initiatives have actually made a difference in our society? Here are some of the sustainability pioneers and their respective operations from the past four decades:
Situation: The average temperature is 14.18 °C. The world at this time was experiencing a warmer temperature than in the first half of the century. The human population reached the 5 billion mark in 1987. The Chernobyl accident became the worst nuclear reactor disaster known to mankind in 19866. The Montreal Protocol came into effect in 1989, phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other substances responsible for ozone depletion. This was a significant global effort that brought environmental issues to the global stage.
Ballard Power Systems is among the pioneer developers of hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) became one of the first to allow trade-ins; old electronics were able to be traded in for a discount on newer HP products.
Charles F. Brush invented and erected the world's first automatic wind turbine that generated electricity.
Volkswagen began testing solar-powered and TU/e battery-powered cars to tackle reliance on petroleum.
The outdoor brand, Patagonia, began to refer to itself as an "activist company"; 1% of all the company's sales went to the NGOs in charge of preserving Earth's resources and clean energy production.
The average temperature is 14.31 °C. The world at this time was experiencing an increase in temperature at an alarming rate. The human population reached the 6 billion mark in 1999. As the awareness of the environmental concerns grew, the first international environmental convention, the Earth Summit was held in Rio and attended by 192 nations. The Kyoto Protocol was signed, committing nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 1997. It was the first global pledge agreed on by different nations to combat GHG emissions.
BYD founded its first rechargeable battery factory, paving its way to becoming one of the world's leaders in electric car manufacturing.
Cascades Tissue Group leveraged the opportunities from recycling and created a business model around recycled paper products.
Héctor Ceballos-Lascuràin coined the term 'eco tourism'-- his idea became instantly popular amongst growing consumer-conscious travelers.
Unilever and WWF's creation of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label delineates sustainable fishing to prevent overfishing.
American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) spent $25 million on technology to find alternatives to ozone-depleting emissions. AT&T later sold this technology to 25 other companies, including IBM.
The average temperature is 14.51 °C. The world at this time was experiencing hot temperatures on an average day. Natural disasters became more common and violent, such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005. Cyclone Nargis also killed 130,000 in Myanmar. Natural disasters raised the priority of environmental concerns for many states.
Beyond Meat shakes up the food industry by creating plant-based "meat" products, benefitting the environment and helping to reduce emissions and resources usage.
Umicore created a business model surrounding the recycling of precious metals, including processing e-waste, and smelting residues and old batteries.
Intel became the first company that rewards employees for how sustainable they are.
Nokia built a network of environmentally sensitive offices and has worked with its suppliers to source more sustainable materials for its technology.
The startup, BlaBlaCar, established the world's first ride-sharing startup, saving 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The average temperature is 14.7 °C. The world at this time was experiencing the record warmest temperatures in most areas around the world. The world human population reached the 7 billion mark in 2011. Hurricanes became more violent, causing billions in damage. The tsunami and earthquake in Japan caused the leakage in radiation, raising global concerns about nuclear technology. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were banned by 150 nations in 2016 as an extension of the Montreal Protocol. The Paris Agreement was signed in 2016 as a collective global effort to reduce emissions.
Apple operates with 100% renewable energy at all its data centers to reduce its overall carbon footprint.
Boyan Slats' Great Ocean Cleanup vows to clean up 90% of the world's floating plastic pollution problem.
Tesla's development of the Home Battery (Powerwall) allows users to store solar energy onsite.
Ørsted lowers energy generation dependency on fossil fuels from 85% to 25% in less than one decade.
KLM becomes the first airline to have invested in palm-oil free biofuel in bulk.
For the 2020s, a majority of companies have pledged to invest in research to become more sustainable. In the automobile industry, most companies are developing new electric cars in their fleets to accommodate the increasing demand for clean energy vehicles. Another trending initiative is reducing general waste and lowering the reliance on plastic waste. Companies including Bakey's and Yes Straws have created viable, biodegradable products to replace plastic cutlery and straws, respectively.
Furthermore, with a rise in the demand for cryptocurrency in the past decade, research has found that only 40 percent of the electricity used in cryptocurrency rigs is renewable. Developers and entrepreneurs are devising solutions to reduce computing power while keeping transactions secure, such as moving the rigs closer to wind farms.
What can we do? Look at the positives, and invest in them!
It is without a question that society deems the concept of sustainability crucial in preserving Earth's limited resources. Many countries around the globe realize the increasing complexity of our world and began subsidizing their education system to foster critical thinking in children. This policy began to show its results as the younger generations become more aware of the environmental situation. A recent survey conducted by FirstInsight accentuates the importance of companies going sustainable. According to that survey, a majority of Gen Z members make their shopping decisions based on a company's sustainability practices, compared to preceding generations.
We can save the world. Many studies have shown that investing in climate technology innovations will help reduce emissions and slow the increase in temperature.
Now is the time to adapt and invest in initiatives that will be regarded as pioneers in the years to come. Join the 100 tech founders & investors in the fight against inaction, building a greener civilization through regenerative finance and tech entrepreneurship