Climate change

HUMANS AND A CHANGING PLANET

Floods in the Czech Republic, Pakistan, Cambodia, the growing strength of typhoons in the Philippines. Long-term droughts in Ethiopia, Angola, Zambia, Afghanistan, and Mali. Extreme winters in Mongolia.

For more than a decade, People in Need has been helping at-risk communities around the world cope with the effects of climate change and adapt to a changing planet. Our goal is to make our planet a better place not only for ourselves, but for the nearly 10 billion people who will be sharing it in 2050. You can help with us.


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Climate change

Climate change

The main cause of climate change is the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the primary greenhouse gases. Combustion of fossil fuels has increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by more than 45 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The planetary boundary for the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 ppm (parts per million). In the year 2020, this concentration already exceeded 400 ppm.

Source: Independent initiative CO2 Earth
Biodiversity loss

Biodiversity loss

Our planet is on the verge of a sixth mass extinction. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the rate of species loss is estimated to be 100 times higher than in the past 10 million years. Out of Earth’s estimated eight million species, more than one million are at risk of extinction. The list of species under threat includes 40 percent of amphibians, almost 33 percent of reef-forming corals, and more than a third of all marine mammals, among others.

Source: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
Stratospheric ozone depletion

Stratospheric ozone depletion

The stratospheric ozone layer of the atmosphere is a layer of gas that filters the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. As this layer gets thinner, the earth becomes exposed to a higher level of radiation, which increases the risk of skin cancer and damages terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The planetary boundary for ozone depletion is set at 276 Dobson Units, a measure of ozone layer density. At the moment, its thickness is about 283 units, compared to the pre-industrial era, when it measured 290 units. The ozone layer was significantly damaged at the end of the 20th century by Freon gas, leading to the Montreal Protocol of 1986, which was created to stop the production of ozone-depleting substances. The ozone layer is expected to make a full recovery by 2060.

Source: NASA Ozone Watch
Atmospheric aerosol loading

Atmospheric aerosol loading

By interacting with water vapour, aerosol particles play a crucial role in the hydrological cycle, which is responsible for cloud formation, as well global and regional atmospheric circulation (for instance, the monsoon cycle in tropical areas). These particles also determine how much sunlight is reflected or gets absorbed by the atmosphere, but they can also have a negative impact on many living organisms. The planetary boundary for atmospheric aerosol loading was set mainly due to its impact on Earth’s climate. However, the chemical variety and complex interplay of aerosol particles in the upper layers of the atmosphere make it difficult to determine a definite planetary boundary.

Not yet quantified
Ocean acidification

Ocean acidification

About one third of the CO2 that gets released into the atmosphere ends up in oceans. Although the oceans’ natural ability to absorb CO2 lessens the environmental impact of the burning of fossil fuels, it also causes the pH levels of oceans to fall, affecting many marine organisms. Acidification reduces the amount of carbonate ions – major mineral building blocks for shelled organisms – in the water, which makes it more difficult for organisms such as coral, certain species of mollusks, and some plankton to grow and survive. Loss of these species changes the structure and dynamics of marine ecosystems and could lead to a drastic decrease in fish populations.

Deposition of forsphorus and nitrogen

Deposition of forsphorus and nitrogen

Nitrogen and phosphorus are crucial elements for plant growth, which is why they are also the primary nutrients used in commercial fertilizers. As a result of nitrogen gas fixation in fertilisers and unsustainable agricultural and industrial practices, the natural cycle of these two elements is interrupted, and phosphorus and nitrogen often end up in the atmosphere rather than being retained by crops and soil. Due to shear off the soil, excess nutrients enter waterways through agricultural runoff, causing certain marine plants—often algae and Cyanobacteria—to grow faster that aquatic ecosystems can handle. Nitrogen oxides are often named as one of the very potent greenhouse gases.

Fresh water consumption

Fresh water consumption

According to the United Nations, as a result of water resource overuse, together with groundwater pollution caused by heavy metals and other elements used in agriculture and industrial production, three billion people will be affected by water shortages in less than 10 years, while the world’s supply of fresh water will be reduced by 40 percent. Climate change further complicates the situation. Due to population growth, global water demands in agriculture and industry will increase significantly. The planetary boundary for fresh water consumption is 4,000 km3 per year. In 2020, water consumption had already reached 3,800 km3 annually, in comparison with the 415 km3 consumed in pre-industrial times.

