CLIMATE change has been labelled the biggest threat to humanity, and we’ve all been urged to pitch in and do our bit if we want to avoid its most devastating impacts. But there’s a lot of information out there and it’s difficult to know what the most effective methods are and if you’re actually making any difference.
It’s easy to feel that your actions are just a tiny drop in an unfathomably huge ocean, but the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear that without individual action, we’re pretty much doomed.
With just 12 years before we’re facing climate catastrophe, we need to act now.
Researchers at Lund University examined all of the information we have on preventing climate change and determined the most effective and efficient ways for individuals to make a difference. These are the top ways to reduce your carbon footprint:
5. Go veggie
CO2 saving: up to 1.6 tonnes
Going vegetarian – or even better vegan – can make a significant difference to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause warming. Even just cutting down on the amount of meat in your diet can be beneficial.
Agriculture of all types is damaging, but meat production is a special evil, with beef being the most environmentally damaging of them all.
A study from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates it makes up around 18 percent of human-produced emissions worldwide. This is more than all emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and all other transport put together.
4. Buy green energy
CO2 saving: up to 2.5 tonnes
Switching to green energy is one of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint. It will make a difference in the fight against climate change without you having to change your lifestyle at all.
The study suggests you can save up to 2.5 tonnes by switching to green. While this is still difficult in many Southeast Asian countries, places with developed energy grids like Australia have the potential to greatly reduce emissions in family homes.
3. Skip just one long flight
CO2 saving: up to 2.8 tonnes (depending on length)
We all enjoy our holidays, or perhaps you travel for work, but the damage caused by those airmiles is significant. Skip out on just one return transatlantic flight, and you personally can save 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Longer flights will obviously be more. While the many variables – such as, weight of a passenger’s luggage, the occupancy of the plane, wind speed etc – make it difficult to predict exact numbers, it’s undeniable that cutting air travel can make a difference.
2. Go car-free
CO2 saving: 1 to 5.3 tonnes
An average three litre engine car can produce around 4.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Even smaller 1.5 litre engines billow out around two tonnes.
By giving up your car, as an individual you’re looking a saving 2.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere on average.
While hybrid vehicles are able to reduce this, they can still generate around 1.8 tonnes per year so by no means to they solve the problem.
Not only is it good for the environment but also beneficial to everyone’s health.
The dangerous cocktail of chemicals in exhaust fumes can cause a whole raft of health issues, including birth defects, low birth weight, cardiovascular disease, and even damaging children’s mental health.
1. Stop having kids
CO2 saving: 24 to 117 tonnes
There is one runaway winner when it comes to cutting carbon emissions; so much so it has potentially 20 times the positive impact of its closest competitor. It’s simple – don’t have kids.
Having children is possibly the most destructive thing you can do to the environment. The study found if an American family chose to have one fewer child, it would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers comprehensively recycling for the rest of their lives.
The average carbon saving changes depending on how developed the country is. The study puts the average for developed countries at 59 tonnes. But even at the lower end of the scale, one less child is far and away the best way to reduce your carbon footprint.