18 Simple Climate Change Actions You Can Take Today

The climate crisis can feel overwhelming. Here are 18 science-backed actions you can take to make a difference.

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Explainer Climate Justice

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The scientific evidence is irrefutable — human activities are accelerating the rate at which our planet is warming. Many people are now asking themselves: “what can I do about climate change?” The answer is wide-ranging, but there are tangible climate-friendly actions each of us can take that collectively make a difference.

Let’s take a look at why the climate is changing, the likely consequences — and 18 simple actions we can take to help combat global warming.

The Climate Is Changing

Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and normal weather patterns. Currently, the planet is warming due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other factors, such as the destruction of natural spaces like forests.

Over a century’s worth of scientific evidence points to the fact that human actions, like burning fossil fuels and agricultural practices, are causing the warming of the Earth’s climate.

Why Should We Care About Climate Change?

Climate change is increasingly being linked to extreme weather events, which can be devastating to affected communities.

United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk summed up the risk people face from climate change in July, saying: “Our environment is burning. It’s melting. It’s flooding. It’s depleting. It’s drying. It’s dying.” He continued: “Addressing climate change is a human rights issue…There is still time to act, but that time is now.”

What Are the Consequences of Climate Change?

Climate change is impacting the world and people’s lives in several ways. Here are just a few.

Rising Sea Levels

The average global sea level has risen by  8-9 inches  since 1880. Sea level rise happens because warmer water expands and melting ice in certain places like Antarctica enters the ocean, increasing the volume of water it holds.

Coastal communities and residents of low-lying islands are particularly at risk from sea level rise.

Changes in Agricultural Yields

Disrupted weather patterns due to increasing temperatures can impact how plants grow, and make plants vulnerable to invasive bugs and diseases.

The resulting impacts on agricultural yields can threaten the food security of people.

Loss of Biodiversity

The climate crisis is transforming the ecosystems that species  evolved to exist in, which in many cases is leaving them with nowhere left to go. Wetlands are disappearing as a result of climate change and other factors. Oceans are also acidifying, which threatens many marine species.

Biodiversity loss has serious implications for human life, as plants and animals help regulate carbon and pollinate our food sources, among many other things that are beneficial to people.

Health Impacts

The World Health Organization points out that climate change is impacting people’s health and well-being in various ways, including by affecting their mental health. People are losing their lives in extreme weather events, with research attributing 37 percent of deaths related to heat to the climate crisis, for instance.

Worsening food security for people has obvious implications for people’s health, particularly in less developed countries.

Economic Impacts

Damages from extreme weather can be very costly. Estimates suggest that in the decade leading up to 2020, climatic disasters around the world cost $1.3 trillion collectively.

Disruption of Water Supplies

Increased temperatures promote evaporation and disrupt water patterns.

Accessible and usable freshwater only makes up 0.5 percent of the Earth’s water — and  climate change is putting this water supply in peril.

Spread of Diseases

The risk of water-borne, food-borne and vector-borne diseases is increasing due to climate change.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, milder conditions in winter, hotter summers and less frost enable infectious diseases to spread to new areas.

Forced Migration

Between 2008 and 2016, 21.5 million people on average were displaced due to weather-related events each year. Predictions suggest that many millions more face the threat of forced migration and relocation elsewhere in the coming years, due to global warming.

Why It’s Not Too Late to Stop Global Warming

Just as every incremental bit of warming threatens the planet further, every effort we put into reducing emissions can help to limit the crisis, as can our actions to protect the natural world.

18 Actions to Combat Climate Change

The following are 18 steps each of us can incorporate into our daily lives to try to curb the effects of climate change and keep them from getting worse.

1. Get Informed

In order to combat climate change as effectively as possible, you should first understand what it is and what causes it.

There are a plethora of reputable online resources available, from documentaries to books and podcasts.

2. Reduce Food Waste

Around one-third of food produced globally is not eaten due to spoilage during transportation, or because it is discarded by businesses or consumers. In the U.S., around 47 percent of food waste consists of meat, dairy and fish.

Reducing excessive consumption and waste of food in more developed  countries can help to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Eat Less Meat and Dairy

Animal agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation and GHG emissions that exacerbate climate change. Animal agriculture is also a resource-intensive sector that uses ample water.

One of the most meaningful changes you can make is to switch to plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.

4. Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

The buildings we use in our daily lives are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, due to the materials they are made of, how they are constructed and the way in which we use them.

People can enhance the energy efficiency of their homes through improving insulation, using smart thermostats, installing heat pumps and replacing refrigerant gases with less harmful alternatives.

