July has been a testimony to the fact that the world needs dramatic and immediate action in the face of worsening climate change. Wildfires raging across Itlay, Greece, Tunisia, and Algeria, disastrous flash floods in the Hudson Valley, and heavy rain across central and southwestern China. These are only some of the examples of extreme climate disasters taking place around the world in July alone. The climate emergency is no longer imminent, it is already here.
“All this is entirely consistent with predictions and repeated warnings. The only surprise is the speed of the change. Climate change is here, it is terrifying, and it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived,” stated António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in a recent press conference. His warning about global warming is supported by the fact that July has been the hottest month on record with scientists claiming that it is most likely the warmest period in around 120,000 years.
According to data from Copernicus, the EU’s Climate Change Service, 21 out of the 30 warmest days on record globally are now from July 2023. Copernicus director Carlo Buontempo admitted that “In all likelihood, we have never experienced a world so hot in modern history.” His claims were supported by a statement in Politico from Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist from Leipzig University. “We have paleoclimatic data, and they go back millions of years,” he said. “And it’s likely that the Eemian … was the last time it was this warm. So, there’s a decent chance that this month is essentially the warmest since.”
This alarming rise in temperature and the resultant calamities can be directly linked to human activity. Guterres stated, “For vast parts of North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, it is a cruel summer. For the entire planet, it is a disaster. And for scientists, it is unequivocal – humans are to blame.” The burning of fossil fuels emerges as a leading contributor as emissions trap excess heat from the sun and cause a warming of the climate. According to the UN, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions, more than aviation and shipping combined.
“Time is running out and yet the majority of the fashion industry continues to dig their heels in and refuse to change. We cannot shop our way out of the climate crisis, we cannot recycle our way out of overproduction and frankly, there is no fashion on a dead planet,” stated Liv Simpliciano, Policy and Research Manager at Fashion Revolution, in the Fashion Transparency Index 2023 report. The index analyses and ranks 250 of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers based on their public disclosure of human rights and environmental policies and impacts.
The 2023 index determined that while some progress has been made, the industry is still not doing enough. An overwhelming 94% of major brands do not reveal what fuel is being used in their manufacturing process, while 18 major brands including Max Mara, Tom Ford, and Savage x Fenty scored 0%. On the upside, for the first time since the index started publishing two brands scored 80% or higher – Italian brand OVS and Gucci. Additionally, “the five biggest movers this year are all luxury brands (Gucci, Armani, Jil Sander, Miu Miu, and Prada), with the biggest increase being Gucci by 21 percentage points. This demonstrates that big strides in transparency are achievable if there is the will.”
Such transparency is imperative to ensuring that the industry no longer causes disasters such as microplastics from synthetic clothing being found in the Marianas Trench or the massive mounds of clothes visible from space in the Atacama desert dumpsite in Chile. Reducing fossil fuel consumption must remain at the core of environmental efforts. In a recent joint statement Cop28 president Sultan Al Jaber and UN climate chief Simon Stiell stated, “Together, we must take necessary steps to accelerate the inevitable phase-down of all fossil fuels in a responsible manner, in order to have an energy system free of unabated fossil fuels by the middle of this century while enabling access for all and promoting sustainable development.”