Individual action on climate change
Making various personal choices has been advocated as a means of fighting climate change.
- The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report emphasises that behaviour, lifestyle and cultural change have a high mitigation potential in some sectors, particularly when complementing technological and structural change.:20 In general, higher consumption lifestyles have a greater environmental impact. Several scientific studies have shown that when people, especially those living in developed countries but more generally including all countries, wish to reduce their carbon footprint, there are four key "high-impact" actions they can take:
- 1. Not having an additional child (58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent emission reductions per year)
- 2. Living car-free (2.4 tonnes CO2)
- 3. Avoiding one round-trip transatlantic flight (1.6 tonnes)
- 4. Eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tonnes)
- These appear to differ significantly from the popular advice for “greening” one’s lifestyle, which seem to fall mostly into the “low-impact” category: Replacing a typical car with a hybrid (0.52 tonnes); Washing clothes in cold water (0.25 tonnes); Recycling (0.21 tonnes); Upgrading light bulbs (0.10 tonnes); etc. The researchers found that public discourse on reducing one’s carbon footprint overwhelmingly focuses on low-impact behaviors, and that mention of the high-impact behaviors is almost non-existent in the mainstream media, government publications, K-12 school textbooks, etc. The researchers added that “Our recommended high-impact actions are more effective than many more commonly discussed options (e.g. eating a plant-based diet saves eight times more emissions than upgrading light bulbs). More significantly, a US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives.”
- A carbon diet is an effective way to understand the amount of impact on the environment and how to make meaningful changes.
- A low carbon diet is a way of reducing impact by choosing food that causes much less pollution.
- Trees: Protecting forests and planting new trees contributes to the absorption of carbon dioxide from the air. There are many opportunities to plant trees in the yard, along roads, in parks, and in public gardens. In addition, some charities plant fast-growing trees—for as little as $US0.10 per tree—to help people in tropical developing countries restore the productivity of their lands. Conversely, clearing old-growth forests adds to the carbon in the atmosphere, so buying non-old-growth paper is good for the climate as well as the forest.
- Labels: The Energy Star label can be seen on many household appliances, home electronics, office equipment, heating and cooling equipment, windows, residential light fixtures, and other products. Energy Star products use less energy.
- In the United States, perception towards climate change influenced people to change their travel lifestyle. More than a third of Americans have changed their travel habits in 2008, versus only 14% in 2007.
- Cars: Purchasing a vehicle which gets high gas mileage helps to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
- Flying: Avoiding air travel and particularly frequent flyer programs has a high benefit because the convenience makes frequent, long distance travel easy, and high-altitude emissions are more potent for the climate than the same emissions made at ground level.
- Walking and running are among the least environmentally harmful modes of transportation, followed by the bicycle.
- Many energy suppliers in various countries worldwide have options to purchase part or pure "green energy." The wind energy produced in Denmark, for example, provides about 20 percent of the country's total electricity needs. These methods of energy production emit no greenhouse gases once they are up and running.
- Carbon offsets: The principle of carbon offset is thus: one decides that they don't want to be responsible for accelerating climate change, and they've already made efforts to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, so they decide to pay someone else to further reduce their net emissions by planting trees or by taking up low-carbon technologies. Every unit of carbon that is absorbed by trees—or not emitted due to your funding of renewable energy deployment—offsets the emissions from their fossil fuel use. In many cases, funding of renewable energy, energy efficiency, or tree planting — particularly in developing nations—can be a relatively cheap way of making an individual "carbon neutral". Carbon offset providers—some as inexpensive as US$0.11 per metric ton (USD 0.10 per US ton) of carbon dioxide—are referenced below under Lifestyle Action.
- 350.org, Step It Up 2007 and International Day of Climate Action
- Avoiding dangerous climate change
- Carbon Diet
- Climate change mitigation scenarios
- The Cool War
- The Great Warming
- Indian Youth Climate Network
- Individual and political action on climate change
- Low Carbon Diet
- Low-carbon economy
- No Impact Man (Colin Beavan)
- One Watt Initiative
- Personal carbon credits
- UK Youth Climate Coalition
- Fossil fuel divestment
- Heede, Richard (2002-04-09). "Household Solutions" (PDF). Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved 2007-07-07.
As we'll see below, homeowners can take a measured approach to emissions reduction, gradually saving and investing small amounts of capital, and far exceed the U.S.'s Kyoto Protocol commitment to reduce all emissions of greenhouse gases to 7 per cent below 1990 emissions by 2012.
- Edenhofer, Ottmar; Pichs-Madruga, Ramón; et al. (2014). "Summary for Policymakers". In IPCC. Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PDF). Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-65481-5. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- Wynes, Seth; Nicholas, Kimberly A (12 July 2017). "The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions". Environmental Research Letters.
- Ceballos, Gerardo; Ehrlich, Paul P; Dirzo, Rodolfo (23 May 2017). "Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: 201704949. doi:10.1073/pnas.1704949114.
Much less frequently mentioned are, however, the ultimate drivers of those immediate causes of biotic destruction, namely, human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich. These drivers, all of which trace to the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet, are themselves increasing rapidly.
- Pimm, S. L.; Jenkins, C. N.; Abell, R.; Brooks, T. M.; Gittleman, J. L.; Joppa, L. N.; Raven, P. H.; Roberts, C. M.; Sexton, J. O. (30 May 2014). "The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection" (PDF). Science. 344 (6187): 1246752. doi:10.1126/science.1246752. PMID 24876501. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
The overarching driver of species extinction is human population growth and increasing per capita consumption.
- Is 'green' the new black?
- "Wind energy". Risø National Laboratory. Retrieved 2007-07-07.