Climate Change & the 2ºC Threshold – Earth Day 2017


Hi I'm Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director at Mars and an honor of Earth Day, I'm going to talk with you about climate change and specifically, the 2-degree threshold you've probably heard scientists, politicians, and business leaders talking about. What exactly is two degrees? Why is that the number? It's about limiting the increase in global average temperatures to two degrees above pre-industrial levels – about where they were 200 years ago. Civilization and the agriculture that made it possible, developed over the last 10,000 years – all within a one degree window. Then we discovered that burning fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil gave us the energy to accomplish amazing things, advancing society in previously unimaginable ways. But there was a price to pay because burning those fossil fuels puts a lot of CO2 in the air, trapping heat and raising the temperature. As long as we're still dependent on those fossil fuels, we keep adding to the problem.

Based on scientific observations, humans have caused about one degree of warming just since the late 1800s, putting us at the limit of what we've ever experienced. But it's happening so fast it's a pace of temperature change that human civilization has never experienced. So now we come back to why 2 degrees? It turns out that a warming climate has a wide range of consequences on a lot of things that we as people care a lot about. Rising sea levels mean flooding of coastal communities across the globe putting countries at risk just by their geography. Developing countries will be hit hardest by rising temperatures and rainfall changes – and they don't always have the same financial resources or infrastructure to deal with these problems. Droughts, floods, and heat waves lead to poverty, migrations, disease, and political tensions and these problems affect us all. Increases in temperature, changes in rainfall, and extreme weather can all mean reduction in agricultural production that impacts food security. Not just in developing countries, but developed nations as well.

It also affects food businesses like Mars. So there's clear evidence and modeling that a warming climate does a lot more harm than good to a lot more people. But there's a point where the data says that harm accelerates and that's the two-degree tipping point. So even though it sounds like an environmental target – and it is – the two-degree threshold is first and foremost about people and preventing a voidable human suffering. The brutal irony of climate change is that those who are suffering first and will suffer the most aren't the ones who caused most of the problem We in developed countries need to find a way to leave most of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and power our societies with efficiently used renewable energy. We need to work with developing countries to help them skip over the fossil fuel dependence stage we're in now. So this is a problem we can – and must – solve together. We urge you to get involved, learn about changes you can make as a consumer: support climate change legislation, make your voice heard, and demand real change from politicians – and yes even corporations like Mars.

We are doing our part, but we can't do it alone. Thanks for your time and Happy Earth Day..