What you can do to stop global warming

January 23 2017

What is the number one thing *you* can do do right now to stop global warming? I like reading The Listserve for touching personal stories interesting facts and wisdom. When I won The Listserve, it was exactly one of those emails I was planning to write. Something light and interesting. For example: did you know that you have probably been tying your shoelaces wrong all your life? Look up Teddy Moore’s TED talk from 2005. It will save you a lot of time tying loose shoelaces.

But then there was this question, and I think it is important. 2016 was again a year in which many climate records were broken and arctic sea ice reached a troublesome low in the winter. In their 2014 report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that based on 9,200 scientific studies, it is 95% certain that all of this is mostly caused by us. Since the problem is caused by us, the solution should also start with us. Now that the adverse affects of climate change are beginning to affect our own lives and not just those of next generations, it seems people are finally beginning to take the problem seriously enough to do something about it.

So what can you do about global warming as a normal person? It’s kind of tempting to think about it as a problem so big that it’s best left to governments and it’s true that governments can definitely help. They can set the right incentives, subsidies, taxes, legislation etc. and make international agreements to avoid the prisoner’s dilemma of one country taking advantage of the rest. Indeed, it certainly doesn’t help to vote on people who actively deny global warming exists and promise to retreat from international agreements. However, there are lots of things you can do that reduce your individual environmental footprint. You can use less water, switch to green energy, commute by public transportation or carpool instead of driving yourself, recycle your trash (and reduce waste altogether). All of these things help significantly, but the number one thing that has a disproportionate impact on many people’s environmental footprint? Meat. Agriculture is responsible for up to 15% of all emissions and beef produces 11 times more emissions than rice or potatoes (The Guardian, 21/7/2014). For many people, eating less red meat would be a better way to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars. Since the new year has just started, maybe you are still looking for a new year’s resolution. How about eating a little bit less red meat this year? Future generations will thank you.

TL;DR: eat less red meat, save up to 15% of emissions.

Michel Jansen
Den Haag, The Netherlands
[email protected]

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