The scientists have spoken: our personal actions are essential to stopping climate change. 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions originate from the daily choices that we make (Hertwich and Peters, 2009), which means that the power to make a change is in our hands. Even the smallest decisions can lead to great results when many of us make them.
The IPCC just released its latest report on the effect of temperature rise on our planet, and the message from the scientists is crystal clear: the world needs to become carbon neutral by 2050. That way, we can reach the targets of the Paris Agreement and keep the temperature change at a maximum of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Even a 2 °C rise in temperature could have devastating effects on ecosystems, sea levels, and our society.
By limiting temperature change to 1.5 °C instead of 2 °C, we can:
The scientists behind the report point out that us individuals and personal climate action is essential to succeed in this.
The Spark Dictionary definition is: “Anything you do that helps keep our planet cool.” In other words, it means choosing an alternative that causes lower greenhouse gas emissions than the one you would choose if you were not concerned about the climate at all. In addition, any choice that you do for different reasons than climate change can be called a climate action as long as it is more climate-friendly than other mainstream alternatives.
When you decided to have the vegan alternative for lunch that one day, you did a climate action. So you did when you decided to commute to work by bike all summer.
Some things are easy to fit into your daily schedules, others are not. Every time you do something for the climate is worth a pat on the back!
By doing a climate action you can save anything from a few kilograms of CO2-eq by sorting your trash, to a few hundreds of kilograms by omitting red meat from your diet.
No matter the impact of the action, they all matter. All those small actions done by many people - they add up.
Switching to a renewable electricity contract can be done by filling out a simple form on a website, and will save you hundreds of kilograms of CO2-eq. But try to find the perfect pair of jeans in a second hand store and you have got yourself a real challenge!
Starting to live a more climate-friendly life is a stepwise process. Ease into it by beginning with the low-hanging fruit.
Some nights you just whip up a quick and easy seasonal vegetable soup for dinner. Other nights you invite all your friends feast on vegetarian spring rolls together.
Climate actions are best served with friends and laughter. That is also when they are most impactful. Even the smallest actions can lead to great results when many people make them. Just look at the chart below - it shows the emissions saved for different climate actions if they were made by all people in Europe, and how they relate to national emissions of Finland, Sweden and the UK.
Change a habit. Save the world.
HERTWICH AND PETERS, 2009:
Anna is an energy engineer with a passion for emission data visualisations and trail running.