Source: OSN Source: Studie A Review of Water Stress and Water Footprint Accounting
Changes in land use

Changes in land use

The planetary boundary for land use refers to the percentage of land surface used for agriculture, the planet’s predominant land use. It is the driving force behind biodiversity loss, and impacts Earth’s water flows as well as the biochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and many other important elements. It also affects the availability of natural ecosystem services that healthy ecosystems provide to their inhabitants. It has been suggested that no more than 15 percent of Earth’s land surface should be covered by agricultural land; currently, this number stands at 11.7 percent.

Source: Časopis Ecology and Society
Pollution of the environment

Pollution of the environment

Leakages and other releases of toxic chemicals lead to some of the most dramatic environmental changes caused by humans. Due to their impact on atmospheric processes and climate, hazardous substances and compounds can have irreversible effects on living organisms and the physical environment. Chemical pollution is managed in a variety of ways. The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation, for instance, is an EU regulation addressing the production and use of chemicals. However, the toxicity of some substances is difficult to measure and prove, which is why we are currently unable to set a definite planetary boundary for chemical pollution.

The limits of our planet

01

To maintain the adequate quality of life and means of subsistence, we must live within the limits of our planet. The concept of planetary boundaries defines “the safe operating space for humanity,”. These nine boundaries determine where we have crossed the tresholds and where we have not yet.

Below the risk threshold (safe)
In the zone of uncertainty (increasing risk)
Beyond uncertainty (high risk)
Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre: Planetary boundaries

Challenges we cannot avoid

The crossing of a number of planetary boundaries is already taking its toll: the world is facing or is about to face challenges that have no equivalent in human history.

9,5 bln

people on Earth

9,5 bln people on Earth

By the year 2050, the population will reach 9.5 billion people, who will exert ever-increasing pressure on the world’s natural resources. 70 percent of world’s population is expected to live in urban areas, 50 percent of which do not yet exist. It is a big challenge, but an opportunity as well: we must start thinking about sustainable, low-carbon building technologies, infrastructure and functioning of society in emerging and existing cities.

Source: The United Nations

300 mln

tons of waste

300 mln tons of waste

Today, we produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year. This is equivalent in weight to one million Boeing 747 jumbo jets, 30 thousand Eiffel Towers, or one billion elephants.

Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature

75 %

ecosystems degraded

75% of the Earth's surface affected by humankind

75% of the Earth's surface is affected by human activity. Deforestation, desertification, conversion of land to farmland and urban areas are leaving less and less of untouched nature, posing a major threat to the survival of biological species and ecosystems.

Source: The United Nations

85 %

wetlands lost

85 % wetlands lost

Wetlands sustain a range of workers globally, including farmers, fishermen and many others who use this unique ecosystem to grow crops, fish, or gather construction materials. Wetlands are also among the most valuable ecosystems in the world because they are home to a wide array of species, as well as a place for the storage for water, carbon, methane, and other crucial elements of the environmental cycle. 85 percent of the world’s wetlands have been lost since the year 1700.

Source: Living Planet Report

60%

animals extinct

60% animals extinct

We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis and many scientists claim that the sixth mass extinction is inevitable. Since 1970, humanity has wiped out 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles. Additionally, approximately 41 percent of insect species became extinct in the past 10 years, with an additional 40 percent endangered and facing extinction.

Source: The Conservation Source: Sience Direct

18,8 mln

people displaced

20 mln people displaced yearly

Currently, about 20 million people a year are displaced due to natural disasters. The vast majority of displacements have been related to extreme weather conditions, whose frequency is increasing as climate change continues.

Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Climate change
or climate crisis?

02

The earth’s climate has always been in a state of flux. But the natural cycle of alternating between ice ages and interglacial periods took place over the course of millennia, and in periods when the current nearly 8 billion people. The speed and intensity of the current climate changes are unprecedented in human history. For this reason, we have begun to speak of a global crisis. Ongoing climate change prevents plants and animals from naturally adapting to current conditions, and affects all areas of human activity. However, developing countries tend to be more seriously impacted by these changes, as they have fewer assets and means of adapting to them. Helping these countries is where we direct our efforts.

