The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, considered the most robust accounting of the climate crisis, was published on Monday and the stark assessment did not make for easy reading.
Scientists noted that the climate crisis is widespread, rapid and intensifying – and no region on Earth will escape the changes that are taking place across whole climate systems.
It is also “unequivocal” that human influence, largely from the burning of fossil fuels, is heating the atmosphere, ocean and land, the report found.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it a “code red for humanity”. But the 234 scientists from 66 countries who authored the report stressed that humanity still has the ability to make significant changes which will help avoid the worst consequences
So what can we do to tackle the climate crisis?
Understand the issues and talk about them
Understanding the interwoven causes of the climate crisis and its impacts can make us more effective in battling it.
As a starting point,The Independent has published a guide on the causes and effects of the climate crisis. The Independent’s dedicated climate page and Twitter account, Independent Climate, has the latest news and analysis to keep you up-to-date.
Here, you can find a list of books on the climate crisis and environmental issues to bulk up the reading list.
NASA monitors the planet’s “vital signs”, via satellites and the latest scientific research. The agency’s website features learning tools and interactive pages that break down how the climate crisis is affecting Earth’s systems.
Dedicated climate websites such Carbon Brief, Climate Home News and Greenpeace’s Unearthed also cover climate science, policy and investigative work.
Talking to friends, family and colleagues is key to raising awareness and building momentum to take climate action.
A study found that when diners in one US restaurant were told that 30 per cent of Americans had started eating less meat, they were twice as likely to order a vegetarian dish.
Another survey found that people who know someone who gave up flying were 50 per cent less likely to take a flight as a result.
The same study found that in California, households were much more likely to install solar panels in neighbourhoods that already have them.
Demand the government takes action
Governments have been pledging to “build back better” following the Covid pandemic, and integrating green initiatives into plans.
But fossil fuel companies and other powerful organisations invested in maintaining the status quo are lobbying governments not to take the major steps required to restructure our economies and rapidly driven down emissions.
Demand that governments take immediate and drastic action on the public hunger for meaningful climate action.
Take direct action
Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future and Extinction Rebellion along with many other climate and environmental activists are taking demands for climate action to the streets.
Following the publication of the IPCC’s stark warning, a number of direct actions are being organised. Extinction Rebellion is planning two weeks of civil disobedience in the UK starting 23 August. Fridays For Future is calling for a global strike on 24 September.
Others are fighting through the courts. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace succeeded in forcing oil corporation, Royal Dutch Shell, to slash its emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, in a landmark court ruling in the Netherlands earlier this year.
Learn to appreciate the natural world
More than half of the global population lives in cities, so it’s hardly surprising that our connection to the natural world is increasingly at arm’s length.
Forging a greater kinship with animals and plants reveals how even small human impacts – both positive and negative – can cascade through ecosystems and food chains. It also raises awareness on the fact we are part of the natural world – not separate from it – and that our continued existence is dependent upon healthy ecosystems.
Fortunately, there is a growing focus on ecology across academia, philosophy, healthcare, and in cultural realms.
The Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher, is one fascinating example. It depicts the unique bond that a man forms with an octopus during his daily swim and ends up changing his entire outlook on life.
Learning about biodiversity on a local level can be the first step in learning how to reset the balance.
For example, the deer population has boomed in the UK after wolves and lynx were hunted into extinction. The large number of deer has devastated landscapes – grazing the seedlings which could have grown into trees, and in turn, replenished forests, supported smaller species and acted as carbon sinks to absorb some of our emissions.
On the other hand, the reintroduction of beavers to the UK is helping boost biodiversity and repair critical ecosystems.
Rethink the crisis
A 2015 paper by philosopher Roman Krznaric explains how empathising with others “is coming to be seen as one of the fundamental forces for tackling global challenges ranging from humanitarian emergencies and violent political conflicts to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss”.
In the paper, Krznaric argues that empathy can transform our underlying mental framework, and draw people towards prioritising the “common interest” over “self interest”.
While hyper-individuality of the capitalist free market is the dominant ideology of the present day, by heightening levels of empathy we can move beyond the limitations of our own egos and attempt to imagine ourselves in the position of oppressed minorities, future generations or even other species - so the argument goes.
Through this process we can begin a cultural shift from “buying” to “belonging”.
Krznaric adds: “Feeding people a barrage of facts and information about the extent of global inequality or environmental degradation is not enough to motivate action, and may exacerbate levels of denial. So it is vital to work at the more profound level of using empathy to shift our mental frames.”
Reduce your impact on the world
There are endless lists on how individuals can best tackle the climate crisis, focusing on what to buy, what to eat, how to travel.
While they are valid suggestions, they often serve to shift the blame from the producers of pollutants to the humans buying these products or services.
Recent analysis by Harvard University found that oil giant ExxonMobil had deployed “tobacco industry-like propaganda” to downplay the seriousness of the climate crisis, shift blame to consumers and protect its own interests.
The researchers said Exxon had taken people’s demand for energy as an indefinite need for fossil fuels, and cast the company as a passive supplier working to meet that demand - when in reality the science had long ago pointed out the company is one of many selling a highly dangerous substance in massive quantities.
While the role of big business and corporations, it is still important for individuals – especially the wealthy who are responsible for the majority of global emissions - to make personal change. Here are some suggestions:
Reduce meat and dairy in your diet
Meat and dairy production is responsible for a massive 14 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions
Walk and cycle more
As well as getting fit, avoiding congestion and reducing the burden on healthcare services, active travel reduces emissions of fossil fuels. In the UK, the vast majority of journeys by car are under five miles.
Transport is the largest emitting sector of the UK economy, accounting for 28 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.
Global aviation accounts for two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that figure is forecast to rise. In the UK every major airport is pursuing expansion plans which will bring yet more pollution into our atmosphere. Seek alternative options, like train travel, on short-haul journeys.
Make your home more efficient
Just six months after it launched, the government has already ditched its Green Homes Grant, which would have provided people with money for insulation or low-carbon heating.
If you can afford to improve your insulation and means of heating your home, then do so – heating British homes makes up about 14 per cent of the country’s emissions.
Otherwise, switching off lights, unplugging devices and appliances, turning down the heating and instead wearing an additional layer, and using energy efficient bulbs are all good ways to reduce energy bills and your emissions.
Switch to a green energy provider
Ecotricity, Green Energy UK, Bulb, Bristol Energy, Octopus Energy and OVO Energy are all among the UK suppliers which offer 100 per cent renewable electricity.
Trees are amazing. They pull carbon dioxide out of the air and store it for centuries, while also offering habitats for innumerable other species. The UK has among the least tree cover of any European country, and major targets are now in place to boost it. Whether you join planting schemes, as run by The Woodland Trust, or plant a single tree in your garden, it will make a difference.
Buy second-hand clothes
Fashion is among the world’s most polluting industries, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than all the maritime shipping and international flights combined.
Producing one organic cotton t-shirt can require as much as 5,000 litres of water. Dyes, manufacturing processes and transportation all have environmental consequences, and at the end, enormous quantities of clothes produced are not even sold.
Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, and by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by one estimate.
Non-composted food waste can end up in landfill, driving methane emissions, a greenhouse gas which is about 80 times as potent as CO2 in the short term.
Read The Independent’s guide to how to do a more environmentally-friendly supermarket shop.
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