5 things you can do to tackle climate change while world leaders procrastinate

Climate action
Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

After two long weeks of climate negotiations – with leaders often working through the night – we’re still waiting for a conclusion to the COP climate talks. In the meantime, there are things we can all do to help limit climate change.

In the last month we’ve seen devastating floods in south India, most notably in Chennai, which killed an estimated 400 people and are likely to cost the country $3bn. Closer to home, flooding in Cumbria destroyed 6,000 homes.

Climate change is a very real – and very immediate – problem. But will the world agree on an action plan to limit the global temperature increase to 2C or even 1.5C? Will the “high-ambition coalition” inspire other countries to take more drastic action?

Hopes aren’t high, and the draft text has already been criticised for “significantly watering down ambition.” Despite his lack of resolution at home, Cameron made a big impression with his “passionate appeal” to fellow conference delegates in Paris last week:

Instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today.

Even if world leaders are preparing their excuses, we don’t have to. The actions of the world’s 7 billion people all have an effect on our climate, and by making smart choices we can help limit the devastation, even if world leaders cop out. Here are five things you can do to take control.

  1. Go on a carbon emissions diet. Ok, nobody likes dieting, but this is easier than avoiding the chocolate stash – and science says it works. Calculate your current emissions, then look for places you could make savings – choosing to cycle to work instead of driving can make a big difference. Cutting down your electricity and fuel use will save you money, too.
  1. Use green electricity. Is your supplier using renewable energy? Shop around, you might even save some cash. And you could even consider setting up your own renewable energy system, like solar panels, and get the grid to buy the electricity you don’t need.
  1. Recycle. The UK has plenty of schemes in place to help people recycle everything from paper to electronic equipment. Although the country’s use of landfill dropped from 90% in the 1980s to 50% in 2010, it’s still a problem. The methane released from landfill traps 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
  1. Plan your meals. We waste an estimated 40% of the food we buy. That’s having a huge impact on land use around the world, not to mention putting a big dent in our pockets. Planning meals before going shopping can help you cut this waste.
  1. Be a citizen scientist. Science will provide solutions to many of the climate problems we’re facing. You could get involved with an organisation like Earth Watch and support the research they’re doing.

After one week of negotiations at COP21, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said there would be no perfect solution, but he urged nations to work together to find a compromise. He said:

Today, as never before, the stars are aligned in favour of strong, concerted action on climate change.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC, told Nature:

Everyone knows that you are not going to get everything done here. But we really need to get the big issues solved.

Instead of relying on leaders at COP21 to come up with the action plan, perhaps we should start taking responsibility ourselves for the future of the planet and the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren.

Featured image: Mark Dixon/Flickr


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