Global warming, according to all credible science, is one of the greatest threats to the planet today, and one that is going to get worse before it gets better. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body established to assess the science related to climate change, modern humans have never before experienced the observed changes in our global climate. Furthermore, some of these changes are irreversible over the next hundreds to thousands of years.
The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report published in 2021 found that human-caused emissions have already warmed the climate by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-Industrial times. The global average temperature is expected to rise by 3 degrees F within the next few decades, and will affect all regions of Earth.
Many of the things we’ve taken for granted are contributing negatively to climate change, and in turn, there are many things that we can do as individuals to help reduce climate change. Below, we will talk about some of the small changes you can make to your behavior to help
1. Use public transportation more often
Granted, this is not something everyone can do, mainly because the US is not known for having quality public transportation in a lot of places. This is particularly true in certain cities like LA, where car culture rules and “carmaggedon” traffic regularly happens. Even the most populated places have problems with public transportation, and if you live in a rural town, you kind of have to own a car for a lot of things. Ultimately, if you can take public transportation instead of driving, or maybe even carpool, that helps make a difference.
Even if you live in a rural area, that doesn’t necessarily require a car to get around. Bikes are a great eco-friendly way to travel at least a short distance.
2. Try to use less energy
Every day, we use a ton of energy, and much of that energy is completely wasted. To cut back on your energy waste, make sure that you turn any lights off when you leave the room, and turn off surge protectors to prevent electronics from using power while in standby mode.
Additionally, try to reduce the number of devices connected to Wi-Fi. Especially with devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, you may find that you have a device in every room that uses Wi-Fi at all times. Not only does this save electricity, it also saves you money.
If you can bear it, try to use less heat and air conditioning in winter and summer respectively. A great way to reduce your energy needs is to make your home energy efficient. The best way to do this is to get your doors and windows redone, such that they keep the outside weather from getting inside when they’re closed.
3. Eat less meat and dairy
It’s understandable that a lot of people would feel reluctant to cut these out of their diets, even only partially. Cows contribute a ton of methane gas, with 1/3 of all human-caused methane gas coming from beef and dairy cattle. Ideally, if enough people abandoned beef and dairy, the industry would be forced to adjust to something less costly to the environment. There are a lot of types of farms out there, ranging from vegetable farms, to goat farms, to even marijuana farms.
4. Order only what you think you can eat
America is known for having particularly large portions, but despite that, those large portions often get wasted. Be sure to determine what you can handle, and try to avoid ordering more than that. Further, make sure that you buy fewer groceries if you find that you have some food and drinks that are expiring before you can get to them. If you have leftovers, you should also be sure to use alternatives to plastic wrapping and packaging to contain them.
5. Shop locally when possible
Shopping online contributes negatively to climate change, mainly due to the fact that it involves a lot of transportation, whether it be on planes, ships, or trucks. And obviously, these vehicles burn a lot of fossil fuels to get your items to you. Some items cannot be obtained locally, of course, but for those that can, try to get them locally. Additionally, shopping locally helps to better enrich your community.
6. Don’t worry about lawn culture
One of the most pernicious things you can do, honestly, is try to aim for that “perfect lawn.” Simply put, we don’t have water to spare for this, and it’s incredibly wasteful. You’d be shocked by how much water you use in your everyday life. And, to be frank, a perfect lawn is boring. Avoid using pesticides and fertilizers as well, as rainwater may cause these to flow from the sewer into bodies of water.
Can we solve climate change on our own?
For all we can do to tackle climate change, it begs the question: is it enough? When all is said and done, among the biggest contributors to climate change isn’t individual action, or even collective action, it’s corporations. Sure, corporations cannot have this impact without consumers, but corporations have a ton of influence over what we consume, and how.
There are a number of things corporations do to not only affect the climate, but also prevent action from being taken to course correct. One of the earliest examples of this was with ExxonMobil, which, despite conducting a study that found climate change to be a real threat, worked to debunk it publicly. More minor examples, such as Amazon destroying unsold inventory, are also a cause for concern.
Politicians are not much better, and in many ways even worse. For the most part, politicians are, at best, slowing climate change, and at worst, actively contributing to it. Even Democrats have been criticized for their lukewarm response to climate change, with the Green New Deal being unpopular with many more moderate and conservative Democrats.
Now, a lot of people would tell you that the best way to solve this is to vote, but it’s not quite that simple. The most important elections rarely have politicians who have a solid chance at winning who follow the science to its natural conclusion with respect to climate change. Thus, the vote often comes down to which politician you want to let you down.
The best suggestion that could be made is to either try to force politicians’ hand via protesting, or try to affect elections on a local level. This is far more manageable than trying to get your ideal President, and has a much higher level of success.
In the grand scheme of things, if we want to turn things around, we need to do something to force corporations and politicians to do better too. This can be done through boycotts, protests, and political advocacy, among other things, to create pressure to change their ways. So don’t let your potential contributions to climate change make you feel doom and gloom, as individuals can only do so much. Do what you can, and live your life.