Climate change is a grave environmental issue gripping the world. Timely intervention by citizens, however, can mitigate its impact and prevent us from the impending apocalypse. A new study by the name “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions” published in Environmental Research Letters, reiterates how altering our daily lifestyle can help us reverse the impact.
Some key findings of the report by Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas are:
1. National policies and major energy transformations often take decades to change locked-in infrastructure and institutions, but behavioural shifts have the potential to be more rapid and widespread (i.e. reduced reliance on cars can begin immediately) whereas improved power plant efficiency occurs on a decadal time frame.
Four recommended actions that are of substantial magnitude throughout the developed world having one fewer child, living car free, avoiding air travel, and eating a plant-based diet.
2. Adolescents have the freedom to make large behavioural choices that will structure the rest of their lives, and must grow up accustomed to a lifestyle that approaches the 2.1 tonnes per person annual emissions budget necessary by 2050 to meet the 2 °C climate target. They can act as a catalyst to change their household’s behaviour.
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3. Four recommended actions that are of substantial magnitude throughout the developed world are having one fewer child, living car free, avoiding air travel, and eating a plant-based diet. Each of these actions was high-impact (reduces an individual’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 0.8 tCO2e per year, about 5% of current annual emissions in the US or Australia) regardless of study parameters.
4. A car-free lifestyle reduces traffic congestion and petroleum dependence and avoids the environmental toxicity issues surrounding the electric vehicle production, making it advantageous even in an era of low-emission vehicles.
5. Other moderate impact actions that can help deal with climate change are home heating, cooling efficiency, install solar panels, use public transport, conserving energy while the low impact actions including planting a tree, ecotourism, composting, etc.
6. School textbooks focus on moderate or low-impact actions, with our recommended actions mostly presented in a less effective form, or not at all. No textbook suggested having fewer children as a way to reduce emissions, and only two out of ten mentioned avoiding air travel. Eating a plant-based diet was presented in the form of moderate-impact actions such as eating less meat, even though a completely plant-based diet can be 2 to 4.7 times more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than decreased meat intake.
The study very clearly opines that the onus of saving earth from catastrophe lies on our shoulders. It is only when people, all across the world, coalesce and devise effective ways to save our environment that we will actually be able to lead a long and healthy life.
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