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Tuesday, 19 March 2019

A new angle on sustainablity: the impact of diversity

Thursday, 21 August 2014 | Posted by: Tony Mash, TMA Consulting Inc.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been making a number of statements recently about its findings concerning climate change. This learned international organisation has concluded that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere has grown to levels not seen for 3 million years and that about half of cumulative anthropogenic CO₂ emissions between 1750 and 2010 have occurred in the last 40 years.
The IPCC’s theme is not new but the language used has turned from one of finding a corrective solution to one of problem mitigation.

We are going to have to adapt to live with the consequences of climate change in terms of increased air and sea temperatures and perhaps more variable weather patterns too. However, we can impact the degree to which our lives and those of future generations will be altered from current levels. This is where sustainable development has a key role to play.

In the past, this blog has referred to the many initiatives that are being developed and exploited today across the globe and require support from the coatings industry. Enhanced functionality of coatings, increased longevity and substrate protection, use of non-toxic materials and waste paint recovery schemes all contribute to sustainable development.

Then there is diversity. The concept of diversity recognises that, as the world changes and it will, only those that have the flexibility to adapt will survive. At the recent AC SHOW and CONFERENCE in Atlanta, an opinion poll was taken in which participants were asked whether they saw a future for renewable raw materials. Nearly 90% of respondents believed that renewable materials would replace 20% or less of the supply slate over the next 5 years. Frankly speaking, that’s not enough!

Many of the renewable materials currently on offer are more expensive than the traditional materials they are targeted to replace. Much of this lack of cost competitiveness is derived from the present low volume of demand which fails to benefit from economies of scale. 

This blog argues that the coatings industry needs to plan now for a more diverse set of raw material sources to increase its adaptability to climate change. To rely on petrochemical feedstocks and other finite sources of raw materials alone leaves the industry open to both shortages in the long term and strong criticism by society in the shorter term as CO₂ levels in the atmosphere continue to rise.

I have heard it said that it takes a crisis to deliver significant change and improvement. The recent report from the IPCC indicates to me that a crisis is not far away, and that the Coatings Industry has a leading role to play in mitigation to help the world avoid the most potentially serious scenarios described by climate change experts.

We have been warned!

Tony Mash

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