Solving climate change is a huge international challenge. Only a concerted global effort, involving the governments of all nations, will be enough to avert dangerous consequences. But that said, the individual actions of everyday people are still crucial. Large and complex issues, like climate change, are usually best tackled by breaking down the problem into manageable bits.
For carbon emissions, this means reducing the CO2 contribution of each and every one of the six and a half billion people on the planet. But what can you, as an individual person or family, do that will most make a difference to the big picture? Here are my top ten action items, which are both simple to achieve and have a real effect. They are ranked by how much impact they make to ‘kicking the CO2 habit’.
1. Make climate-conscious political decisions. Some commentators said that the 2007 Australian Federal election was the first to be strongly influenced by the stance made by competing political parties on climate change. Regardless of how true this may be, it is obvious that the strong and urgent action needed to combat climate change will require a healthy dose of political will, and the courage to make tough choices. This willpower comes from voters, who consistently demand real action and can see through ‘greenwashing’ (pretend ‘solutions’ and half-measures that do not do the job). Climate change should be a totally non-partisan issue since it affects all people and all countries. If climate change is not perceived by both sides of politics as a ‘core issue’, it will inevitably be marginalised by apparently more immediate concerns. So assess policies clearly, and make your vote count towards real climate solutions – each and every election. This is the only way a global solution can be put in place, in time.
2. Eat less red meat. Traditional red meat comes from ruminant livestock such as cattle and sheep. These animals produce large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas that packs 72 times the punch of CO2 over a 20 year period. Other types of meat, such as chicken, pork or kangaroo, produce far less emissions. At average levels of consumption, a family’s emissions from beef would easily outweigh the construction and running costs of a large 4WD vehicle, in less than 5 years. There is no need to cut out red meat entirely, but fewer steaks and snags mean far less CO2.
3. Purchase “green electricity“. The future of energy clearly likes in renewable sources such as solar, wind and wave power and ‘hot rocks’. Even without climate change, there are limits to available oil, natural gas and coal. ‘Green power’ is electricity that comes from these technologies, but is delivered to you in the same way as ‘dirty power’ from fossil-fuel burning. That is, down your power lines. You can buy enough to replace your entire energy usage, or some fraction (I recommend going for 100%; the cost is a few more cents per kilowatt hour of electricity). Most energy suppliers now offer this service and will purchase energy from green sources that is equivalent to what you use. As more people take up this scheme, it will drive ever greater investment in these technologies, reduce cost of delivery, and so further hasten the pace of update. It’s a feedback, and you can be the catalyst of change. [Note some problems with GreenPower here]