Updated: Feb 10, 2022
So, you are off and running, you were inspired, or perhaps your children were, and you felt the pressure to do something about climate change. Those David Attenborough-esk TV programmes might have made you feel a bit guilty, or perhaps they created a light bulb moment of recognition about the threat we face to our climate.
But then after those initial steps, life got in the way. Suddenly all those good intentions were buried beneath the weight of daily activities, pressure at work or just running a family. Other things became more important. Sound familiar? Just like that gym membership, new set of golf clubs in the garage or delayed DIY project, it’s become something to get back to when time permits. Turning good intentions into long term actions can be tricky.
The problem is time is not on our side and a recent report from the World Meteorological Organization suggests that it is becoming ever more likely that the key global temperature limit of 1.5°C will be reached in one of the next five years, rather than the next ten, as we had previously thought, unless we take drastic actions now.
Shouts of ‘don’t panic’, ‘don’t panic’, might spring to mind, for those with long memories or avid appetites for classic television sitcoms. Of course, we shouldn’t panic but we should heed the scientist’s warnings and speed up our efforts to eliminate carbon emissions.
We are not alone in having to make some big changes in a short time period, and fortunately we are starting to see positive signs from around the world, with targets to reduce carbon emissions being brought forward by many countries. Our own government, as well as committing to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, has recently promised to "halt the decline of nature" as part of a new drive to improve the environment, with more trees planted, the sale of peat to be banned and new targets set to rewild the countryside, including a legally binding 2030 target to address wildlife loss.
The natural world is our greatest ally in the fight against climate change, with the ability to absorb and store large quantities of carbon in the soil, oceans, trees and all forms of vegetation, which might otherwise contribute to global warming, in the form of carbon dioxide and methane gases in the atmosphere. The healthier our eco systems the greater their contribution to limiting climate change and mitigating the impact of those changes already seen.
Pressure is also being brought to bear on some of the biggest carbon emitters. Oil giant Shell, for example, in a landmark ruling by a Dutch court, has just been told that they must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030.
As individuals and families our actions might seem inconsequential compared to those of countries and large industrial organisations but our behaviour can and will help to support the changes needed, simply through sheer weight of numbers. It is our buying habits and lifestyles that have led to the high level of carbon emissions that we are now trying to reduce. Companies like Shell have simply responded to our growing demand for energy, albeit profitably. If we didn’t buy oil, or beef, or cars, from businesses like these they would need to find alternative ways of making money, perhaps from low-carbon, sustainable products and services instead. As consumers we wield enormous power so let’s use it to help ourselves and others reduce carbon emissions, by considering more carefully what we buy and use.
The trick of course is, as with any objective, there has to be a target to focus on. One that is realistic and one that is shared with as many people as possible, so that they can help you achieve it. A target kept to yourself is a dream, one shared is a promise.
So, hold back a little longer on those push-ups, replacing divots on the golf course and drilling through water pipes but do get back on track with the next stage of your carbon reduction journey.
If you need some help and encouragement why not take a look at Mike Berners-Lee’s book ‘How Bad are Bananas? – The Carbon Footprint of Everything’, for your staycation reading.