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Published on Friday, July 28, 2017

4 Effective Things Individuals Can Do to Fight Climate Change


4 Effective Things Individuals Can Do to Fight Climate Change

If you ask the average eco-conscious concerned citizen what they’re doing to fight climate change, you’ll likely hear responses such as recycling, switching to eco-friendly light bulbs, carpooling and not letting food go to waste. More committed people might also add using solar panels, writing petitions against oil drilling and unplugging all unused electronics to that list. But how much are these everyday actions really helping in the fight against climate change?

The Study

Scientists and study authors Seth Wynes (Lund University, Sweden) and Kimberly Nicholas (University of British Columbia, Canada) decided to find out just how important our individual actions are when it comes to combating climate change. Contrary to popular methods promoted in the media, Wynes and Nicholas found four more effective ways individuals can create systemic change and significantly reduce their personal emissions. While some of these methods put forth by Wynes and Nicholas may be controversial, there is no doubt that they are effective.

#1) Don’t Have Children

According to the study, each child born in the developed world is responsible for 58.6 tonnes of emissions every single year. By not having a child, individuals make a massive impact on decreasing the number of emissions released every year. In fact, this one action is potentially more powerful than any other climate change fighting action an individual could take in their lifetime.

Wynes and Nicholas have the support of the scientific community on this point. In 2009, Oregon State University released a report that said every child born would multiply their mother’s carbon footprint six times. While the Oregon State University study only looked at mothers, Wynes and Nicholas focused on both parents in the developed world and split the child’s impact between the two. They also looked ahead at future generations (grandchildren and great-grandchildren) who would continue to increase emissions. They concluded that having one fewer child is equivalent to saving 24-118 metric tons of carbon per year.

#2) Don’t Use a Car

While many green citizens will consider the use of an electric car or car-pooling, Wynes and Nicholas are encouraging people to go completely car-free. While electric cars do decrease emissions, they are not completely innocent. Many drivers charge their electric cars from electricity created by fossil fuels, instead of using non-emitting sources like solar or wind energy. In addition, many emissions are created in the construction and transportation of electric cars.

The study reports, “Living car-free reduces the need to build more roads and parking spaces, and supports higher-density urban design, which more efficient cars do not.” By not using a car, you could save 5.3 metric tons of emissions every year.

#3) Don’t Fly

Airplanes are one of the greatest sources of emissions but have become an necessary evil in our modern world. Many world leaders hope to eventually power planes with bio-fuel, making them carbon-neutral, but that technology is far from being widely implemented. By simply skipping one flight, you can save 2.8 metric tons of emissions per year.

#4) Don’t Eat Meat

We’ve heard this one before. By abstaining from meat, Wynes and Nicholas believe you can save 1.6 metric tons of emissions from entering the atmosphere eyer year. While many articles encourage people to eat less meat, the study authors are pushing for a completely plant-based, meat-free diet. They explain, “Eating a plant-based diet was presented in the form of moderate-impact actions such as eating less meat, even though a completely plant-based diet can be 2 to 4.7 times more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than decreased meat intake.”

In comparison to other eco-friendly actions, switching from plastic bags to reusable bags is only 1% as effective against climate change as giving up meat for one year would be.

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