Individually we are a drop, together we are an ocean
The concept of climate change is overwhelming, immense and frightening. When faced with negativity and the severity of climate change, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Often then frozen into doing nothing because of the question, will my 1 action out of 7.8 billion matter.
However, climate change is an immanent phenomenon and one which needs tackling during the current pandemic. There are steps we can all take individually. Increasing wild fires, disappearing glaciers and rising extreme weather events are not signs of a healthy planet.
We are all being overwhelmed with information about how to live a more sustainable life. Go vegan, stop flying, buy local… these suggestions are all both proposed and ridiculed. It is easy to be swayed by the options which we prefer, there are almost too many stats and figures which support any action.
Therefore I have turned to the science…what actually are the best solutions to help tackle this problem, can we contribute to any of them?
Project Drawdown (founded by Paul Hawken and Amanda Ravenhill in 2014) is an organisation compiling research from the leading climate scientists, identifies and ranks potential global climate solutions for reaching the proposed 1.5 or 2°C targets. One great aspect of Project Drawdown, it focuses on solutions we already have available!
The top 6 climate solutions for a 1.5 degree warming world
According to Drawdown, Scenario 2: *(Suggested GHG emission values indicate the volume greenhouse gas emissions saved if suggested changes were made 2020-2050)
1. Onshore wind turbines (47-147Gt)*
A tried and tested solution, onshore wind turbines, if increased from supplying 4.4% world’s electricity to 19.6-29.9% by 2050, 47-147Gt GHG emissions would be prevented from being released into the atmosphere.
Using typically >1% land they sit on, farming etc can continue alongside and technology improvements are dropping costs and increasing efficiency (LSE, 2018). Although they can be considered an eyesore, many people say they grow to be a key part of a landscape.
2. Utility Scale Solar Photovoltaics (Solar Panels) (44-119Gt)*
Solar panels harness a virtually unlimited, free form of energy – the sun. Utility solar panels feed their energy directly into the national grid, although initially costly, they have huge potential. Increasing from providing 1% world’s energy to ~25% could avoid 44-119Gt GHG emissions by 2050.
3. Reduced Food Waste (10.3-18.8Gt + 74.9-76.3 Gt through avoided deforestation)*
A third of the world’s food is never eaten and in high income countries 35% food is thrown out by consumers. Resources, GHG emissions and energy have been utilised unnecessarily and this is responsible for ~8% global emissions. In landfill food waste decomposes anaerobically, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas with 24x greater warming potential than CO2. If 50-75% food waste is reduced by 2050, 10.3-18.8GT GHG emissions could be prevented, whilst an additional 74.9-76.3Gt saved by preventing unnecessary deforestation.
For more about food waste I have written an article on my blog.
4. Plant Rich Diets (65.09-91.72 Gt)*
The current western diet contributes to 1/5th GHG emissions due to consumption of meat and dairy, which often exceeds requirements. Since the 1960s, the world’s population has doubled, yet meat consumption tripled (FAO, 2012). Meat production is land intensive and the cause of considerable deforestation of the tropical rainforests. If 50-75% world’s population reduces meat consumption and lived off a 2250 calories per day diet, 43-68Gt GHG emissions would be reduced from dietary change alone and a further 21.8-23.5Gt GHG through avoided deforestation.
One Meal a Day is a great initiative for dedicating one meal of your day towards a plant based meal for the planet.
Making the transfer to a plant based diet could be the most effective way an individual could stop climate change. – Thich Nhat Hanh
5. Health and Education (<85.4Gt)*
By educating girls they receive higher wages, contributing to economic growth whilst maternal mortality falls alongside family size. Education equips women and girls to face the impacts of climate change. Increased access to quality reproductive healthcare and 12-13 years of schooling are essential to reach UN medium population projection goal of 9.7billion people by 2050, compared to a potential additional 1billion people for the higher scenario, saving <85.4Gt. Educating women and girls is seen as a long term crucial climate change solution.
6. Tropical Forest Restoration (54.45-85.14 Gt)*
Tropical forests have suffered extensive clearing, degradation and biodiversity loss in the recent decades. Where they used to cover 12% world’s landmass, they now cover only 5%. It is estimated 287million ha degraded tropical land could be restored to continuous intact forest. Restoring 161-231million ha could sequester 1.4tons CO2 annually, totalling 54.4-85.1 CO2 by 2050.
Individually, eating a flexitarian diet, avoiding non sustainably sourced forest products and supporting rainforest organisations are all positive steps in the right direction. Actions also gently influence those around you!
Therefore, the takeaway – it is a community effort. Individual action AND government action are required. Our collective voice does count and there are things in our everyday lives we can do to reduce our impact. After all, it’s good to feel like we can do something! Project Drawdown is such an interesting concept and one which is well worth checking out!