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A few degrees make a huge difference

The current level of global warming is at approximately 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. The threshold for dangerous global warming lies between 1.5 and 2°C, and crossing this line will lead to significant changes in living conditions on Earth. According to the findings of the World Meteorological Organization, the average temperature can be expected to exceed 1.5°C of warming by 2026 with up to 40% probability.At this rate, by the year 2100, the threshold of 2.5 to 5°C will be crossed. While the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming is noticeable for humanity and nature, even more warming would be catastrophic.

Source: World Meteorological Organization Source: World Resources Institute, how big is the difference between a 1.5°C and 2°C temperature increase?

More about climate change

Planetary
ecosystems

Global warming is a major threat to many global ecosystems, including rainforests, coral reef ecosystems, and boreal forests. Taken together, these cover one third of Earth’s surface and play a big part in stabilising global climate. Their collapse would lead to further temperature increases and the collapse of other ecosystems.

The Gulf
Stream

The Gulf Stream is a current that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico towards Europe, and it forms an enormous global system of water circulation. However, rapid glacier melts weaken this current. According to scientists’ estimates, at the current rate of global warming, the flow of the Gulf Stream is expected to decline by 11 to 54 percent by the year 2100. The consequences of its slowdown would paradoxically lead to disastrous coastal freezing, which would make many places uninhabitable.

Source: ScienceX

Sea life

A weakened flow of global underwater currents could lead to an even larger decline of oxygen levels in ocean waters, resulting in further decreases in marine populations.

The impacts of climate
change on society

Security

The impacts of climate change are increasing the threat of conflict over natural resources. Water and land are becoming scarce in affected countries, and extreme weather is reducing the certainty of yields in traditional sectors such as pastoralism and agriculture. This leaves people with no choice but to look elsewhere for their livelihoods, and large-scale migrations are increasing. But the destination regions are not prepared for the influx of migrants, which leads to increased poverty, tensions and social disintegration (the breakdown of social systems and their functioning). The situation is then often exploited by extremist organisations. The largest migration in human history has been experienced in recent decades. It has been caused by the direct and indirect effects of climate change: extreme droughts, floods, desertification sometimes followed by overpopulation of pests (e.g. locusts) and subsequent conflicts. By 2050, according to the World Bank, more than 143 million people could be displaced from their homes as a result of conflict over scarce food and water resources and climate-induced natural disasters.

Source: Report Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration

Food and water

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 76 percent of the world’s 124 million people facing crisis levels of acute food insecurity are also affected by extreme weather conditions. At the same time, more than half of the people in developing countries live in communities whose livelihood depends on agriculture, a sector highly sensitive to changes in external conditions. With changes in world temperatures and precipitation levels, it becomes more difficult to produce enough food and ensure a sufficient water supply for the whole community. Moreover, with every drought, desertification increases as well, making irreversible changes to the landscape. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identifies desertification as one of the main threats of climate change and causes of unsustainable land management practices, including overgrazing and deforestation. Desertification can also lead to devastating wildfires.

Source: Organizace pro výživu a zemědělství

Health

According to the IPCC, global warming will have dire health consequences for world populations, especially those living in tropical areas. In places like Africa, temperature increases will lead to an increase in the mosquito population, thus enhancing the risk of malaria, dengue, and other insect-borne infections. Higher temperatures may expose billions of people to deadly infectious diseases. Between 2004 and 2016, the number of disease cases transmitted through the bites of mosquitoes, ticks, or fleas more than tripled, rising from 30,000 to almost 100,000 per year in the USA alone.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Human rights

Environmental activists have become the most threatened activist group of the 21st century. More than 300 human rights activists are killed yearly, most of whom are fighting to protect land, the environment, and the rights of indigenous people. Many more activists fighting against mining, agriculture, tree felling, and other destructive industrial practices are dealing with threats, beatings, and arrests.

How do we get out of this?

03

Global warming affects all of us, but it disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations. We must work to adapt to climate changes, but also to reduce the emissions that accelerate these changes. Adaptation and mitigation measures serve these dual purposes: adaptation strategies involve adjusting to current climate changes or those expected in the future, while mitigation strategies aim to reduce the release of emissions. Adaptation and mitigation must go hand in hand if we are to preserve our planet for future generations.

