There’s a lot to keep track of in our busy lives. Your friends and family don’t always do what you want or expect, your dog vomits on the floor, and your car needs an unexpected repair. On top of that, we’re told we need to protect the environment, give to charity, and vote. Who has time for all that?
In this article, we quickly learn how we can have the most impact upon climate change (previously known as global warming), without getting bogged down in the details. If you want the details, though, I’ve shared links to the authority, so you can check for yourself.
Is Climate Change Real?
Yes. There is so much research and absolutely no doubt as of 2023. Doubts of the past have been erased by data that is so overwhelming that it is not ‘probable’, but ‘definite’ (Source).
The first question is, do you need to change your behavior? And the answer is… unclear.
The vast majority of the CO2 in our atmosphere is emitted by a few large companies and countries. But many Western countries are making great progress in this area. The UK, for example, has reduced their CO2 emissions by 44% from 1990 levels and they’re continuing to make progress while the economy continues to grow (Source). At the same time, the USA has not reduced emissions at all over the same timeframe (Source).
While there is debate about whether its worth making personal changes, the personal changes you can make do make some difference. It’s worth knowing that one of the changes you can make is how you vote. If you currently vote for so-called moderate Democrats, or for any Republican candidates, you are currently allowing the US to remain a laggard in this respect. The USA has emitted 25% of all historic greenhouse gases, which means that it holds a disproportionate responsibility for the state of the climate as well as its trajectory. China and India have much larger populations but they are managing to reduce their growth in greenhouse gas emissions even as their economies grow much more rapidly than, for example, the USA (Source).
What can you do?
Compost and Recycle
When you place food waste in the trash, it often converts to methane (Source) – a more powerful greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide. In addition, to keeping that methane out of the atmosphere, composting provides fertile soil for your garden, or the gardens of others. If you don’t have a backyard, and if none of your friends do, stores like Whole Foods have drop-off locations near their entrance.
Recycling also saves CO2 and reduces other environmental damage from mining, etc., but better than recycling is:
Use only what you need
A lot of people buy things for various reasons. The most obvious reason is that it’s something you need. A loaf of bread, a pair of shoes, a glass from which to drink water might all be things you need. But a lot of people buy things they don’t need. Clothes that won’t be worn next year, gadgets or doohickeys that aren’t necessary. Zip-lock bags, cheap Tupperware-like containers, drinking straws, cheap toys, etc. Purchasing only want you will really value has three advantages:
- It saves you money, letting you save more for retirement, or buy the more expensive (but more ethical) free range eggs, etc.
- It reduces greenhouse has emissions from manufacture, shipping, and disposal.
- Much of these products are made in unsafe and unethical manners in developing countries – so a reduction in this kind of consumption protects those people and societies.
Invest your pension savings differently
According to some research, your pension investments are, surprisingly, the largest single change you can make to combat climate change. This requires some effort, so I encourage you to do some reading, starting with the source (Source).
Eat less meat
Meat consumption is a major contributor, not just to climate change, but to other environmental damage. The science of animal sentience is also making meat eating a more challenging ethical dilemma. Personally, we have reduced our meat consumption, but not eliminated it. Veganism is the most environmentally friendly option, but it is my opinion that there needs to be a balance between quality-of-life and environmental ethics.
Home heating and cooling
If you have control of the area around your home, consider planting deciduous trees that can shade your windows in the summer, but allow sunlight in during the winter. You will probably still need to heat or cool your home, so install heat pumps – they are more than 100% efficient, meaning they use less than $1 of electricity to generate $1 of heat. This efficiency means that, compared with oil, they will save around $1,000 per year, and compared with an electric heater, they will save around $400 per year at last year’s lower electricity prices (Source)! Our oil tank is nearing the end of its life, so we needed to spend some money, and the only logical choice was to move away from burning a dirty fuel inside our home.
Why is the world getting hotter?
Climate change is happening because we are increasing the amount of CO2 that is in the atmosphere. CO2 naturally goes through a cycle, storing some of it underground while some of it is in the atmosphere. By getting the stuff underground and adding it to the air, we are increasing how much of the sun’s heat the air can trap. The rapid rate of change of the world’s temperatures is unprecedented and is bad for us, but also for other organisms which won’t have time to adapt over generations to the changed realities.
So, should I do these things?
Without regulations, landfill might continue to be cheaper than recycling, single-use plastics will remain cheaper than more sustainable alternatives, and gasoline vehicles and machinery will continue to be easier to use than alternatives.
That all said, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) has made it quite clear that every little helps. Each gram (or ounce) of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere makes the climate crisis worse (Source). So go ahead, make a difference, and tell us about your experiences in the comments below. Which of these tips are you going to try, and which have you tried already? What could we do to make these things easier?
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