The most effective action to take as an individual is to urge leaders in business and government to stop global warming getting worse, as quickly as they possibly can.
Climate change needs to be slowed down urgently, because the effects of a warming climate on people and nature are already extremely serious. Even the 1.5ºC or 2ºC of warming agreed as a limit Paris in 2015 will be pretty bad for millions of people. The difference between 1.5ºC and 2ºC of warming is expected to be 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heatwaves.
Without strong action on the part of governments and corporations, the climate is on track to heat up by at least 3ºC on average.
Fortunately, there are solutions to climate change that we already know will work. But only if our leaders implement them on a big enough scale.
Doing what we each can to help stop climate change getting worse is the right thing to do – for people suffering now, for future generations and for all life on our planet. Some things – special environments like the Amazon rainforest or endangered animals – will not recover if they are damaged beyond repair.
Who is responsible for climate change?
No single person or group of people are to blame for climate change. But governments have more power than individuals to stop global warming getting worse. And some industries currently contribute far more to the problem than others.
Overall, rich countries have caused more global heating than poor countries. This is because wealthy people everywhere tend to emit more CO2 into the atmosphere through their lifestyles than poorer people.
The UK and other countries in Europe, North America and Australasia are very wealthy countries. With many rich people and businesses, per-person emissions are high in the UK compared to many places around the world. Plus, the UK has historical responsibility for the climate crisis that dates back to the Industrial Revolution.
There are global systems in place that are making it hard to do what’s necessary. Corporations use fossil fuels and other natural resources to keep growing and expanding. Governments want to keep their economies going and give their citizens a certain standard of living, so they support these industries that are harmful to the climate.
This doesn’t mean things can’t change. Governments can make laws and policies to limit emissions and pollution and encourage better business practices. Corporations can work in ways that have less impact on the climate, and provide more environmentally-friendly products.
What about reducing my carbon footprint?
Individuals can work to reduce their personal carbon footprint – that’s the amount of greenhouse gases they emit into the atmosphere through our lifestyles.
This could mean eating less or no meat and dairy, driving and flying less and switching to renewable energy. It could also mean choosing more eco-friendly products, or giving your money to companies that have targets to reduce their own carbon footprints.
Most of these actions will only be effective when many people also take the same action. It’s worth remembering that making such sweeping lifestyle changes can be difficult, expensive or simply unsustainable for many people. And it’s best not to give anyone a hard time.
If you do go down this route, also be sure to get active in lobbying your representatives and putting pressure on corporations to do the right thing.
What’s the best way to help stop climate change as an individual?
Here’s a quick guide to figuring out what’s best for you:
- Think about what changes you can make. Start with what motivates or interests you – as for any change to be sustainable, you have to be keen to make it. Some people will be able to stop eating meat and some will be able to give up their car, or flying regularly. Some will be able to insulate their home and some will be able to buy solar panels. Many people will be unable to do all of these things, and that’s ok.
- Think about what you can’t do, and consider why. There are probably many others in the same position. Is there enough government support? Or are the products you would prefer to buy not available, or too expensive? Is the information not very well known, so people don’t seem to care? Could you do something in your community, in local politics or in your company?
- Lobby politicians and pressure corporations, and encourage others to do the same. You can write to your MP to let them know what you or your community needs to protect the climate for future generations. Or you can help put pressure on a company to reduce its carbon footprint. You can also organise or participate in boycotts or divestment campaigns.
In conclusion, the best way to help stop climate change is to do what you can. Any action you take will make a difference – especially if enough people take action alongside you too.