Imagine your cosy candlelit dinner turns into an emergency because the table cloth caught alight during the main course. What would you do? Would you take immediate action to extinguish the fire, or would you slowly finish eating outside and only act when the entire house was engulfed in flames and irreparable? The answer seems obvious. Taking immediate action is essential.
Gretha Thunberg - climate change activist and Nobel peace prize nominee - used this burning house analogy to critique the lack of action taken to combat the climate change emergency (which is often referred to as the greatest existential threat that our generation will face). Since science proves climate change is real - and that we are running out of time to stop the global temperature from rising by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels - the time for hope-inspiring words is over. "I don't want your hope. I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, and act as if the house was on fire," said Gretha at the DAVOS agenda in 2021.
So, I did. I took action. To complement my master's degree in aviation and aerospace sustainability, I launched an aviation sustainability consultancy and got accredited to conduct carbon footprint assessments to enable the aviation industry to pursue more environmentally friendly practices to preserve the planet - beginning with reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Reducing emissions in a nutshell
Minimizing GHG emissions is one way to take immediate action in the fight against global warming. GHGs comprise carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, nitrogen trifluoride, hydrofluorocarbon, perfluorocarbon, methane, and sulphur hexafluoride.
However, before an effective GHG emissions reduction strategy can be developed, an organisation's carbon footprint must be calculated to quantify current emissions and to identify areas of opportunity for reductions. These assessments are standardised according to ISO 14 064 -1 or the Green House Gas Protocol for consistency and allow for meaningful comparisons across similar businesses. Furthermore, the analysis is completed according to the GHG Protocol's accounting principles: Accuracy, consistency, completeness, transparency and relevance.
For calculations, emissions are categorized according to three scopes. Scope one includes direct emissions from sources such as company-owned vehicles. Indirect emissions from purchased electricity fall under scope two. And indirect emissions from the value chain are categorised as scope three. To comply with the GHG Protocol, it is mandatory to calculate and report scope one and two emissions. Scope three is optional.
Once the carbon footprint for a base year is calculated, an achievable reduction strategy can be developed for the future. For example, after calculating the carbon footprint for 2020 (as the base year), an organization could implement a range of interventions (focussed on a combination of energy efficiency, effectiveness, and conservation) to achieve a 3% reduction in scope two emissions by 2021. Calculating the carbon footprint in 2021 will then highlight whether or not the target was achieved and where the company should focus its attention next. For maximum benefits, an assessment should be verified by an independent third party such as once that operates in accordance with ISO 14 064-3.
A case for carbon footprint assessments
Besides preventing climate change, what are the benefits of reducing GHG emissions?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a range of pollution-related health problems can be prevented by cleaner air, including premature death, non-fatal heart attacks, chronic and acute bronchitis, respiratory or cardiovascular hospital admissions, and asthma-related illness.
Businesses also enjoy numerous benefits. These include internal cost cuts, brand differentiation, improved public goodwill and support (which often corresponds with higher profit margins), attracting new investors and being one step ahead of changing regulations. So, protecting the environment is often regarded as a 'win-win' situation.
A call to action
Unfortunately, our planet cannot wait any longer for humans to delay taking corrective actions. As the former US President, Barack Obama once said: "Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now." Fortunately, a variety of meaningful options exist to take immediate action in response to this emergency - reducing GHG emissions is only one method.
So, I took Gretha's warning seriously and decided to take action to 'extinguish the fire.'
What will you choose?
The views presented in this article are solely the author's based on available information at the time of writing. The purpose of this blog is to inform readers, not to provide professional advice. Readers are advised to research further and consult relevant professionals, such as flight training schools. Readers are cautioned when acting on information provided and assume all risk from such actions.