Hi friends! How are you doing today? I hope 2020 is treating you quite well. Today we are going to be chatting about how you can help fight climate change. I spent the bulk of the work week at the 2020 NCSE conference, gathering new information and skill sets, making new friends and connections, and seeing some climate pals from all over.
It was great to re-immerse myself in the climate space. I really truly want to make a difference in this world by helping in any way that I can! I left feeling inspired and polled my Insta fam to see what climate and environmental health science questions people had.
One question I got, which I thought was an excellent question, is “What are some things I can do to be effective to fight climate change?” So today’s post is all about how you – yes YOU – can be an effective advocate in the face of the climate change crisis, and help fight climate change and its impacts!
This list is long, but by no means exhaustive. In fact, I’m sure I’ll think of many things in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, and probably come back and edit this post.
And please do not feel overwhlemed by this list of ideas for how you can help fight climate change. You do not have to engage in all of the listed opportunities below. You can make one change, two changes, or several changes. All efforts are worthy of applause.
But I hope you find it useful. Even though it’s very easy to (understandably) feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis, please, when possible, do not give up hope. It’s important to work together to do whatever we can to combat climate change, which is what I consider to be the greatest threat to our planet and all of its inhabitants.
If you want to get an estimate of your carbon footprint, take a look at this resource from UC Berkeley.
1. Support policies that encourage effective climate change action and the politicians that support them.
But before we take a deeper dive into individual actions to take to reduce your impact on the environment, I want to emphasize that one of the most important and effective things you can do to fight climate change is to advocate for policies that protect and prioritize the environment, including environmental regulations and standards (for things like air and water quality and acceptable levels of pollution), conservation initiatives, mitigation projects (projects that help damage control what’s been done or is happening), decarbonization initiates, and polices that incentivize eco-friendly behaviors or consumerism. Compliance and enforcement polices (aka things that keep us accountable) are great too.
Effective, enforceable policies are one of the most effective ways to make sweeping, large-scale impacts to fight climate change. Which is why I always stress the importance of supporting policies and politicians who advocate for environmental health and climate change action.
Why are regulations and laws so important? Well, think about it. It’s super easy for businesses and individuals to slip up on occasion if they are not being held accountable. Have you ever skipped a ‘required reading’ for a class that didn’t ever check to make sure you did it? It’s a very easy thing to do, even for individuals and businesses that have the very best intentions. And for those with a disregard for climate change and the environment, lax regulations make it very easy to exploit the environment, which is something we can no longer afford.
So how can you do this, exactly?
Well, first of all, if you are in the US, you can track environmental protection laws right and the representatives introducing them with on this government website. You can also check to see how consistently different representatives from your area (and others) have voted in favor of environmental protection with this super neat “Environmental Scorecard” tool.
In addition to seeing how politicians have handled environmental protection policies in the past, you can also check the websites of politicians to see where they stand on environmental issues when deciding how to cast your vote in upcoming elections. If we want to take environmental action seriously, we must advocate for policies that will help us reach our goals.
But what about right now? Want to put pressure on politicians to take action right now? Well, you can.
- Use the websites Vote Smart and GovTrack to gather information on how to get in touch with members of Congress. Use the local district office as a main point of contact, as they prioritize constituent relations.
- Add your representative’s phone numbers to your phone. Consider calling them daily to express how important it is to you that they support policies that take climate change seriously. If you can site bills/laws that are upcoming and will be voted upon soon, that’s even better. Write out a script or talking points if you need to. Remember to always be kind and respectful while expressing your concerns. But be persistent. Consistently calling your representatives is something that is very easy to fall out of routine to engage in. But give it a try if you haven’t already. Public pressure can be effective.
- If possible, show up in person at town halls in your area. Speak up about climate change at these meetings. Physical presence, when possible, can be impactful. Check your local town hall schedule here.
- Consider using online tools to contact your representatives. NRDC has a tool to urge your governor to lead on climate action here. The Union of Concerned Scientists also has a tool to call on your senators to support policies that mitigate the climate crisis right here. You can even personalize the messages and specify how and why this is important to you.
Now, let’s see what other actions you can take as an individual to combat climate change.
2. Educate Yourself. Learn about climate change. But realize you don’t have to be an expert to be effective.
It’s important to be well-informed about the realities of climate change. Some great (free) introductory resources include the NASA Global Climate Change website, the UN’s Climate Change information page, NOAA’s Climate.gov website, NRDC’s website, and the WHO’s climate change page. I also have several blog posts under the “Climate and Health” section here on this page, and welcome topic suggestions at any time (pardon the self-promo).
While the information is important, don’t be overwhelmed or feel as though you have to be an expert to make a difference. You can be absolutely effective as a climate advocate even if you are not a climate scientist.
Climate change impacts all of us, so we must all come together to learn about its impacts and potential solutions, and work towards a greener future together. The more people on board to fight climate change, the better. More people = more pressure for policies that can make serious and impactful change.
3. Start conversations with others about climate change, and discuss how you can fight climate change together.
Engage with your community, and spread awareness about how climate change is already impacting our planet, and exchange ideas about how we can work together to combat climate change.
A super interesting 2019 survey conducted the Yale Program on Climate Communications found that Americans tend to underestimate the social consensus on climate change. It turns out 69% of Americans believe ‘global warming’ is happening, and that it is a problem, but only 54% of Americans believe other Americans feel the same way. It’s important we start connecting with others about climate change, exchanging our concerns and informing one another of effective ways to take action.
If you’re looking for resources on how to talk to climate skeptics effectively, consider your goal and your audience. Focus on empathy, shared values, shared struggles, common ground, and point out ways in which taking climate change seriously is vital to every living being on the planet.
Discussing ways in which climate change are meaningful to the audience and empower specific action (ie, exchanging ideas for how change can be made) can also be effective. For more information on talking to skeptics, check out this resource from Harvard School of Public Health or this scientific journal article.
4. Eat a more sustainable diet.
The global food system contributes 19-29% of the total human-created global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning the foods we eat can help us make a difference in the future of our planet. Sustainably eating has garnered much attention in the past few years, which is exciting because it’s a meaningful way for individuals and feeding entities to make an impact.
How can you eat more sustainably? Well, first you can start by decreasing your meat consumption. In particular, livestock agriculture foods (like lamb and beef) contribute an estimated 14.5% of all anthropometric greenhouse gas emissions, which is a significant amount. While some have said that grass-fed beef is better for the planet and its people, research shows it carries an even larger eco-footprint.
Dairy, another livestock entity, also emit a significant amount of greenhouse gasses; in fact, cheese has a larger carbon footprint than does chicken. Eating a more plant-based diet can help you reduce your eco-footprint. You do not have to go fully vegan to make a difference, so do not strive for perfection if you find that intimidating.
Reducing consumption of carbon and water-intensive animal products is one of the most impactful ways to reduce the eco footprint of your diet, and your life. A report in Science states that even the lowest-impact meat causes “much more” environmental impact than the least sustainable forms of plant-food production.…