These 5 Charts Show What You Can Do Right Now to Fight Climate Change

To keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, net zero emissions must be achieved by the middle of this century. This implies that in less than three decades, we must reverse more than a century of growing emissions and reduce yearly emissions to near zero, while actively extracting carbon from the atmosphere to balance out all remaining unavoidable emissions.

Individuals must do everything possible to reduce our usage of fossil fuels in order to assist accelerate this process. However, many people are unaware of the most efficient methods for doing so. Fortunately, the current report by the UN climate change panel IPCC devotes a chapter to all of the ways in which behavioral changes might hasten the transition to net zero.

The chapter provides an examination of 60 specific activities that can aid in the battle against climate change, based on research performed by Diana Ivanova at the University of Leeds, to which I participated.

These acts were divided into three categories: avoiding consumption, moving consumption, and improving consumption (making it more efficient). The graphics below, created for the IPCC report, demonstrate what we discovered.

What to avoid

Transport is by far the most effective item to avoid. Living without a car saves an average of 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person per year, while skipping a single long-distance return travel saves an average of 1.9 tonnes. That is the equivalent of driving an average EU automobile from Hamburg, Germany to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and back.

Because the great majority of the world's population does not fly at all, and just a tiny fraction of those who do travel regularly, flyers may significantly reduce their carbon footprints with each flight they skip.

What to shift

But living sustainably is more than just giving up goods. Shifting to a different method of doing things can result in significant savings in emissions. Because driving is so harmful, switching to public transportation, walking, or cycling may make a huge difference, with additional advantages for your own health and local air pollution levels.

Similarly, transitioning to more sustainable diets may significantly lower your carbon footprint due to the high emissions connected with meat and dairy, notably those produced by farming sheep and cows. A completely vegan diet is the most efficient method to do this, although moving from beef and lamb to pork and chicken can result in significant savings.

What to improve

Finally, the activities we already do may be made more efficient by boosting carbon efficiency at home, such as by adding solar panels or employing insulation and heat pumps.

Switching from a combustion automobile to an electric one, preferably a battery EV, which emits far less pollutants than hybrid or fuel cell EVs, will make your car trips more efficient. Furthermore, its impact on emissions will expand over time as the amount of power generated by renewables increases.

Every tonne of CO2 counts in the race to net zero. If more of us take even a few of these proposals into consideration, we will be more likely to meet the ambitious goals outlined in the Paris climate accord. Of course, these reforms will need to be accompanied by significant political action on sustainability.

If we want to utilize less fossil fuel energy, we must either restrict or increase the price of fossil fuels. The social ramifications of this must be carefully controlled in order for carbon pricing plans to benefit individuals on lower incomes, which can occur if revenues are shared to relieve financial burdens on poorer households.

However, governments could do a lot more to help people live more sustainably, such as providing better, safer public transportation and "active travel" infrastructure (such as bike lanes and pedestrian zones) to provide people alternatives to driving and flying.

There is no getting around the truth that if political solutions are to address climate change with the urgency that our global predicament needs, they will limit the amount to which we can engage in carbon-intensive behaviors. Above all, we must elect individuals who are willing to make such difficult decisions for the sake of our planet's future.

Max Callaghan, Postdoctoral Researcher in Climate Change, University of Leeds.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.