August 10 – The recently released 2021 report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the State of the Climate has left many people desperate this week. In short, we are almost at the point of no return when it comes to catastrophic climate change.
But, there is hope if people see it more as a call to action.
First, it is important to note that much of the responsibility for preventing catastrophic global climate change does not lie with the individual. A 2017 report from the Climate Accountability Institute found that only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988 (and fossil fuel companies have long lobbied to control climate change discourse to blame individuals). The IPCC report describes ways in which policymakers need to regulate greenhouse gas emissions on a larger scale to avoid catastrophic climate change.
This doesn’t mean that individual choices don’t matter. This is the case, especially when it can lead to collective action, where your choices inspire friends, family and neighbors who inspire their own friends, family and neighbors until the powers that be surrendered. account.
Here are eight ways you can take action to reduce your individual contribution to climate change.
Buy less, use less
Most of the advice for reducing your individual contribution to climate change boils down to this: We need to buy and use less of almost everything from energy to consumer products.
Let’s focus on the latter. After all, big companies don’t create emissions unless people buy the resulting products – according to the Climate Accountability Institute, 90% of total emissions from the biggest emitters come ‘indirectly’ from production. of products.
According to a 2020 study by Columbia University, the average product results in carbon emissions of 6.3 times its own weight throughout its lifecycle. Whenever you order a random trinket online, think about the greenhouse gas emissions that were used to make it and bring it to you, and ask yourself whether you really need it or not.
Walk, cycle or take a train
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Switching to low-carbon modes of transportation is one of the best ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint. Walk or cycle as much as possible instead of driving. It’s easy when you live in a city, sure, but in a predominantly rural state like Maine, it’s more difficult. There is no easy individual solution to this, other than to try to carpool when and where you can.
If you are going on vacation, think about ways to travel more sustainably. Instead of flying longer distances, take the train if you can. Yes, it takes longer and can be more expensive, but trains create about half the greenhouse gas emissions than airplanes.
Take into account the energy consumption of your home
According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the U.S. residential sector accounts for 21 percent of all energy use and is responsible for 20 percent of our nation’s carbon emissions.
Making efforts to reduce energy consumption in the home will help reduce this contribution. Perform an energy audit of your home to see where you’re wasting unnecessary energy (and, frankly, money). You can also take steps to make your home more energy efficient.
Also consider renewable energy options for your home. Maine offers a number of incentives for homeowners to add solar power systems to their homes. Over time, these systems will also save you money.
Eat more sustainably
You are what you eat, and so is the planet. Making food choices that are more environmentally friendly is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.
This inevitably means eating less animal products. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, global livestock accounts for 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, even locally grown, pasture-raised meat can have an inordinate carbon footprint.
In 2019, the United Nations IPCC released a special report recommending that high-income countries switch to plant-based diets as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even if you can’t imagine switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, try incorporating more plant-based meals and alternatives to your favorite meat dishes when you can.
Eating locally grown food also reduces greenhouse gas emissions which are used to transport food long distances.
Say no to plastic
As the Center for International Environmental Law points out, almost every piece of plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are emitted at every stage of the plastic life cycle, from refining and manufacturing to waste management. plastics. If the production and use of plastic increases as expected, by 2050 the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach more than 56 gigatonnes, or 10 to 13% of the total budget. remaining carbon.
Saying no to plastic is getting easier and easier in Maine, with a statewide ban on plastic bags this year. But the problem does not end there. Resist the urge to opt for groceries that use excessive plastic packaging. Minimize the use of plastic in your daily life as much as possible, whether in your garden or in your community in general.
Talk to your friends, family and neighbors
When making lifestyle changes, talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about why you are doing it. The butterfly effect of individual action is one of the greatest hopes we have in tackling climate change.
Talking about climate change has become a partisan issue, which can make it difficult to discuss the topic with people who have opposing views. TED has some helpful tips on how to have a conversation about climate change.
Vote and defend the planet
When you vote at any level, be it the city government or the US president, make sure you know where all the candidates stand on climate change issues. An effective policy that advocates clean energy, the transition from fossil fuels and the reduction of carbon pollution is the real key to curbing uncontrollable climate change.
No matter who you are or what you believe, you may be tired of hearing the same advice over and over again. But if the most recent IPCC report is any indication, humanity is at an inflection point when it comes to climate change. Now more than ever, it’s time to take this seriously.