Adaptation strategies

Measures to reduce our vulnerability to climate change

Cities must find ways of dealing with climate change. One effective adaptation strategy is to create more urban greenspace; trees provide much needed shade and improve air quality. Other adaptation measures, such as air conditioning, are more controversial. While it may bring short-term relief, it also contributes to global warming.

Energy conservation and its efficient use
Transition to zero-emission energy sources
Industrial decarbonisation
Sustainable zero-emission transport (electricity powered public transport, bicycles etc.)
Carbon tax and emission trading

Mitigation strategy

Measures to reduce the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere

One example of a mitigation strategy is to accelerate the transition from coal-fired power plants to solar energy. However, this is not a simple change; the effectiveness of solar panels must be monitored, they must be recycled and disposed of appropriately, and energy storage continues to present a challenge.

Safer buildings and infrastructure, city adaptations including green spaces and water sources, air conditioning
Landscape restoration, water retention, and forestation
Food safety and crop diversification
Technological development and socio-ecological innovation strategies
Early warning systems, early disaster management
Energy conservation and its efficient use
Transition to zero-emission energy sources
Industrial decarbonisation
Sustainable zero-emission transport (electricity powered public transport, bicycles etc.)
Carbon tax and emission trading
Safer buildings and infrastructure, city adaptations including green spaces and water sources, air conditioning
Landscape restoration, water retention, and forestation
Food safety and crop diversification
Technological development and socio-ecological innovation strategies
Early warning systems, early disaster management

A systemic approach to the fight against climate change

All of humanity needs to come together in the fight against climate change. But the responsibility for taking action lies with those who have contributed to it the most.

A systemic approach is key when dealing with the climate crisis. It starts with international agreements and continues at the national level of every country. The role of national governments is to coordinate the processes, provide financial support, and find ways to make citizens’ investments into adaptation and mitigation strategies pay off.

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International agreements are crucial to fighting climate change. There have been many international conferences dedicated to the topic, resulting in several agreements aiming to reduce emissions. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Paris Agreement are the most prominent examples.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)

The UNFCC was the first global treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, serving as a foundation for subsequent international agreements on climate change. The agreement entered into force in 1994, and by 2021 had been signed by 197 countries.

The Paris Agreement

Signed in 2015, the Paris Agreement outlined the steps to creating a global strategy for fighting climate change until the year 2020. Countries were tasked with keeping global temperature rise under 2°C, and could also commit to maintaining temperature rise under 1.5°C. The treaty’s weakness was the absence of sanctions or other enforcement measures ensuring compliance.(update to 2021?)

The impact of an individual consumer’s behaviour on climate change is small, but our joint effort is not negligible. It can lead to changes in discourse, and influence public and private sector action, as well as create shifts in the mentality and behaviour of future generations.

Civil activism

Through activism, citizens can hold politicians accountable for fulfilling their obligations.

Volunteering & Donating

NGOs have a strong voice and the tools needed to mitigate the effects of climate change, thus creating new opportunities for a greener society.

Consumer behaviour

Mass changes in consumer behaviour are forcing large companies to turn towards more sustainable means of production.

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Our activities

04

People in Need (PIN) responds to climate change in the Czech Republic and around the world. It helps manage crisis situations and disasters, and has long been dedicated to their prevention. PIN is constantly looking for ways to help people face these challenges at the individual, municipal, communal, and regional levels. We help local communities implement innovative and sustainable adaptation and mitigation strategies; educate, protect, and promote human rights; respond to human rights abuses; strengthen civil society; and inspire action.

The arid Czech Republic

Rivers drying out, desolate fields, empty wells. The Czech Republic has been feeling the effects of climate change for some time now. We will continue to face heat waves, droughts, and flash floods with ever-increasing frequency, which will affect both our national and individual coffers.

More about climate in Czech republic

The Climate Protection Policy
of the Czech Republic

We are not prepared for the changes that our country is facing. The Climate Protection Policy of the Czech Republic specifies the objectives in the field of climate protection up to 2030, with a plan for low-emission development up to 2050.

