Combating Climate Change is not going to easy. In fact, it could be one of the hardest challenges that humanity has ever faced. We might not experience the untold human devastation of spanish flu in which up to 100 million humans died. And we know we have the technology right here right now to solve the problem of climate change caused by human CO2 emissions but the reason it will be so difficult is because it’s a slow-burning, cumulative problem, spanning generations and its a problem that could ultimately bring about an existential threat.
And in our short human lifetimes it is difficult to comprehend how the small daily changes to our environment could bring about apocalypse. The lurking menace of climate change seems like a distant threat. Even at the current pace of change and with these changes are becoming more apparent. We can see with our own eyes the devastation of wildfires and reams of research and science increasingly making the connection between severe weather and climate change; yet joining the dots can be difficult.
An Environmental Mindset
The real challenge lies not in a lack of technology or the unfolding effects of climate change; it’s in the mindset of each and every one of us. For human-kind to understand how big the challenge of climate change really is we need to realise how environmentally intrusive our lives our. We need to see the truth and take responsibility for the damaging and destructive effects of our lifestyles on the natural environment. We need to stop waging war on nature.
To begin this life-changing process we will have to completely reset our mindset. A good place to start is to consider the core ways in which our current million-miles-an-hour hectic lifestyles contribute to climate change and the changes we can make, right now, to reduce those impacts.
It’s not going to be easy but until our technology changes and works in a way that doesn’t impact the environment it is still possible to make lifestyle changes that can help eliminate the threat we pose to the environment.
So What Are the Top Ten Ways to Obliterate Your CO2 Emissions?
1Have One Less Child or Have Only One Child
“All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”David Attenborough
If every couple in the world sought to raise, love and cherish just one child then the human population would be halved in a generation. If their one child went onto have just one child the human population would again be halved. Within a few generations the human impact explosion on the environment would be restrained, halved, reduced approx., with each new generation. The problem of climate change, pollution and environmental degradation would be solved. That’s not going to happen of course, it would be impossible to persuade every child-bearing couple to have one child the world over; but empowering women around the globe, education, family planning and an awareness of the impact of having more children on the environment can help people to make informed choices about the kind of world they want their children to live in and how their choices will shape this world.
This is a topic of huge debate and many different perspectives and an ongoing debate about whether or not this is a human explosion or temporary trend. It has been argued that the human population will plateau at 10 billion and that we have, in the past mired ourselves in a collective freak-out about the perils of a burgeoning human population.
At the start of the industrial revolution, for instance, Thomas Malthus argued in 1798 that “since food is an essential component to human life, population growth in any area or on the planet, if unchecked, would lead to starvation” and we collectively freaked about the size of the human population at a miniscule sub-billion.
Arguments are made that panic about the human population at an all time high is ‘alarmist overpopulation hysteria’ and such looming concerns are unwarranted as the real tragedies and famines that plagued much of human history before the 20th Century have been vaporised; resigned to the dustbin of the past. But what these arguments fail to consider is the environmental perspective; they do not take into account the astonishing decimation of countless species of animals and plant-life that have been wiped from the face of the Earth as the price of an ever growing human tribe. Sure the Dodo made a nice chicken-sized meal for antipodean explorers and its disappearance didn’t impact the advancement of humans across the globe. But it wasn’t so good for the Dodo. A quirky marvelous creature, just one amongst countless others, that have since been wiped out.
Other arguments make the case that some human populations are decreasing due to better education, smaller families and immigration away from their environments. Some researchers, who previously argued the human population would explode, have changed their minds with Jørgen Randers, a Norwegian academic who decades ago warned of a potential global catastrophe caused by overpopulation, now confidently stating:
“the world population will never reach nine billion people,” he now believes. “It will peak at 8 billion in 2040, and then decline.”Jørgen Randers,
So should we be worried? Well the truth is no one knows where human population might go. It could rise exponentially, and truly exacerbate the environmental problems we are all facing, or it could fall and provide some relief, alleviating the environmental problems we are all facing.
But just leaving it to chance is probably a mistake.
Population Matters is a charity raising awareness about the environmental benefits of having a smaller family and they make the point:
Families are about love. The decisions we make about them are fundamental to our identities and our needs as human beings. They can, and should, be influenced by many things—including love and respect for the planet we live on and those we share it with.Population Matters
For anyone planning a family it’s a legitimate consideration and one that should be weighed up carefully when thinking about the kind of world they want their child to live in.
2Don’t Use A Car When You Don’t Need To
Emissions from personal cars make up to a 5th of the total emissions in the US and a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that simply switching to electric vehicles may not provide the cut in emissions we need to combat climate change.
Cities around the world are adopting tough new targets in the fight against climate change and at the heart of their strategies is an impetus to strengthen them approaches and get people out of their cars and onto bikes, via bike sharing schemes and other incentives.
Some other strategies for encouraging people to get from behind the wheel include:
- Establishing congestion zones, fining the worst offending vehicles
- Education campaigns to massively increase the number of viable trips that can be made on foot
- Reduce the number of parking spaces available in central urban locations
- Prioritise biking and walking projects, introducing necessary infrastructure to provide a protective environment for individuals on bikes or foot
- Increasing housing density in urban areas to reduce the need for longer commutes
3Reconsider Transatlantic or Inter-continental Flights
Flying is a fact or modern life but there are still questions around whether or not the huge, ginormous air industry and tourism industry that drive it can ever be sustainable. What we can do is reduce the number of long-haul flights that we make.
A single long-haul flight, on average, burns more energy that the average family home does in an entire year. Looking at the energy expended in flight enables us to understand more clearly the massive amounts of emissions that the air industry produces.
