Latest scientific studies on climate change and how we respond See all News & insights

Latest scientific studies on climate change underline the need for action on accelerating the move to a sustainable, low carbon economy. Viewpoint from Darran Messem, Managing Director, Carbon Trust Certification and Director, International.

A scan of the last month's scientific publications provides ample reminders for those concerned about environmental denigration to redouble their efforts, and perhaps sufficient evidence for some doubters to reconsider their contribution. The Carbon Trust has always been committed to reducing the environmental impact of private sector and public sector operations whilst helping our clients capture the economic benefits of doing so, and current trends underline the need for a mission-driven, not-for-profit organisation focused on accelerating the move to a sustainable, low carbon economy. The Carbon Trust's moves this month to recognise the best performers in carbon mitigation, and to extend our work to broader resource management, are appropriate responses to increasing environmental challenges.

In just the last month both scientific and business media have reported;

  • Arctic ice reaching its lowest recorded extent, as a result of global warming (Nature, Vol 489, 13/9/12, p185; Economist 22/9/12 p86)
  • Rising temperatures in Antarctica increasing ice sheet instability (Nature, Vol 489, 6/9/12, p40)
  • Increased thawing of permafrost potentially releasing further greenhouse gas into the atmosphere (Nature Vol 489, 6/9/12, p137; Nature Climate Change, Vol 2, October 2012, p709)
  • Rapid reduction in the mass balance of glacial ice in Central Asian glaciers (Nature Climate Change, Vol 2, October 2012, p727).
  • Global sea levels rising at 3mm per year (European Space Agency, September 19 2012
The Arctic ice pack, a primary indicator of climate change, has shrunk in recent weeks to an extent that no computer model and few scientists had thought possible
(Nature Vol 489 13/9/12 p185)

 Arctic sea ice extent

As of October 15, sea ice extent stood at 5.18 million square kilometers (2.00 million square miles). This is 3.49 million square kilometers (1.35 million square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 mean for this time of year and 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the same date in 2007.
(National Snow and Ice Data Center, October 2012)

Given these trends, it is hardly surprising that governments have announced new measures to address greenhouse gas emissions despite the pressures to increase fossil fuel supply, reduce energy prices and stimulate growth. In the UK, this summer's announcement of Mandatory Carbon Reporting for London Stock Exchange listed companies and their global operations has refocused the effort of many of the world's largest corporations. Also this summer, South Korea became the first Asian nation to formally adopt a cap-and-trade programme for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The news came little more than a week after Mexico passed its own national climate target. The Carbon Trust is working with government departments in both countries, helping to galvanise the response of public sector and private sector organisations to these initiatives.

Responsible organisations have been taking action on greenhouse gas emissions for many years. Since its inception in 2008, bearers of the Carbon Trust Standard have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from energy use alone by 4.3 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, saving £645m. Arguably this is a small contribution, but one that resonates among customers, competitors, staff and stakeholders to deliver a wider effect and build momentum. The Carbon Trust is now seeking to have the same impact on water use. Efficient water use is an essential part of a sustainable, low carbon economy. As global temperature increases and population rises, fresh water is becoming more scarce. Given the success of the Carbon Trust Standard, the Carbon Trust is planning to extend its Certification activities to cover water with the new Carbon Trust Water Standard. The Carbon Trust Water Standard will recognise organisations that measure, manage and reduce their water use, in much the same way as the Carbon Trust Carbon Standard recognises organisations that measure, manage and reduce their carbon emissions.

The Carbon Trust believes that despite recent adverse environmental trends, there is very much organisations can do to reduce their environmental impact, and to capture the economic gains from doing so.