5. Go Solar

When it comes to powering homes and communities sustainably, solar energy packs a particularly powerful punch. This energy can be generated through the installation of solar panels on rooftops and solar hot water systems.

6. Buy Better Bulbs

Changing the sort of bulbs you use can also lead to better energy efficiency. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the best ones around in terms of transferring energy into light, rather than wasting it through heat.

7. Commute Sustainably

When we burn fossil fuels in transportation, GHGs like carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, along with methane and nitrous oxide.

There are plenty of ways to get where you need to go cleanly, such as walking, riding a bike, carpooling or using public transportation.

8. Reduce Air Travel

According to some researchers, aviation’s contribution to global warming is around four percent of the problem.

Efforts are being made to develop more sustainable and efficient aircraft and fuels for air travel. But the most effective way for aviation’s contribution to global warming to be limited is for people to reduce air travel.

9. Shop Smarter

You can also make a positive difference by choosing eco-friendly consumer goods. You can buy used items, or furniture and home goods made from repurposed materials.

People can also shop smarter by purchasing electric vehicles or hybrid cars. Try to purchase from companies that act responsibly when sourcing materials to power these vehicles.

10. Reduce Your Use of Plastic

Plastics are wholly intertwined with the fossil fuel industry, as they are petroleum-based and produce high levels of emissions during manufacture.

With over 60 percent  of plastics now being made for relatively short-term use, there is a global plastic pollution crisis. We can help to tackle plastic pollution and limit the harms associated with the materials by avoiding single-use plastic wherever possible.

11. Reuse and Recycle

People can reuse containers made of plastic or glass for purposes like food storage, rather than buying additional ones.

It’s also important to try and recycle what we cannot reuse, so understand recycling regulations for your area, and act accordingly.

12. Choose Sustainable Fashion

Many unethical and environmentally harmful materials exist in the fashion sector today, but there are sustainable alternatives. You can also visit your local thrift store, which keeps products out of landfills and reduces the demand for new items.

The leather industry is also environmentally harmful, dumping cocktails of hazardous chemicals into waterways around the world, which is harmful to wildlife and people. Fortunately, animal-free leather options exist.

13. Reduce Water Waste

Water companies are major consumers of electricity, and waste a lot of water due to inefficiencies in their systems. Making sure your local water company has sturdy systems in place is a way you can help to ensure water waste is kept to a minimum.

People can also make sure water is used at home as efficiently as possible by getting appliances and fixtures like low-flow taps and showers.

14. Reduce Paper Consumption

Creating conventional paper, which involves the cutting down and processing of trees, creates more emissions than creating recycled paper. Opting for recycled paper, and recycling the paper we use, can save nature and emissions.

Paper can only be reprocessed around a dozen times, however, so limiting our consumption of paper in general is also important. This can be achieved through actions like choosing to receive bills electronically, and using e-books.

15. Start a Climate Conversation

Climate change may be in the news, but that does not mean it is easy to talk about with friends and family.

Most people have been living a certain way their entire lives — eating the same foods and creating the same types of waste. Though the status quo might be comfortable, it is in need of reform, and having conversations is key to shifting culture.

16. Promote Environmental Education

As the UN points out, education is a critical aspect of tackling climate change. This education can take place in and outside of the classroom, arming people with understanding when they ask themselves what  they can do about climate change.

For environmental education to be comprehensive and effective, it needs to be inclusive and intersectional, particularly involving those most impacted by the crisis.

17. Put Your Dollars Towards Green Innovation

Talking about the climate crisis and enlightening others on how they can help is great, but it is just as important to put your money where your mouth is. Your dollar has the power to shift consumer markets toward sustainable, plant-based foods and eco-friendly products.

18. The Power of the Vote

You have the right to vote for candidates who support meaningful environmental policies and climate action. You can also contact your representatives to signal your interest in their support for the necessary infrastructure for climate action.

Governments can make a difference to the climate crisis on many levels. The positions they take in international forums, such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference, can impact what the international community at large does to tackle the issue, and how it works together to achieve climate goals.

Nationally, government policy matters too. The sorts of policies that are needed will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, depending on the circumstances. But broadly speaking, prioritizing the health of the environment in policy-making, which also protects human health, is important at this juncture.

The Bottom Line

The climate crisis we are facing is intimidating — but that is exactly why we should do everything in our power to mitigate its effects and prevent further harm.

The planet gives us everything we need. Asking ourselves what we can do about climate change — and taking action where possible — is the least we can do is take care of it.

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