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Climate Change: What can I do?

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Victor Luca, 29-Feb-20.

People often ask what an individual do about climate change? Here are some answers.

If a decade or so ago you had of asked me if the extreme weather we are seeing lately was due to climate change, I might have answered ‘maybe’. In making this response I wasn’t denying that we humans are changing the climate, but that maybe it wasn’t being reflected in our day-to-day weather. Weather is what you see tomorrow or the next day and climate is the weather you have over long periods of time.

Today, I can answer that same question in the affirmative. The scientific evidence points to strong likelihood that many of the weather extremes are indeed linked to the change in climate that has been caused human activity since the post-industrial age.

There are strong suggestions these days that things are coming to a head more rapidly than scientists at first predicted. In other words, we have underestimated the influence we have had on the climate system. If this is so, then the next question is, what is it that we mere mortals can do?

A few years ago Wyns et al., published a scientific paper entitled “The climate mitigation gap: Education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions”. I think it is worth sharing the main results.

Source: Wynes et al., The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environ. Res. Lett. 2017, 12, 074024.

The graph shows a comparison of the emissions reductions from various individual actions. The height of the bars represents the mean of all studies identified in developed nations, while black lines indicate mean values for selected countries or regions (identified by ISO codes) where data were available from specific studies. Actions have been classified as high (green), moderate (blue), and low (yellow) impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Note the break in the y-axis. See supplementary materials 5 for details.

The upshot of the above figure is that if, on a personal level, you want to make a savings in green-house gas emissions, the best you can do by far is have one child less. This would be followed by living car free, then avoiding one transatlantic flight and so forth.

So packing more people with aspirations of a first-world lifestyle onto an already full planet is not conducive to being able to sustain human life on this planet. And if you want to push the Earth to the brink then continue to espouse the idea of growth without end.

Anyone wanting a copy of this nine page peer-reviewed scientific article for a detailed read, then please do get in touch.

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