Things to Do
There are many lists of ways to save the environment or fight climate change at your fingertips with internet search, so I'll keep this short.
Every Gram of CO2, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide Counts
People rightly say that we are not going to prevent or reverse enough of climate change by individual, family or small group choices alone. But we cannot get there without better individual choices either, as noted by Politico. If we as individuals cannot take the smallest right steps, like shutting off a parked car or skipping meat at some meals, we will not be gaining the strength to make the larger adjustments, either. The clock runs both ways, although it is presently far overbalanced one way. Every gram of greenhouse gases put in to the atmosphere will be there until it is removed by photosynthesis or other processes, contributing a tiny fraction to the total problem. Catastrophes occupy a sort of logarithmic scale - we may already be in for a catastrophe of magnitude around, say, 10. But we are perhaps not yet in for a catastrophe of magnitude 100,000. We cannot really know, given the staggering scale and complexity of the Earth's biosphere-atmosphere-ocean systems, what precisely the future holds, so we need to give all possible effort to hitting the brakes.
According to avaaz.org and many others, the single largest change people can make on an individual basis to reduce climate change is to eat less meat. On this topic, pork uses less resources than beef, and chicken much less. As for fish, according to the textbook for the course noted below, freshwater vegetarian fish which are farmed are the most environmentally friendly sort (such as catfish and tilapia).
In fact, Project Drawdown's data ranks Reduced Food Waste and Plant-Rich Diets as the 3rd and 4th largest contributors, respectively, to gigatons of reduced CO2 equivalents in their Scenario 2 (limitation to 1.5 degrees C warming by 2100) calculation. In the less optimistic Scenario 1 (2 dgrees C by 2100) they are the 1st and 3rd largest contributors.
- Although plug in electric and hybrid cars still result in most areas in fossil fuels being burned at power stations, power stations are about 3 times more efficient than hydrocarbon-burning vehicle engines at converting fossil fuels to usable energy. I belive this figure takes into account electric power transmission loss. Even if it didn't, electric vehicles still win, CO2 wise.
- Many people may not know that the proverbial "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is a hierarchy, but a moment's reflection will make it clear how & why this is so. Reduction in materials used will, as a rule, provide larger reductions in environmental costs than reuse of materials, and reuse provides larger reductions in environmental costs than recycling.
- On the topic of 'Reduce/Reuse', it is worth mentioning that cutting expenses functions financially the same as working more, but without the 'working more' part. According to Lao Tzu, "The man who knows when he has enough is rich beyond measure"
- "Energy Star homes tend to reduce mortgage default by 32% after
controlling for many factors"
I found this while doing research for a 2013 presentation on The Sustainable Home for an Environmental Science course. I lost the citation/source reference, though. If anyone finds it, let me know at [email protected] so I can include it here.
Politics & Social Change
I am no expert on political action, but I will note that calling your congress-people or senators on the phone is said to be a much stronger tactic than signing digital petitions and sending form emails. You can also call your mayors, state legislators, governors, city council-persons, or whatever-titled persons of influence or power, executives, thought leaders, office holders, or ministers you have in your patch of the globe.
Things Not to Do:
It is not necessary or desirable to pin hopes on as yet unrealized, possibly never to be feasible, technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage or Geoengineering. As noted by Vox, we already have everything we need to reach net zero carbon emissions in terms of technology, at least in the United States. The challenges are in deployment, financing, policy, and politics. One point on this topic from Vox:
Energy infrastructure used to be comprised exclusively of big public projects like dams and high-voltage transmission lines. But in an age of distributed energy, much of what can reasonably be thought of as infrastructure is small and distributed, located “behind the meter,” on the customer’s property. Solar panels on the roof, a heat pump and a battery in the basement, and an electric vehicle in the garage are 21st century infrastructure — they are all connected to, and interacting with, the grid.
To accomplish the MFT [Maximum Feasible Transition], the US needs to stop financing those behind-the-meter technologies like consumer items and start financing them like infrastructure, with low-cost, government-backed loans.
America has done this before, too. The US invented auto financing in the 1920s, radically democratizing car ownership, and the 30-year, government-guaranteed mortgage in the 1930s, radically democratizing home ownership. During the New Deal, the US invented electric co-ops that could access cheap government loans, radically democratizing access to electricity.
- Project Drawdown:
Founded in 2014, Project Drawdown® is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.
[ ... ]
Cities, universities, corporations, philanthropies, policymakers, communities, educators, activists, and more turn to Project Drawdown as they look to advance effective climate action. We aim to support the growing constellation of efforts to move climate solutions forward and move the world toward Drawdown—as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible.
- Kiss the Ground (501 (c)(3) non-profit, not the movie or
An organization focused on soil health, degradation and loss, and regeneration. Conventional agriculture leads to degradation and loss of soils which have taken many years to develop, releasing vast amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. Regenerative agriculture can turn that process around, turning the soil into a major contributor to CO2 emissions reduction instead of as massive source.
A definition: Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. Regenerative Agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities. The system draws from decades of scientific and applied research by the global communities of indigenous people, organic farming, agroecology, Holistic Management, and agroforestry. (Credit: Terra Genesis).
- Suggestions to help the oceans from Dr. Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue organization
- Arguments for the oceans from Dr. Sylvia Earle's Deep Hope organization
- The foundation of the Vox article above: Rewiring America Handbook for winning the climate fight
- The other foundation of the Vox article: Rewiring America Jobs Report for an electrified future