The air industry contributes around 2.5% carbon dioxide to global emissions, a proportion which, when extrapolated out inlign with the current growth of the industry, could grow to a stunning 22% by 2050. A generation that has grown up with the expectation of cheap flight means that more people than ever expect to be able to travel the globe. Aviation, unlike many other industries, remains unregulated, and as far as emissions are concerned they are set to rise massively.
Until governments agree an internationally negotiated carbon tax on flights it’s up to individual citizens to make their own personal choices about long-haul flights, in an effort to help reduce emissions.
4Embrace A Green Energy Supplier to Power Your Home
This is a ridiculously easy solution that pretty much everyone can implement. The switch to a green energy supplier doesn’t really impact on your life in any way, shape or form – you might even get a reduction in your energy bills!
What you can be sure of is that the energy being used to power your home is coming from low carbon sources: wind, solar, perhaps nuclear. The costs of green energy mean that it is now already much cheaper than obtaining energy from coal which is not surprising considering that the carbon used to create the energy doesn’t exist in the renewables mix.
You don’t need to dig it, mine it, transport it, pipe it or burn it in order to create energy. You just build your turbines or your solar panels and let them do their thing.
5Switch to a Vegetarian Diet Or Cut Out Red Meat
Making dietary changes is a very personal choice and it really has to be up to the individual to adapt a diet that suits them best.
Having said that; there are ways you can alter your diet that has benefits for the planet, which when adopted in a large scale, could make a significant dent on our CO2 emissions.
Agriculture contributes up to 9% of the globes CO2 emissions but when you take into account the cost of transporting food, the emissions that creates, and the whole industrialised network that supports the farming industry in bringing food to your plate then the emissions could, in fact, be a lot higher.
The groundbreaking documentary Cowspiracy investigated the hidden impacts of the agricultural industry revealing just how much, and in what ways, the farming industry impacts on our environment.
Onne clear answer is to switch to a vegetarian diet or to cut out red meat. Personally, I find it difficult to completely remove meat, which is why the only animal protein source I consume now is chicken. Chicken’s carbon footprint is considerably lower than that of beef, pork or mutton and its a change I can make that reduces my impact on the environment but doesn’t impact the level of bio-available protein in my diet.
6Switch To An Electric Car to Wipe Out CO2 Emissions
It’s not completely true to say that hybrid or electric cars have no emissions as emissions are produced in both the manufacture of the vehicle and the creation of the power that energises their batteries.
However, electric vehicles do, over their lifetime, have considerably lower emissions than their petrol counterparts, which studies have shown decrease further when used in countries with a high level of renewables and/or as countries decarbonise their energy supply.
Therefore how the electricity generated to power electric vehicles matters, highlighting the need to adopt a society-wide approach in combating climate change.
Norway has made particular strides in the advancement of renewable transport, but part of the reason behind Norway’s success is in its society-wide transition to renewable energy.
Switching to electric vehicles is a key component, but it’s not the whole story and countries must decarbonise their energy supplies in order to provide clean abundant energy to EVs and enable them to contribute toward the reduction in CO2 emissions.
7Wash Clothes Cold to Drain Away CO2 Emissions
This is an easy solution that almost everyone can implement. If you have particularly tough stains, pretreat them first. If everyone starts to wash their clothes cold, the collective reduction in energy would be massive.
In the UK alone each day there are around 17 million wash cycles expending vast amounts of energy that results in over 120kg of carbon emissions from each household, each year.
Most washing machines have eco-modes which enable this. Next time you do a wash, pop it in on eco mode.
8Recycle To Cut CO2 Emissions
Over the long term we need to remove plastic from our society all-together. It’s far too useful to humans and damaging to the environment for us to really consider plastic as a long-term solution to our packaging needs.
The devastating plastic problem affecting our oceans mean that we need to completely stop using plastic; we need to phase it out, to legislate against it for the protection of our environment the protection of nour oceans, on which so many billions of us rely.
But it’s inescapable; it’s everywhere. If you counted the bits of plastic in your home the total would run into the thousands… and all for a material that’s only existed for less than a hundred years.
Bioplastics has the potential has the potential to ameliorate some of the impact of plastic. Bioplastic is essential plastic made from plants but it is currently expensive and not entirely biodegradable. There is little doubt that there are huge benefits to the environment over conventional plastics, however further improvements need to be made in order for modern economies of scale to take root and offer the material up as a viable alternative.
In the meantime, everyone should recycle. Recycling can save over 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. And additionally it prevents all of that plastic from becoming pollution in our oceans.
9Hang Your Laundry Out to Dry (and Don’t Use A Tumble Dryer)
Save money. Save Energy. Reduce Carbon Emissions. Simples.
10Upgrade All Of Your Lights to Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
LED lights have been round for years now and they are making a significant dent in the UK’s energy demands.
Whilst one person changing one light bulb may not seem like its going to help combat climate change, the collective action of billions of households around the world making the switch to LED lighting will support the reduction in CO2 emissions.
When you add into the mix the role of industry, switching out both lighting and other appliances for their more energy efficient counterparts than the cumulative effect is much greater.
Street-lights, vehicles and supermarkets are also moving towards more energy efficient lighting, refrigeration and heating than previously used.
Ultimately no one thing will help us achieve the goal of eliminating or completely reducing our carbon emissions. We need to appreciate the extraordinary beauty of the natural world, the remarkable power it has but also it’s delicate fragility. Whilst we simply need to stop burning carbon in order to create energy, we also need to think about the way we live in harmony with our natural environment.
Adopting an environmentally conscious mindset that takes into account our actions, considering the consequences and adapting our way of life to be more environmentally friendly will not only benefit the planet; it will benefit all of the other wild species of animal and plant-life that we share it with and help protect it for the wonder and enjoyment of future generations to come.