These 8 Industries Are Being Called to Address Climate Change in 2024

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In the face of escalating climate crises, the need for urgent action is more pronounced than ever. Eight key industries are pivotal in mitigating climate change and forging a sustainable future.

If you’re looking for a career change that involves fighting for the planet, you can make the most impact in these sectors.  

The Earth Is Warming Faster 

2023 was the hottest year recorded since global temperature monitoring began in 1880. The same year, the Antarctic sea ice coverage hit a record low, increasing the risks of rising ocean levels and coastal erosion. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that 6.55 million square miles of ice sheets were lost in September. 

These are troubling indicators of a world buckling under the weight of climate change. The effects could be catastrophic. If the Earth continues to heat up by just 0.5 degrees Celsius, around 410 million people would lose access to water, 16% of plant life would be lost and 37% of the global population would be exposed to extreme heat waves. 

There’s still a chance to avoid such a grim outcome. Consumerism is at the epicenter of human-induced global warming and is where sustainability efforts must be strongest. 

These 8 Industries Must Address Climate Change in 2024

The UN Environmental Program (UNEP) has highlighted six industries where taking decisive action now can reduce up to 30 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. However, there are two additional sectors you should know about, as they account for a huge chunk of global carbon emissions and are overdue for increased scrutiny.

1. Transportation

Burning fossil fuels for land, sea and air travel causes significant environmental damage. The EPA has implemented several measures to minimize this impact, including a regulation to reduce up to 6 billion metric tons of GHG emissions for passenger vehicles and trucks sold between 2012 and 2025. 

Individuals also have a role to play in this industry. For one, you can prioritize more sustainable options like cycling or walking when traveling shorter distances. Consider switching to electric vehicles — they have zero tailpipe emissions, plus you get to enjoy tax benefits and other government incentives. 

2. Construction 

The building industry is responsible for 37% of annual global GHG emissions and is long overdue for a sustainability overhaul. Decarbonizing the sector requires a combination of innovative approaches, including repurposing existing buildings, adopting greener materials and minimizing waste. 

As an impetus, builders that actively address environmental impact can increase their profits. Green structures tend to have higher occupancy rates and rental premium revenues, offsetting the costs of investing in eco-friendly materials and practices. 

3. Energy 

Energy generation has long been a key driver of climate change. Minimizing the industry’s ecological footprint is a complex endeavor — growing populations and economies are ramping up power demand and will likely continue over the coming decades.

Additionally, oil, gas and coal explorations are highly profitable, even accounting for a large portion of some countries’ GDPs. As such, it will take a while to facilitate a complete breakaway from fossil fuel dependence. 

However, every decarbonization effort counts and can catalyze more profound change. Moreover, many solutions to address the industry’s environmental impact already exist. The UNEP report shows that adopting renewable energy-based heating and cooling systems can reduce up to 7.3 gigatonnes of annual emissions.

4. Agriculture

Roughly 12% of global GHG emissions come from food production. The industry is also the largest emitter of methane, a potent gas with significantly higher damage potential than CO2. Additionally, agriculture is responsible for the bulk of freshwater withdrawals worldwide.

Addressing climate change in this sector will be difficult, given its importance to humanity. Current mitigation strategies involve adopting clean energy technologies for farming, applying eco-friendly fertilizers and implementing conservation practices. 

5. Industrial

The industrial sector comprises manufacturing, mechanical applications and chemical processing companies—all critical economic growth drivers. Nearly 30% of GHG emissions in the U.S. come from this industry, which makes the need for climate change solutions increasingly expedient. 

Reducing the environmental impact will require a transition to carbon-neutral operations and value chains. As a consumer, you also have a significant say in this endeavor by promoting eco-consciousness in your purchasing decisions. For instance, prioritizing locally made products can reduce the strain on the supply chain across the board. 

6. Natural Resource Extraction

Stripping the planet of its natural resources is bound to have devastating consequences. At the same time, mining, deforestation and freshwater withdrawals show no signs of slowing down. In fact, the UN’s Global Resource Outlook for 2024 shows resource extraction could increase by 60% by 2060.

Recycling is the key to addressing climate change caused by this industry. By reusing and repurposing materials, manufacturers can reduce their reliance on the Earth’s minerals and minimize waste in landfills. These practices are good for the economy, too. The EPA estimates that 1,000 tons of recycled materials equate to 1.17 jobs and over $65 in wages. 

7. Health Care 

If the global medical industry were a country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest GHG emitter. However, beyond reducing its carbon footprint, the sector must also step up efforts to mitigate the health impact of rising global warming. Increasingly frequent heat waves, hurricanes and floods significantly raise the risks of physical and mental health challenges. 

Climate change will likely worsen health inequity, exposing people in developing regions and persons with disabilities to the brunt of its effects. The world will need a proliferation of medical personnel specializing in physical-based rehabilitation and treatments to strategize disaster preparedness and recovery methods. 

8. Fashion 

The frantic pace of fast fashion is a huge cause of concern from a sustainability standpoint. Without urgent abatement measures, the industry’s carbon emissions could reach 2.7 billion metric tons yearly by 2030. 

Decarbonization measures across the value chain — fabric processing, garment manufacturing, storage and supply — can cut emissions by around 60%, fueling an industry-wide change. 

What Is Biden Doing About Climate Change? 

The most significant climate action taken by the Biden administration to date was signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law in 2022. The act allocates hundreds of billions of dollars for environmental disaster mitigation, clean energy integrations, electric vehicle adoptions and more. 

In 2023, the President reaffirmed the country’s commitment to meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius goal set by the Paris Agreement with an ambitious plan to reduce 50%-52% of GHG emissions by 2030. The U.S. also provided $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund to support climate action in developing countries. 

The coming years should see increased efforts toward implementing previously agreed sustainability measures, especially those outlined in the recent COP 27 and COP 28 Climate Change conferences. 

Address Climate Change Now or Risk Humanity’s Future 

Avoiding the worst of global warming is a collective responsibility. As these industries take active steps to minimize their contributions to climate change, so must you and every individual.

The time is now to face this global challenge together or risk a future riddled with frequent floods, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and other devastations. 

  • Beth Rush

    Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind, a health and wellness brand. She covers topics like sustainable agriculture and plant-based recipes. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!

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