The Arctic is in crisis, warming three times faster than the rest of the planet. To many of us, this crisis seems remote, but we are all contributing to this warming. In turn, climate change in the Arctic is affecting the entire planet and accelerating global warming. For instance, Arctic warming is altering the jet stream, impacting weather patterns and storm activity. It is melting the Greenland ice sheet, threatening coastal populations worldwide, and thawing the permafrost, under which lie vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Melting summer sea ice is exposing the darker sea surface, creating a heat sink and speeding the warming process.
Now, corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs can join in, providing solutions to this emerging crisis. SCS has developed new tools to help you:
Most people assume that Arctic warming is simply a consequence of global warming. However, that is only part of the story. At least half the warming occurring in the Arctic is caused by regional emissions of, short-lived greenhouse gases and aerosols such as black carbon and tropospheric ozone. These short-lived climate pollutants are not accounted for by current carbon registries or offset programs, or regulated as such. As a result, until now, companies and governments have had no incentive to set reduction goals for these pollutants from a climate change perspective. Additionally, the near-term potency of methane as a greenhouse gas has been understated until quite recently, thereby undervaluing efforts to reduce emissions.
Every company, organization, city and individual has an Arctic Climate Footprint, no matter where we live, work or operate. This is due in part to the fact that in today’s global market, products, materials and supplies are regularly transported by air or ship through or near the Arctic, resulting in the release of highly potent emissions. Personal and business air travel through the region is another factor. Simultaneously, GHG emissions from sources far from the Arctic can transport into the region, including methane, one of the chief culprits in Arctic climate change.
Because black carbon and tropospheric ozone are only present for days or weeks in the atmosphere, stopping or slowing these emissions at the source can have immediate positive effects for the region and the planet. In addition, efforts to control methane releases can reap much larger benefits than previously recognized. By focusing on such efforts, companies, organizations and agencies can work independently and collaboratively to substantially slow down Arctic warming within this critical decade.
SCS is an internationally accredited carbon offset verifier and long-time LCA practitioner. We provide a full suite of LCA services for companies who wish to establish their environmental impact profiles to support internal decision-making or public claims. In addition, we are accredited to:
SCS has been at the forefront of developing methods to calculate Arctic Climate Footprints, incorporating the latest climate science findings into an advanced life cycle assessment (LCA) framework. The importance of these upgrades is summarized here, while scientific studies and recent articles are referenced below.
The advanced climate accounting protocols used to calculate the Arctic Climate Footprint integrate these findings through: 1) inclusion of all climate pollutants, including black carbon and the precursors of tropospheric ozone, as well as the updated potency value for methane; 2) consideration of shorter timeframes to better reflect the actual pace at which impacts are occurring and emissions reductions are needed; and 3) development of specific climate accounting protocols for regional climate “hot spots” such as the Arctic. The protocols integrate the work of NASA, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), and other leading institutions. Experts, including scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Stanford University, are providing independent technical review to ensure the soundness of these accounting metrics.
It is a measure of how much your product, system, service, company, organization is contributing to climate change in the Arctic region. The footprint is calculated using advanced LCA, based on regional impacts and integrating the near-term timeframes within which these impacts are projected to occur. It is also the basis against which improvements can be measured and offset credits can be established.
Conventional carbon footprints report your contribution to global climate change from emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other long-lived greenhouse gases (GHGs) identified under the Kyoto Protocol. The Arctic Climate Footprint focuses on your contribution to Arctic warming, where surface temperatures are rising nearly three times faster than the rest of the planet. The Arctic Climate Footprint is more comprehensive, including a broader range of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and calibrated to the near-term impacts these climate forcers are having in the region.
Every company, organization, city and individual has an Arctic Climate Footprint, no matter where we live, work or operate. Given the rate at which the Arctic is warming, and its potentially catastrophic consequences, it is incumbent upon all of us to determine how we can slow this warming as part of our sustainability planning. The Arctic Climate Footprint is a tool to help guide responsible and practical measures to slow this warming and make a significant contribution to the long-term health and well-being of our businesses and the planet.
Companies who become Arctic Climate Neutral zero out their Arctic climate footprints by mitigating emissions, instituting climate cooling measures that can be independently verified, or sponsoring verified Arctic Climate Offset projects. Companies that make serious strides toward becoming Arctic Neutral can become part of Arctic Climate Protection Network and publicly assert their leadership efforts with third-party certification.