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The Science of Climate Change

Climate change is no longer a distant threat or just a possibility, it is now a reality for all of us. In this pathway, Kevin Trenberth, a renowned climatologist, delves into the science behind climate change. He first introduces the climate system, its main components and forces.

Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

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The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

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Featured Pathways

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The Science of Climate Change

Climate change is no longer a distant threat or just a possibility, it is now a reality for all of us. In this pathway, Kevin Trenberth, a renowned climatologist, delves into the science behind climate change. He first introduces the climate system, its main components and forces.

Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

More pathways

Ready to get started?

PLANS & MEMBERSHIP

Our Platform

Expert led content

+1,000 expert presented, on-demand video modules

Learning analytics

Keep track of learning progress with our comprehensive data

Interactive learning

Engage with our video hotspots and knowledge check-ins

Testing & certification

Gain CPD / CPE credits and professional certification

Managed learning

Build, scale and manage your organisation’s learning

Integrations

Connect Sustainability Unlocked to your current platform

Featured Content

More featured content

The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

More featured content

Ready to get started?

Ready to get started?

Interpreting Carbon Calories

Interpreting Carbon Calories

Michelle Horsfield

25 years: Sustainable Finance

In this video, Michelle Horsfield breaks down the basics of how we can interpret our “carbon calories”. She provides a framework to guide our sense of scale when it comes to understanding the jargon around carbon emissions.

In this video, Michelle Horsfield breaks down the basics of how we can interpret our “carbon calories”. She provides a framework to guide our sense of scale when it comes to understanding the jargon around carbon emissions.

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Interpreting Carbon Calories

9 mins 48 secs

Overview

In order for us to mitigate the climate crisis, we should be reducing our carbon emissions by 5% a year, every year. This needs to start right from the individual level, through our personal activities. To understand this, all of us need to be aware of how to interpret our “carbon calories” and form a sense of scale.

Key learning objectives:

  • Understand the range of carbon dioxide emissions at an individual level

  • Understand the range of carbon dioxide emissions at a bigger level (large corporate or country)

  • Outline how we can reach our net zero targets by reducing emissions

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Summary
How do personal activities contribute to carbon dioxide emissions?

Personal activities emit carbon dioxide in small units and the little things add up. Activities like eating a cheeseburger generate 3 kg of carbon dioxide and leaving the oven on for 2 hours produces 20 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

How are bigger scale emissions and activities reported?

Carbon dioxide emissions are usually reported on an annual basis. Significant activities are grouped together For example, an annual train commute generates 130 kg, and purchasing a new laptop emits 250 kg of carbon dioxide.

In northern Europe, the biggest contributors to a household's carbon emissions are annual household electricity use, generating 1.3 tonnes, and annual car mileage, which emits 1.7 tonnes. The largest contributor, however, is burning gas in boilers for heating and hot water, producing 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

What scale do big emitters operate on in terms of carbon dioxide emissions?

Big emitters operate on a much larger scale, in thousands and millions of tonnes. For example, an airport might generate 10 thousand tonnes, while bigger businesses like a global pharmaceutical firm might produce 100 thousand tonnes. The emissions of big companies or even whole countries are measured in millions of tonnes (M tonnes) of CO2e, where e indicates that other greenhouse gases like methane have been converted into equivalent carbon dioxide emissions.

Scope 3 emissions account for the impact of a company's products. When included, it can significantly increase the carbon footprint. For example, an oil and gas company emitting 40 million tonnes from its operations might produce 400 million tonnes when accounting for the impact of its products. 

What is the key to tackling carbon emissions?

Making small changes is crucial to addressing carbon emissions. Starting with smaller things like shifts in diet or travel plans helps people understand carbon accounting concepts and the carbon budget, leading to larger changes. Switching to a vegan diet could save 8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, almost a quarter of global man-made emissions. A flexitarian diet, where 75% of meat and dairy are replaced by cereals and pulses, could save 5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.

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Michelle Horsfield

Michelle Horsfield

Michelle Horsfield, an environmental scientist with a climate change specialisation, transitioned into the financial sector four years ago to apply her knowledge to the largest reallocation of capital in history, as the economy moves towards a lower carbon future.

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