What can we do to fight climate change on an individual level?
Already today but certainly increasingly in the future, climate change is impacting our natural environment, food sources, and infrastructure across the globe. The magnitude of these effects is growing every year and there is an increasing awareness that drastic actions on an individual basis are just as needed as on a governmental and corporate level.
We can, to some degree, influence our governments by electing leaders that we feel truly represented by and through petitions and demonstrations. And we can, to some degree, also influence corporate actions through boycotts, buycotts, and choosing our employers carefully.
But a shift needs to happen for each and every one of us, if we wish to guarantee a livable planet for future generations.
Last month, the IPCC published its Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report, which features a dire outlook for our future. So, for those of you who are not too eager to read a 3,600+ pages report, we’re summarising the key findings below and finish this article with a Top 10 list of actions each one of us can start making a habit. The faster we advance by limiting our consumption and becoming a WasteLess Society, the better the chances for survival will be for the children that grow up today.
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Table of Contents
What is the IPCC Assessment Report?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its objective is to provide governments, organisations, and individuals with scientific information to form a baseline for climate action and the development of climate policies. Every few years, the IPCC publishes a report with an update on the current state of climate change and prognosis for the future.
1990 (FAR): The first of these reports was published in 1990 and played an important role in the creation of the UNFCCC, which is the key international treaty to reduce global warming.
1995 (SAR): The second report formed a methodological base for governments preparing for the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
2001 (TAR): The Third Assessment Report again highlighted the impacts of climate change and the importance for adjusting policies and behaviours.
2007 (AR4): The fourth report focused on the need to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C.
2014 (AR5): This fifth report supplied an important scientific base for the Paris Agreement in 2015, which aims to keep global warming by 2100 to below 2 °C, with 1.5 °C as a target.
2022 (AR6): This six report was released and it stresses, in just what dire situation we’re in since the effects of climate change are accelerating beyond their previous prognosis. This report will be our focus for the summary below.
Summary of the IPCC Assessment Report
The recent PCC Assessment Report found that “the extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments.”
These impacts are felt in many ways:
- It reduces our ability to grow nutritious food or provide sufficient clean drinking water, which in turn affects people’s health and well-being.
- Increasing heat and extreme weather are causing plants and animals, both on land and in the ocean, to migrate towards cooler areas in our global North and South, to higher altitudes, or deeper areas in our oceans. This migration of plants and animals also impacts the timing of key biological events such as breeding and flowering, which in turn impacts food chains and the entire ecosystem.
- Many species cannot adapt quickly enough or migrate fast enough and thus face extinction.
- Since we are part of nature’s ecosystem, these events also impact our own sources of food.
- Changes in temperature and rainfall cause severe droughts in many regions across the globe and cause devastating floods in others. This increased the frequency and spread of diseases that impact people, wildlife, and also agriculture and thus again affect our food supply.
- Longer wildfire seasons increase the surface area that burns during the hot months, which in turn further intensifies the stresses on wildlife, human health, and also agriculture.
- The occurrences of water shortages are increasing in many regions across the globe, which further impacts our global food supply, access to clean drinking water, as well as energy production from hydroelectric power plants.
The report clarifies that “globally, climate change is increasingly causing injuries, illness, malnutrition, threats to physical and mental health and well-being, and even deaths. It is making hot areas even hotter and drastically reducing the time people can spend outside, which means that some outdoor workers cannot work the required hours and thus will earn less.”
It becomes apparent that the impacts of climate change are multifaceted and will impact our food and water supply, and our infrastructures and energy production.
While many individuals, communities, and businesses have begun adapting to climate change, the Working Group identified large gaps between ongoing efforts, and the required adaptation efforts. With every increment of warming, the effectiveness of our efforts to offset climate change decreases and therefore a more urgent and ambitious action is required to quickly and effectively cut our emissions of greenhouse gases. The faster and more drastically we manage to reduce these emissions, the more capacity there is for people and nature to adapt.
According to the report, it is now clear that “minor, marginal, reactive or incremental changes won’t be sufficient.”
What can we do on an individual level?
Here are 10 things we can do on an individual basis to fight climate change.
- Boycott greedy corporations who put their own profits ahead of our global objectives. This includes corporations who are resistant to adapt to a “reuse” economy and rely on single-use, fossil fuels, etc. Boycott does not simply mean not buying products from these corporations, it also implies not buying their stocks and not working for these companies until they truly embrace their social responsibility (as opposed to greenwashing where they extensively highlight one thing that they do well and drown out any evidence of the things they do poorly).
- Cut down on convenience, since convenience has a large environmental cost.
- Have fewer children to curb overpopulation and secure food and water reserves for future generations.
- Reduce consumption. This includes our consumption of food, water, energy, and other “stuff.” We have created valuable guides and are making them available for free to help our society grow. Pick a few points at a time and commit to them until they become a habit (usually around 3 months).
- Have difficult conversations. There will always be some resistance to change but we all need to educate ourselves and one another. Be brave!
- Think collaboration, not competition. We’re all in this together and even though it may be easy to fall into a competitive “me-first” mindset when facing a potential extinction-level event, while there is still time to change and adapt, we need to embrace collaboration instead. It may feel counterintuitive, since we’ve been coerced to out-compete our peers since our early school days, but the reality is that a collaborative mindset will get us further and much faster than a competitive mindset. So, let’s embrace it!
- Work less for organisations and more for the community. If you are using your consumption you will be able to also cut down the amount of time you will be working for an organization, which will free up some of your time to get engaged in your community and start building relationships that will make all of us stronger.
- Learn to grow food and save the seeds. Climate change has already started to impact our food supply and will continue to do so. With every incremental increase in temperature, this challenge will increase, also. If you do have some space, even just a little window sill or balcony, try to start some seeds and learn how to grow some of your food yourself. In addition, consider starting a petition to convert public parks into growing heavens for vegis and fruits. The more self-sufficient we are as a society, the easier it will be to face the future. In addition, food self-sufficiency will cut down on the import of food from elsewhere, and thus further curb greenhouse gas emissions. Feeding one person, requires approximately 4,000 square feet of space, so the more unused spaces that can be converted into growing food, the better off we’ll be in the future.
- Don’t replace, repair. In our society the knowledge to repair things is fading, so start attending repair cafés whenever you have time and claim back those skills. They will likely come in handy in the future.
- Educate yourself on how to REDUCE: