As the repercussions of climate change become increasingly evident, the business world is confronted with new challenges and opportunities. The year 2023 has officially been declared the hottest on record, with the Copernicus Climate Change Service confirming a global average air surface temperature of 14.98°C, surpassing the previous record set in 2016. The data has sparked concerns among scientists, leading to warnings that 2024 could be even hotter.
The EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service Director, Carlo Buontempo, referred to 2023 as a "dramatic testimony" of the significant departure from the climate in which our civilization developed. The global community is inching closer to the 1.5°C warming limit set by the Paris Agreement, beyond which climate impacts become increasingly challenging to adapt to.
The escalating temperatures witnessed in 2023 have already been linked to various extreme weather events globally, from wildfires in eastern Canada to drought in the Horn of Africa and intense rain and heatwaves in the UK. For businesses, this presents a range of challenges, from supply chain disruptions to increased operational risks.
In the UK, Professor Piers Forster, interim chair of the UK's Climate Change Committee, highlights that flooding from greater storm intensity is a primary concern. Additionally, businesses must be prepared for the broader global impacts on food supplies, migration, conflict, energy security, and trade.
To mitigate the anticipated rise in temperatures for 2024 and beyond, experts emphasize the urgent need for emission reduction. Professor Richard Betts from the Met Office underscores that the planet is rapidly heating due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning and deforestation.
Professor John Marsham, an atmospheric science expert at Leeds University, stresses the imperative to rapidly cut fossil fuel use and reach net zero to preserve a liveable climate. This presents an opportunity for businesses to contribute positively by adopting sustainable practices and reducing their carbon footprint.
Dr. Friederike Otto from Imperial College London emphasizes that every tenth of a degree matters and acting quickly to curb further warming is crucial. Businesses can play a pivotal role by embracing sustainable practices, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and transitioning to renewable energy sources.
Ed Hawkins, a professor of climate science at the University of Reading, sees a silver lining in the public's support for climate action. He notes that initiatives like investing in renewables not only contribute to environmental sustainability but can also improve energy security and provide cost-effective solutions.
The record-breaking temperatures of 2023 and the ominous predictions for 2024 underscore the urgency for businesses to address climate change. As the world navigates the complexities of a changing climate, embracing sustainable practices and contributing to global emission reduction efforts are not only ethical imperatives but also strategic moves for long-term business resilience and success. The devastating events of 2023 serve as a warning that inaction today will have severe consequences for generations to come. The time to act is now.