With so many reports coming out recently stating that the future of the planet will be decided in the next decade it can feel overwhelming to even try saving the planet. Thankfully there are things you can do right now to save the world from ecological collapse. You can be ambitious or make just tiny changes to your diet: the point is that it all helps and you can start today!
3. Other than that, what’s the best daily action I can take?
One 2017 study co-authored by Lund University’s Nicholas ranked 148 individual actions on climate change according to their impact. Going car-free was the number-one most effective action an individual could take (except not having kids – but more on that on that later). Cars are more polluting compared to other means of transportation like walking, biking or using public transport.
In industrialised countries such as European nations, getting rid of your car can reduce 2.5 tonnes of CO2 – about one-fourth of the average yearly emissions (9.2 tonnes) contributed by each person in developed countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“We should choose more efficient vehicles and, whenever possible, switch directly to electric vehicles,” says Maria Virginia Vilarino, co-author of the mitigation chapter in the IPCC’s latest report.
By watching an annual bicycle race researchers found evidence of climate change. The Liège–Bastogne–Liège one day race has been running for decades and filmed since at least the 1980s. Because the route covers much of the same ground every year some researchers figured that they could use it to witness how plants are reacting to our warming climate, so they watched a lot of races but watched the trees not the racers. This sort of research is really neat since it provides another way to visually analyze our planet and share that knowledge.
Co-author Lisa Van Langenhove sifted through more than 200 hours of television data of the race shot between 1981 and 2016. Though the route had changed over the years, the team selected 12 climbs and landmarks where they could pinpoint individual trees. They studied 46 trees in particular. Most of them were not native to the area and included magnolia, hawthorn and forsythia.
The researchers found that in the 1980s, there were virtually no leaves on trees. After 1990, however, many trees were already in full leaf.
The change was significant. When leaves begin to emerge on a tree branch, it’s referred to as flushing. The study found that between 2006 and 2016, 45 per cent of trees had begun to grow leaves. That’s compared to nearly zero in the 1980s.
New York City launched a lawsuit against some of the larger polluters on the planet to cover the costs the city faces due to climate change (projected to be over $20 billion USD). A decade ago this case would likely have been thrown out, today with the effects of climate change so overt this case stands a winning chance. There have also been a lot of other cases brought to courts around the world that have acted on issues surrounding climate change. The New Republic recently ran a great article outlining why courts are caring about the climate and what the law has done about it.
Some of these lawsuits have succeeded in other countries. In 2015, the Dutch government was forced to lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in response to a class action lawsuit from its citizens. A judge in Ireland recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to a safe climate and environment. And last month, a climate liability lawsuit against Germany’s largest power company was allowed to move forward. “Judicial decisions around the world show that many courts have the authority, and the willingness, to hold governments to account for climate change,” said Michael Burger, executive director of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He cited a 2007 lawsuit that forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “Similar litigation all over the world will continue to push governments and corporations to address the most pressing environmental challenge of our times.”
Mars, the company behind popular chocolate bars like Snickers and Twix has pledged $1 billion dollars to fight climate change. This isn’t a company randomly pledging money to help communities or specific issues address climate change, instead they are focussing on themselves. Mars is the largest chocolate maker on the planet and are looking at ways that they can save the planet (and money) by changing what’s happening in their supply chain. Already the company has invested in renewable energy for their production facilities.
Although, some might claim this is just to stop their chocolate bars from melting.
Mars, the maker of Snickers, Twix, and M&Ms, has pledged to invest $1 billion over the next few years to fight climate change. The sustainability drive includes investment in renewable energy, food sourcing, cross-industry action groups, and farmers.
Barry Parkin, Mars’ Chief Sustainability Officer, warned that the consequences of inaction include “more extreme weather events…causing significant challenges and hardships in specific places around the world, whether that’s oceans rising or crops not growing successfully.” “We believe in the scientific view of climate science and the need for collective action,” he added.
If Americans started eating beans in place of beef the country would be able to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals by 2020. The report, title, “Substituting beans for beef as a contribution towards U.S. climate change targets,” builds off of previous work. The new report that makes this conclusion is similar to the conclusions from other papers; however, this report directly connects an easy dietary change to being able to avert catastrophic climate change. Previously we’ve seen how easy and beneficial it is to be vegetarian, but this diet change doesn’t require a complete shift to vegetarianism. Just reduce the consumption of flesh from dead animals.
It’s simple: the easiest thing you can do today to help the people of tomorrow is to eat less meat.
“The nation could achieve more than half of its GHG reduction goals without imposing any new standards on automobiles or manufacturing,” Sabate said.
The study, which was conducted while Harwatt was an environmental nutrition research fellow at Loma Linda University, also found that beef production is an inefficient use of agricultural land. Substituting beans for beef would free up 42 percent of U.S. cropland currently under cultivation — a total of 1.65 million square kilometers or more than 400 million square acres, which is approximately 1.6 times the size of the state of California.
Harwatt applauds the fact that more than a third of American consumers are currently purchasing meat analogs: plant-based products that resemble animal foods in taste and texture. She says the trend suggests that animal-sourced meat is no longer a necessity.