Now that we’ve arrived at a new year it’s time to consider what might be coming up with respect to telework and climate change. The short answer is that the future of telework looks rosy while the future of the climate continues to be grim. Further, although telework is looking good some of its disruptive side effects are definitely appearing. While global warming continues pretty much unabated, reductions in the rate of increase appear on the horizon.
Here are some details.
A major side effect of the Covid pandemic was the almost instant rush of office workers from downtowns to home offices. Now that Covid is essentially over in the United States and Europe, if not in China, many tradition-minded executives demanded that their employees return full-time to their central urban offices. That usually didn’t work. Those millions of workers who have experienced working from home for more than two years are resisting going back to the old ways full time.
Consequently, the bosses (rightly) are forced to bargain with their office workforces to spend at least some face-to-face time with their colleagues in the old, newly mostly empty, office buildings. Countrywide, it seems that matters have settled down to those teleworkers splitting their time between home and former office. Mostly mid-week in the office. That situation looks to be relatively permanent while, a few months ago, that was still not clear.
Unfortunately, those changes have had side effects for all the office support activities that depended daily on large numbers of downtown office workers. These include shops, bars and restaurants, and other office-related services that have found their clients gone or less often around. Many of these services have been forced to close or move to areas where their former patrons now spend more of their time.
Yet this suddenly diminished demand for those services in downtown areas has given rise to increased demand for them in the neighborhoods where the telecommuters live. The result is that cities, built on the assumption that there will always be a flow into and out of the city center, now have to consider redoing their local plans. This is of special importance for those suburban or semi-rural communities faced with an influx of home workers. There, instead of having to cope with numbers of empty offices, they are running short of the related services and service workers.
All this shifting and moving, toing and froing, is likely to take several months, if not years, to settle down.
Meanwhile, the greater world of humanity appears to be going on as if nothing is happening, climate-wise, except for increasing wringing of hands and puzzling or startling weather. After the disappointing conclusion of COP* 27 the forthcoming COP 28 will be headed by the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company who advocates a tripling of renewable energy generation by 2030 while concentrating fossil fuel development to the most efficient operators (of which ADNOC is one, of course). Is the fox in the hen house? Will COP28 yield even more inaction?
In the real world, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is steadily increasing at a linear rate while methane concentration is increasing exponentially. The methane contribution is likely the result of pipeline leakages and permafrost melting as a consequence of prior warming. Expect methane to be a growing problem. A graph of the temperature history, as well as a map of the situation, is available from the European Union’s Copernicus Programme, among others.
As another reminder of today’s situation, here is my graph from my September2, 2021 blog concerning the penalties of waiting to act. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere has kept rising since then and promises to do so for at least the rest of this year. So the world will then need to reduce atmospheric CO2 by 13% annually in order to get to 50% of where we were in 2020. That’s when we were at 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial level.
At present the global surface temperature average is 1.2 °C above that of the pre-industrial world. That has produced the weather and related impacts the continue today. If the temperature trend continues as it has been over the last decade then we will reach 1.5 °C in 2034. Clearly, at the current rate of change, there is no hope of confining global warming to 1.5C.
Many governments around the world, including the United States and the European Union countries, have initiated programs to address the problem, but their combined efforts to date have not been and will not be enough. The United Nations have been doing the Conference of Parties program for 27 years and, while there have been mountains of talk, the practical results so far are molehills.
We can no longer afford to wait for governments to act decisively. Businesses are starting to take the initiative and so must we. We have to do it ourselves. I started active work on telecommuting fifty years ago this year. We can’t wait that long to make climate healing happen.
Here are three things you can do now, or very soon, to reduce your CO2 production rate:
- Reduce your driving; including by teleworking.clim
- Trade in your combustion engine vehicle.
- Stop taking long plane trips.
Happy new healing!
*The United Nation’s Conference of Parties (COP), where “Party” refers to a nation. CEO means Chief Executive Officer