Forestry

In addition to spruce and larch trees, trees with deeper root systems such as pines are struggling to survive changes in the local climate. Rising temperatures also lead to pest infestations and the continued degradation of forests.

Agriculture

Lower-lying areas will continue to be especially vulnerable to agricultural droughts, which are exacerbated by soil degradation. This will have significant impacts on the volume and quality of agricultural yields.

Water resource management

As a result of climate change and subsequent shifts in the distribution of precipitation, there will be a faster outflow of water from the landscape, which will reduce water levels in water bodies. The water will be warmer and be of lower quality. The demands on electricity consumption and the frequency of power outages will increase.

Urban space

Cities will see an increase in the frequency of floods, heat waves, and droughts, as well as the depletion of groundwater sources. Densely built-up areas are already facing urban heat islands, which makes summers there increasingly unpleasant. The preservation of biodiversity and healthy landscapes in cities will continue to be a challenge.

Understanding climate change

05

Developing and promoting environmental literacy, studying the dynamics of climate change, and understanding the impacts of human activity – these are the fundamental building blocks that will help us comprehend and improve our relationship with the environment.

More on education

Identifying credible sources

It is not easy to distinguish facts from half-truths, myths, or outright misinformation, especially on topics as complex as climate change. Relying on experts is generally a good solution: climatologists for global data, social scientists for analysis on societal impacts, etc. At the same time, we should retain a certain degree of scepticism when working with information that does not refer to the original source. We have put together a list of reliable sources of information on climate change – the sources we trust and can vouch for!

Source overview

What are you asking?

Humans have done considerable damage to the planet over the last century, making action to reverse course and protect climate an absolute priority. Although the commitments made to this end during the Paris Agreement in 2015 may not be fully kept, giving up on the effort to save the planet is out of the question. While much of the damage caused by human activity is irreversible, it is still possible to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to rehabilitate the earth’s ecosystems.

If previous epochs in human history have been characterised by struggles against the natural elements and pernicious ideologies, the coming epoch must be entirely devoted to the renewal of the biosphere. We must learn from our mistakes and adapt to change.
Despite 26 international conferences on climate change, global emissions are still on the rise. But international negotiation on the scale of these conferences is a small miracle in human history. Never before have so many nations sat down together to try to solve such a critical, complex problem.

At first glance, these conferences might seem like just a lot of talk, but they are built on years of intensive work by hundreds of delegates and experts. Although the decisions reached at the conferences are not binding, there is significant pressure on national governments by civil society to consider their enforcement; an active civil society plays a key role in setting ambitious goals and advocating for compliance. And adherence to climatic goals is now a matter of prestige not only for political parties but also for multinational corporations. However, any attempt at enforcement by agencies such as the United Nations would risk a backlash that would make joint action impossible.
Emission allowances motivate companies to transit to clean energy resources. In line with their purpose, they become more expensive every year, and as such, they account for roughly 20 percent of the current rise in energy prices.

The main reason for the rise in energy prices, however, is high demand for natural gas. The use of fossil fuels drives up prices and exposes the economy to fluctuations in the fuel market. The best way to prevent these shocks is through the development of renewable resources.

The Czech Republic’s slow transition to renewables has contributed to the jump in energy prices. If the Czech government had introduced renewables sooner, our energy prices would not be increasing so dramatically.
 
Czech society is willing to change its lifestyle in response to climate change and biodiversity loss. but not at the expense of the standard of living. However, the question of whether a sustainable economy will require lowering living standards is moot and requires a better definition of quality of life, one which is based not only on wealth and consumption, but also on interpersonal relations, safety, and personal and environmental health. Taking this definition into account, ecological transition is a way to foster a significant increase in our quality of life while reducing our environmental impact.
The production and operation of electric cars can have a significant environmental footprint, related to the extraction of rare raw materials needed for the production of batteries. However, these vehicles do not create air pollution and they can theoretically be powered by solar panels, which would eliminate the need to transport and burn fossil fuels.  

As the demand for electric cars grows, so does the demand for batteries and the rare materials they contain: nickel, cobalt, and lithium. The impacts of material extraction adversely affect the lives of residents, mine workers, and ecosystems such as rainforests or coral reefs. The key to lessening these impacts is the reuse of materials and the implementation of more environmentally-friendly mining methods.
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