It's getting hot in here...
The best indicator we have for the severity of our myriad environmental issues is the temperature of our planet. And it's getting hotter everywhere, as seen below in this graph of global temperature anomalies. While a few degrees might not seem like a lot, even 2 degrees change would equate to about 15 feet of sea level rise. The level of CO2 in our atmosphere makes this problem worse - locking that heat in to our atmosphere for thousands of years, despite improvements we may make on carbon reduction. Which is why it is crucial that we act now, when our actions will have the most impact.
Addressing climate change will take a sustained global effort.
We can see how our actions make a difference by looking forest gain in temperate forests over the past 3 decades, which in 2020 amounted to 6 million hectares. However,global forest loss in 2020 still amounted to an 47 million hectares, an area the size of Sweden.
Fixing the problem starts with the privileged.
Wealthy nations such as the US have an immensely greater impact on our climate change than the global poor - along with a greater capacity to implement change. While it has fallen by nearly a third since 2000, the US per capita carbon footprint is still 8 times larger than that of someone living in India.
Want to make a difference? Start by giving.
According to Founder's Pledge's Climate and Lifestyle Report, the most significant personal action you can take for climate is to donate effectively, followed by having one fewer child (especially if you live in a wealthy country, where carbon footprint and resource usage is generally much higher. This is more than 6X as effective as the next top 10 measures combined.
Want a lot of bang for your buck? Skip your next flight!
If we look at those remaining measures, all but one require fairly large investments or changes to lifestyle and routines. These are only slightly more impactful, though, than skipping a single transatlantic flight. In other words, we can have a huge impact by flying less!
Here are your travel alternatives.
Lots of interesting data to parse through here (click the items in the legend to filter by the different emission metrics). Interesting how large the "manufacture" impact was for electric vehicles vs other transport types. Every kilometer you can ride your bike vs. drive a car is ~26X less carbon! Considering the average commute for U.S. city dwellers is around 10 miles, most of us could easily be biking instead.
- Energy: Energy extraction from the environment to its delivery to the tank
- Use: Exhaust and impact emissions
- Maintenance: Replacing consumables (electric car batteries not included)
- Manufacture: Counts operating emissions, energy costs, and materials used in production.
- Roadway: Construction, maintenance, disposal of roads, car parks, rail, bridges, tunnels
When it comes to tech, it pays to keep it running.
While using flat screens and desktops consume the most energy, for all the devices below, the bulk of the impact comes in the device's production. As such, the best thing you can do is to keep your device running as long as you can before replacing it.
Individual actions matter.
You may often hear that your individual actions don't matter, especially considering the vast emissions produced by industry. But industry exists to feed our individual appetites. Imagine if those appetites included, say, eating less meat.One study shows that cutting meat consumption in half in industrialized countries could cut global emissions by 25%, or 12.5 billion tons.