How do you impact climate change?

Everyone has a “carbon footprint” – the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we are personally responsible for [6]. To estimate your own, use an online calculator, such as [7].

It’s estimated that to keep global warming to 1.5°C, the carbon footprint of people in wealthy countries needs to drop by up to 93% by 2050 [1]. For developed countries, on average, the top actions to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions are [5]:

1) Have one less child

2) Live car free

3) Fly less

4) Buy green energy

5) Eat a plant-based diet (or, most importantly, avoid beef [8])

We are not suggesting that people should stop having children to prevent global warming. How much each new person contributes to global warming depends on their individual lifestyle, but it is a fact that if people have fewer children, there will be less greenhouse gas emissions and less severe climate change [5].

Every individual choice, e.g. to drive or not drive, adds or subtracts from global greenhouse gas emissions – every choice does count! The more people who change, the more people who follow suit [9].

When you replace objects with more efficient alternatives, be wary of the ‘rebound effect’ [1]. This is best explained with an example: when a person insulates their home, heating is cheaper per °C, so they turn up their heating for more comfort, meaning in the end they save less (or no) money and energy [3]. This can also happen ‘indirectly’: you save money on heating, and use this money for other carbon-intensive activities, like taking an airplane on holiday [3]. It’s estimated that over 30% of greenhouse gas emission reductions may be cancelled out by people spending saved money on other things [3].

Exactly what actions would be most impactful for you depend on your current lifestyle, and where you live (e.g. because of availability of renewable energy) [2]. However, the science is clear: the reductions in consumption required towards 2050 are ‘drastic’ [2].


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