People enter the environmental field for different reasons, but I believe that most have something in common – a desire to leave the planet in good shape for future generations. The headlines around the IPCC report are a stark reminder to all who inherently care about the environment that our work isn’t over – not even close.
On a rainy evening in October, I decided to face the realities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s special report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees C (specifically, I looked at the Summary for Policymakers and the Press Release). The dire news headlines are everywhere, and if you find yourself humming along to the tune of “It’s the End of the World as we Know it” by REM, you aren’t alone.
People enter the environmental field for different reasons, but I believe that most have something in common – a desire to leave the planet in good shape for future generations. Even if we aren’t consciously pondering future generations in our day-to-day work, preservation of air quality, water resources and biodiversity is what our work should lead to.
Environmental non-profits often are given the only credit for protecting the planet because they are advocating for it directly. However, government employees write regulations designed to mitigate harmful effects on the planet and EHS managers and their teams implement those requirements in their facilities. Software companies provide tools for EHS managers to do their jobs well and content providers educate, inform and facilitate compliance with regulations.
The headlines around the IPCC report are a stark reminder to all who inherently care about the environment that our work isn’t over – not even close.
Numerous American states understand this and, despite halted federal progress, they are leading the charge by joining initiatives such as America's Pledge, the United States Climate Alliance, and The Under2 Coalition from The Climate Group. In addition, some businesses are embracing the opportunity to lead by participating in projects like those of The Climate Group. Internationally, it will be interesting to see how the IPCC report impacts the upcoming discussions during COP24 in Poland this December.
With that in mind, here are my top three takeaways:
1. We’d better act now to prevent a 2-degree Celsius increase, as opposed to a 1.5 degree-increase (especially if we want our children to see a coral reef).
2. The effects of global climate change can be thwarted or at least slowed, but only by true international collaboration (with the US back on board), corporate collaboration (e.g. public/private partnerships) and strategic hard work.
3. Somehow, we can’t lose our spirit. We have to remain positive to tackle this next chapter. Most environmental professionals I know are positive, glass-half-full types. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be able to take on such a challenge as this because it is depressing at times, it is political (even though it shouldn’t be) and it is scientifically complex.
Here’s a call to action for EHS managers and their teams:
1. You are at the front lines – you have more power to advocate for the environment than you may think. Don’t underestimate yourself and your impact.
2. Consider how your business operates and how your processes can be improved to limit the impact on the environment.
3. Instill a culture of respect for the environment in your staff and teams.
4. Keep up to date on new technologies and trends for sustainable business.
5. Keep track of new regulatory requirements that impact your business to ensure compliance.
6. Identify the leading sustainable companies in your field and strive to be like them.
Perhaps the most important message for EHS professionals is to not give up in the face of the challenge presented by this recent report. Future generations depend on this planet and on you.
On Environment is a twice monthly post by Jessica Sarnowski, Intelex’s Global Compliance Content Lead.
As Intelex’s Global Compliance Content Lead, EHSQ Content Strategy, Jessica drives overall content strategy, with a particular focus on overseeing the delivery of high-quality compliance content within the EHSQ Alliance.
Responsible for identifying and cultivating valuable compliance content for EHSQ professionals, Jessica fosters engagement in the EHSQ Alliance by working with experts in the field.
Jessica has over 10 years of public and private sector experience in environmental policy and law. Jessica received her Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School and Master of Laws degree in Environmental Law from The George Washington University Law School. You can follow Jessica on LinkedIn by clicking HERE.
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