Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

6 Things You Can Do to Avoid Climate Catastrophe

Climate
6 Things You Can Do to Avoid Climate Catastrophe
Ken Fager / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Katharina Wecker

We've already warmed the world about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times—with disastrous effects. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, species are going extinct and extreme weather is on the increase.


A new report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals what life on Earth would look like if temperatures were to rise another 0.5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also paints a picture of what a 2-degree warmer world would look like.

In the report, more than 90 scientists from 40 countries agree that it's still possible to remain under 1.5 degrees of global warming—at least technologically—and outlined what we must do to make that happen. However, a lot of political will be required.

But there are also things that normal people can do to avoid climate catastrophe. Here are six concrete ways you can take action on climate change.

1. Change Your Energy Provider

The majority of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere come from burning coal, oil and natural gas.

In Germany, brown coal (or lignite) is responsible for a fifth of the country's CO2 emissions.

So a major step toward reducing greenhouse gases is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energies.

In many countries, you can pick your energy provider. Consider switching to one that provides energy from renewables like wind, solar, hydropower or sustainable bioenergy—check to make sure the energy company and renewable sources are independently certified.

2. Eat Less Meat

What ends up on your plate makes another big difference.

In a 2013 report, the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) found that 14.5 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions came from the livestock sector.

That is more than all cars, ships, planes and other forms of transport throughout the world combined. Of those emissions, 41 percent are caused by beef production; milk production makes up another 19 percent.

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single simplest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, suggested a study released this year in the journal Science.

Getting your protein from beef instead of plants produces at least six times more greenhouse gases and uses 36 times more land.

The study also revealed the importance of how the food is produced. For example, beef raised on deforested land results in 12 times more greenhouse gases than those grazing on existing pasture.

So if you do eat meat, get it from local organic farms if possible.

3. Waste Less Food

Agriculture accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, but about a third of all food grown on this planet never actually gets eaten.

Of course, not all of this goes into the waste bin—the European Parliament reckons about half of EU food waste takes place at home, the rest is lost along the supply chain or never harvested from the fields—but home is a simple starting point.

Food waste translates into a carbon footprint of a whopping 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to the United Nations—amounting to more than India's annual emissions.

An easy solution: Buy less and make sure eat it all.

4. Take a Train Instead of Flying

Flying harms the climate in several ways.

Many estimates put aviation's share of global CO2 emissions at just above 2 percent—but other aviation emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), water vapor, particulates, contrails and cirrus changes contribute to additional warming effects.

Cut out a single roundtrip and you could save anywhere from 700 to 2,800 kilograms of CO2, depending on the distance traveled, fuel efficiency of the aircraft and weather conditions.

To put that into perspective: According to Eurostat, the average European emits about 900 kilograms of CO2 per year.

If you do fly, consider offsetting your carbon emissions—through a reliable, certified offsetting scheme.

5. Just Consume Less

Natural resources are limited.

We deplete local resource stocks through overfishing and overharvesting forests, and harm the climate by emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than ecosystems can absorb.

Most countries use more natural resources than the planet can regenerate within a year. In Germany, we would need 1.7 planets per year to support our consumption levels as they are today.

But not all countries are equally to blame for overshooting our natural budget. Higher-income countries use far more resources per year than lower-income countries.

Worldwide, fossil fuels are the main culprit of our resource overshoot—and responsible for high CO2 emissions. In order to live within the means of our planet, we need to radically rethink our consumption patterns.

Do you really need that new smartphone, or discounted dress?

Reducing our environmental footprint means buying fewer products, buying products that last longer, recycling whenever possible and—best of all—reusing as much as we can. Circular economy, baby!

6. Take Collective Action

Many believe the most important thing individuals can do is form groups and take collective action. Bill McKibben, a veteran climate activist and a leading voice for civil society movements to protect the planet, is very vocal on this point.

While individual actions like changing behavior feed into the bigger fight against global warming, that's no longer enough considering how climate change has taken on such worrying dimensions, McKibben says.

So to really make a difference, people should join together with others in movements that are big and broad enough to actually change government policy.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

A large patch of leaked oil and the vessel MV Wakashio near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on Aug. 6, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.

Read More Show Less
A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

The frozen meat section at a supermarket in Hong Kong, China, in February. Chukrut Budrul / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Imported frozen food in three Chinese cities has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but public health experts say you still shouldn't worry too much about catching the virus from food or packaging.

Read More Show Less
This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

By Mark Mancini

If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

Read More Show Less
Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

Read More Show Less