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The average person’s daily choices can still make a big difference in fighting climate change – and getting governments and utilities to tackle it, too
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The average person’s daily choices can still make a big difference in fighting climate change – and getting governments and utilities to tackle it, too

People ride bicycles across a roadway as cars wait.


The average American’s everyday interactions with energy sources are limited. These interactions include turning appliances on and off, commuting, and paying utility bills.

It may seem impossible to see the connections between these acts and rising global temperatures.

However, individuals hold many keys to unlocking solutions to climate change – the biggest challenge our species currently faces – which is perhaps why the fossil fuel industry spent decades misleading and misinforming the publicLearn more.

I’m an assistant professor of geography and environmental studiesTexas State University My research explores how geography affectsComplex relationships between society, energy, and contemporary environmental problems. I’ve found that the human element is critical for developing creative, effective and sustainable solutions to climate challenges.

There’s a large and growing body of evidence showing that individuals can have a major impact on climate change in a number of ways. Citizen actionCan force utilities to increase renewable energy, and governments to pass strong climate action laws. When enough individuals make changes that lower daily household energy consumptionThis can lead to huge reductions in emissions. Consumer demand can compel businessesTo pursue climate and environmental sustainability.

These actions were combined could bridge the “emissions gap”: the significant differenceThe global greenhouse gas emissions and the amount they must drop in the next few years to avoid catastrophic climate change are the two.

Government action on climate change is urgently needed

For decades, people have been trying to slow climate change through changing national energy policies. For example, many states have renewable portfolio standardsfor utilities that need to increase their use renewable energy.

However, 30 years of evidence gathered from international climate talks shows that even if nations agree on paper to reduce their emissions, it is not enough. they seldom achieve those cuts.

The United Nations climate summit in GlasgowThis is the latest example. Researchers have discovered that many countries’ pledges have been developed using flawed data.

People are also talking more about it. geoengineering solutionsFor climate change. The idea is that researchers will continue to investigate climate change in the coming decades. find ways to manipulate the environmentTo absorb more carbon pollution. Geoengineering is a controversial topic. could be environmentally catastrophic. Also, there’s significant doubt that technological “draw down” interventions can be perfected and scaled up soon enoughTo make a difference.

So if government, technology or geoengineering aren’t good answers, what are?

Citizen action

The efforts of utilities and governments to achieve the goals, targets, and pledges for shifting from fossil fuels into cleaner energy sources is as important as their efforts to do so. Citizen participation and actionThey have been effective in convincing decision-makers to take action. For example: scholars studying the economic, political and social dynamicsFive U.S. cities adopted 100% renewable energy, and it was grassroots citizen advocacy that led to the success of these changes.

According to the Sierra ClubCitizens-driven action has led to over 180 cities, more 10 counties, and eight U.S. state commitments to 100% renewable energy. More than 100 million people in the United States now live in communities with a 100% renewable energy goal.

Citizens are also taking collective action at their local ballot box. In 2019, New York City voters elected a more environmentally conscious City Council. the city enacted an ambitious emissions reduction lawIt was adopted by the state in 2019 and has since been enforced. New York state also passed the legislation in 2019, following a similar vote by voters. Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Among the nation’s strongest climate change laws, New York’s measure mandates that the state shift to 100% renewable energy by 2040 and that its emissions from all sources drop 40% by 2040 and 85% by 2050.

Consumer demand

Corporate behavior can also be affected based on where and how they spend their money. Companies and utilities are changing their products and production practicesConsumers are increasingly demanding that eco-friendly products be produced and that carbon emissions are reduced. Scholars have documented that consumer boycotts are becoming more common. negatively affect the wealth of a corporation’s shareholders – which in turn can create pressure for a firm to change in response.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, this is because of increased consumer awareness. more than 565 companies have publicly pledged to slash their carbon emissions. Some of the world’s biggest brands have responded to this pressure with claims of already being powered by 100% renewable energy, including Google Apple.

Google committed its global economic power to climate solutions in 2019, when it announced that it would. support the growth of renewable energy resourcesBy making wind and solar energy deals worth US$2billion

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One drawback to consumer demand-driven action is that it’s often unclear how to hold these firms accountableFor their promises. Recently, two impact investing experts suggested in VoxSince around 137 million Americans have stock in publicly traded companies they could use their collective power to ensure that companies follow through.

Changes in household energy behavior

A substantial body of researchStudies have shown that even small changes in daily behavior can dramatically reduce energy consumption. This could be the greatest way that families and individuals can contribute to reducing energy demand. lowering fossil fuel consumptionReduce carbon emissions.

These steps includeWeatherization and the use of energy-efficient appliances. Energy efficiency measures include turning down thermostats, washing laundry in cold water and drying it by air rather than drying it.

The same goes for shifting transportation behavior. Public transportation, carpooling, cycling, and walking are all options. significantly reduce individual and cumulative emissions.

People ride bicycles across a roadway as cars wait.
Choosing to ride a bicycle, walk or take public transit rather than drive can significantly lower a person’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

So since most governments aren’t acting quickly enough, and many technology and geoengineering solutions are still unproven or come with high risks, emission reduction goals won’t be achieved without incorporating additional strategies.

These strategies should include millions of people who consider climate change in their daily lives.

As the environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote in 2006 about dealing with climate change, “There are no silver bullets, only silver buckshot.”

Continue reading:
​7 ways to get proactive about climate change instead of feeling helpless: Lessons from a leadership expert


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