How a circular economy is key to averting catastrophic climate change

Published on the 12th of October 2018

The IPCC report on the consequences of exceeding 1.5 degrees of warming has rippled out across the world, prompting now-familiar responses ranging from dire warnings of apocalypse, to urgent calls to action, to outright denial of scientific facts.

“You’re looking at an ever greater loss of biodiversity, worsening storms, ever-more people thrust into poverty, and relentlessly shrinking yields for essential crops like rice and maize and wheat,” read Wired’s take on the report findings.

With as few as 12 years left until the world is projected to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming – which will have serious consequences in itself – before ramping up towards the vastly more destabilizing scenario of 2 degrees and beyond, the IPCC’s experts are urging an immediate and complete rework of how our global economy functions. These calls for a transition come at a time when nationalistic movements, often hostile to climate science, are rising to power around the world on platforms of unilateral self-interest over international cooperation, and economic growth over minimizing environmental impacts. Climate change is likely to only worsen the moribund economic circumstances of regions where such movements are growing in stature.

To address the climate crisis at the required speed without drastically impacting current standards of living, the circular economy could be key. A circular economy – which at a basic level is a system that continuously cycles materials at high value – can not only head off the more serious consequences of climate change, but improve human quality of life and regional economic systems at the same time. As one example, a study from the Club of Rome found that a set of circular economy policies could reduce Sweden’s carbon emissions by almost 70% and cut unemployment by a third.

A circular economy can help tackle climate change by:

These are just some of the ways that a circular economy can immediately help reduce carbon emissions while boosting a new form of economic development. These changes can be introduced at scale in the current system as the first steps towards a truly circular economy, which we see having far more profound benefits for biodiversity, human health, and culture.

For more information on Metabolic’s circular thinking, read about our seven pillars of the circular economy.

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