Fashion’s Rising Heat Index

Blog Post by: Karun Tyagi

In at least one year between 2023 and 2027, there is a 66% probability that global temperatures will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). There is a 98% probability that at least one of the next five years will be the warmest on record, according to the report.

The findings of the WMO are a stark warning about the acceleration of climate change. The 1.5 degree Celsius threshold is regarded as a crucial transition point, beyond which the effects of climate change will become considerably more severe.

According to the report, the primary causes of climate change are human activities, such as the combustion of fossil fuels. These activities emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which retain heat and contribute to global warming.

It is evident from the WMO’s findings that the world is not on course to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

If the world persists on its current trajectory, it will be “very difficult” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the report’s authors. The window of opportunity for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is swiftly closing.

The report from the WMO is a stark reminder of the imperative need to address climate change. If the world fails to act immediately, the consequences will be catastrophic.

Here are a few of the most significant impacts of climate change that are already being felt globally:

  • More extreme weather conditions, including heat surges, droughts, floods, and wildfires.
  • Increasing sea levels, which put at risk coastal communities worldwide.
  • Variations in agricultural yields have an effect on food security.
  • Changes in plant and animal life, with some species moving to new areas and others becoming extinct.
  • Water scarcity.
  • Increased risk of conflict, as people compete for resources.
  • The proliferation of diseases such as viral infections dengue fever and malaria.

The impacts of climate change will be felt disproportionately by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. These people are already struggling to cope with the effects of climate change, and they will be even more vulnerable as the impacts get worse.

The WMO report is a call to action for all nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately. If we do not act immediately, the consequences of climate change will be catastrophic for humanity and the planet.

Climate change impacts at 1.5°C and 2°C warming:

Sea level rise: With a 1.5°C increase in temperature, sea level is anticipated to rise by 0.4 metres (1.3 feet). This would flood coastal areas and force millions of people to flee. Sea level is anticipated to rise by 0.6 metre (2 feet) for every 2°C increase in temperature. This would flood even more coastal areas and force even more people to flee.

Extreme weather phenomena, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and storms, are anticipated to become more frequent and severe with 1.5°C and 2°C warming, respectively. These occurrences will inflict extensive destruction and loss of lives. According to a World Bank research, a 2°C increase in global temperatures might expose an additional 140 million people to intense heat waves each year. 

Agriculture: Climate change is predicted to have a significant influence on agriculture, with yields dropping in many locations. This will result in food scarcity and price rises. According to a study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, a 2°C increase in global temperatures might result in a 12% decrease in global crop output. Food shortages could occur in many parts of the world, particularly in poor countries.

Water resources: Due to both climate change and population expansion, water resources are predicted to become increasingly scarce in many locations. This will result in competition for water, which may lead to war. According to a United Nations research, a 2°C increase in global temperatures might result in a 7% decrease in world water availability. This might cause water scarcity in many parts of the world, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions.

Health: Heat waves, air pollution, and vector-borne diseases are all anticipated to become more widespread as a result of climate change. According to a World Health Organisation research, climate change is already responsible for an estimated 150,000 fatalities per year. A 2°C increase in global temperatures could result in an additional 250,000 deaths from heat-related illnesses per year.

The fashion industry is a significant contributor to global warming. It accounts for approximately 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the aviation and maritime industries combined.

  • Carbon Couture in the Fashion Industry: The fashion industry’s contribution to rising temperatures begins with carbon emissions. Clothing production involves energy-intensive operations such as textile manufacturing, dyeing fabrics, and transportation. Because of their dependency on fossil fuels, synthetic fibres such as polyester, which are commonly used in fast fashion, have a very high carbon impact. Furthermore, the industry’s global supply network needs substantial transportation, which adds to carbon emissions.
  • Deforestation and Emissions: Deforestation is another key way the fashion industry promotes rising temperatures. Demand for products like leather, wood pulp for viscose, and cotton promotes forest clearance, releasing carbon dioxide into the environment. Deforestation destroys essential ecosystems, decreases the planet’s carbon-absorption capacity, and adds to the greenhouse effect.
  • Water Scarcity and Heat Stress: Water usage is a significant topic related to the impact of fashion on rising temperatures. Cotton, a widely used fabric, necessitates substantial irrigation, resulting in water constraint in many areas. Furthermore, the dyeing and finishing operations use a lot of water, which causes pollution and strains the water supply even more. Heat stress is exacerbated by the combination of water scarcity and rising temperatures, harming both human populations and ecosystems.
  • Fast Fashion and Waste Generation: The rise of fast fashion has had a detrimental impact on temperature rise. With its emphasis on quick turnover and low-cost garments, this industry segment generates a staggering amount of textile waste. Most discarded clothing ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and emits greenhouse gases, including methane, a potent contributor to climate change. Additionally, the production of textiles requires resources and energy, leading to a vicious cycle of waste and environmental degradation.

The fashion industry can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of means. These consist of:

  1. The fashion industry can use more sustainable materials, such as recycled polyester and organic cotton. Producing these materials requires less energy and water, and produces fewer greenhouse gases.
  2. Improving energy efficiency: The manufacturing process of the fashion industry can be made more energy efficient. This can be accomplished through the use of more energy-efficient devices and renewable energy sources.
  3. Reducing transportation emissions: The fashion industry can reduce transportation emissions by procuring local materials and producing garments closer to where they will be sold.
  4. The fashion industry is capable of designing garments that are constructed to last longer. This can be accomplished by utilising durable materials and creating clothing that is simple to repair.
  5. The fashion industry can encourage consumers to purchase less clothing  and  making it simpler to recycle and donate clothing.
  6. The fashion industry plays a significant role in combating climate change. By reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, the industry can help avert the most severe consequences of climate change.

Image by Freepik


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