The IPCC report affirmed there are no factors beyond human control that prevent us from limiting the temperature rise. We know what to do and we know we can do it. Why aren’t we doing it? Because “we” is a lie. It conflates individuals with fossil fuel companies.
“We” echoes the logic of “personal carbon footprint”, a term British Petroleum (BP) invented in 2004. The company launched an individual emissions calculator as a marketing device to distract from the need for industry-level change. I’m not saying individuals share no responsibility for the climate crisis; companies don’t burn carbon for the hell of it, but to satisfy demand.
Naoise Dolan, Irish Independent, 14th August 2021
We have become accustomed to blaming others for all our problems! But we are consumers and voters. Individually we have little power. But collectively we might just turn this super tanker around.
The fossil fuel companies are only able to prevaricate because we consumers continue to behave as normal. I include in this the entire fossil fuel supply chain from coal and oil producers to energy, transport, plastic and fertiliser providers. Similarly governments will prevaricate because they depend on tax revenues from the same industries, that of course also have the ear of governments. And governments are formed by politicians who instinctively operate on a short term basis relevant to their electoral cycle. They are not qualified for this type of crisis which demands longer term thinking. We cannot expect them to lead.
That means starting with ourselves.
The message on the wire is our lives are going to change dramatically. If we don’t do it ourselves, climate related catastrophes will do it for us. And it’s already happening in Madagascar, Alaska, Australia, The Alps, and very recently in Germany, Belgium, North America, Greece, Turkey etc. If this means moving house, changing job, getting new skills, becoming an activist, getting involved in local climate actions, then surely it’s better to take the initiative rather than be on the receiving end. Of course there are big ticket items we as individuals can’t influence, but if populations en masse take actions the results are going to be significant. Remember, we are all consumers; if we vote with our feet big business is going to listen.
- Consider if you really need a car. Or two or more? Whether other modes of transport are feasible? If you need a car switch to an EV. They are going to save you money. Don’t listen to the negatives, the fossil fuel and car manufacturing industries are deliberately spreading negativity to slow adoption. EVs work; it’s just they work slightly differently. But they do SAVE YOU MONEY! Transport is 16% of all emissions and an area we can all make an impact with right now!
- Consider where you need to live long term. Now! Lots of people are already doing it, but it’s something EVERYBODY needs to consider. Can you cut your emissions and transport costs by moving to reduce travel, cut your costs, move to a location with a lower disaster risk. Don’t automatically go back into the office and the commute. If working for home is difficult, build a home office or use a local hub, or negotiate a hybrid contract.
- Closely related, consider your skills, job or profession. Are your skills going to be in demand in 10 years’ time? Consider that demand for skills in new areas is going to escalate dramatically. How about renewable energy supply chain including tidal, wind and solar, building modernisation and insulation, distributed home energy systems, home rain water harvesting systems, disaster management and recovery, flood management, ecology, online learning, climate action group project management, and so on.
- Reinvent how you holiday and travel. Cut air travel to the bare minimum. Use trains, buses, ships, EVs, bikes but not planes except in extremis.
- Work out your own carbon footprint. Know the sources of emissions and pollution and cut them in whatever way you can, switching suppliers, changing technology. Don’t expect to make major reductions immediately because most of your emissions are locked into energy suppliers. But look forward and have a plan for how you individually will get down to 1.5 tons CO2e (CO2 equivalent). Bear in mind the real emerging target is going to be 1.0 ton per person. Make a plan to reinvent your home energy consumption. Maximise use of government grants.
- Grow (at least) some of your own food. Preferably organically.
- Involve young people. The next generations will be those most impacted; they have been protesting but sadly heard, but not listened to! If we are not careful young people will switch off. We need to motivate and energize them in a way that is really meaningful. For example, guide gap year students to get involved in local climate action or ecology projects. Encourage students to demand their schools and universities fossil fuel free, now. And themselves to ensure their travel to schools and colleges is also as fossil fuel free as possible. Beyond that, why don’t governments or local councils establish schemes to support young people in travelling to developing countries to get involved in climate projects. But most of all, guide young people to acquire skills that are relevant to the new areas of work outlined above in point 3.
- Prepare for disaster. Look at trees, undergrowth, rivers, drains and powerlines, and assess risk from very high wind storms and or possibility of intense rainfall, or fire. Also consider carefully how independent of shared services you will be in times of crisis. Remember fossil fuelled generators should be banned! But standalone batteries could become life savers. Similarly gravity fed home rainwater harvesting could be essential in a crisis. No panic, just sensible preparatory thinking. Of course some may decide to move home on the basis of the assessment.
- Become a climate activist in any and all ways you can. There are local climate action groups forming [see example below], with government assistance here in Ireland. I expect same worldwide. Be prepared to name and shame corporations and politicians that are compromising our shared future. Work to ensure fake news and conspiracy theories are squashed. Believe me, this is going to be the next battle. We must expect dark forces to attempt to slow progress to protect their interests.
Inevitably as major changes happen to our way of life there will be winners and losers and the levels of protest, lobbying, fake news and conspiracy and blame will become deafening. Further, there will be invidious yet direct comparisons between countries. Some countries will do better than others, many will fall behind and may lose heart. But this isn’t a competition, or race, rather we’re all frogs in the same pot of boiling water. To save the planet we have to bring everybody with us!
Clearly as individuals we have limited leverage. But as consumers, if we work en masse, we do have power. I don’t pretend this list is exhaustive. Please let me know your thoughts on how this could be developed further.