The climate collapse is real – it’s official. And so is our eco-anxiety. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific analysis has declared ‘unequivocally’ human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land. So what can we actually do to make a difference? Professor Maslin’s straight-talking book lays out the science in a digestible format, certainly helping us feel empowered through the rapid-fire delivery of no-nonsense knowledge. So we tapped him for his 10 top tips on how to help protect our planet’s future.
1. Keep talking about climate change
The first and most important thing you can do is keep talking about climate change – to everyone. The greatest challenge in the history of our species should not be a taboo subject. We need new solutions, new social structures and new economics to solve this crisis. So talk about climate change. Share ideas – just one idea shared with one of your friends or relatives will start the conversation rolling.
2. Switch to a vegetable-heavier diet
Even being a flexitarian – eating a diet of mostly plant-based foods, with meat and dairy products in moderation – will make a difference. Meat production, particularly beef, is a major cause of tropical deforestation. Cutting your meat consumption saves the environment and reduces carbon emissions. A more vegetable-based diet is also good for your health – skipping highly processed meat is only ever going to be a good thing. Consume hyper-locally sourced and seasonally appropriate food to reduce carbon air miles and support your local economy. If you’re not already, aim to become a vegetarian. Try dairy-free alternatives. A standard Western meat-based diet produces an estimated 7.2kg carbon dioxide equivalent units a day. A vegetarian diet, in comparison, is responsible for around 3.8kg CO2e per day and a vegan diet only 2.9kg CO2e per day.
3. Choose a renewable-energy supplier
It’s a simple change – and it might not even cost you anything extra. If we all switched, energy companies would have to generate more renewable energy to meet demand. Persuade your workplace, your favourite café, your gym – wherever you spend time – to move to renewable energy.
4. Make your home energy efficient
Save energy by making your home as heat-efficient as possible. Insulate roof and walls to the highest standard. Ensure windows and doors are fitted properly to avoid draughts. Turn the thermostat down a degree, wash at a lower temperature, reduce the use of home appliances, install a smart meter and replace halogen bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs. All of this also saves money. If your heating system needs replacing, make sure it’s changed for the most efficient gas boiler possible; better still, invest in ground and air heat exchangers that can produce either heating or cooling (which we’ll need as the planet heats up).
5. Use cars less
Up your walking, cycling and use of public transport. This also improves fitness and health. If you need a car occasionally, hire an electric or hybrid one. If you really need your own set of wheels, choose the smallest and most efficient one possible – or if you can, invest in a new-gen electric or hybrid vehicle.
6. Reduce flying
As we know, taking slower on-land forms of travel such as trains can be less stressful, with more space and time to work or relax. When we do fly long-haul, or to visit family overseas, it’s essential to offset carbon emissions using reputable specialist firms, such as those with a Gold Standard accreditation. Alternatively, use that offset money to reduce emissions at home or at work. Many organisations have now decided to offset all unavoidable emissions at 10 times the estimated emissions and closely monitor their chosen offset schemes. This way they can be assured their emissions have been removed.
7. Divest your pension and investments from fossil fuels
Lobby your pension fund to divest from all fossil-fuel investments. Or move your fund if they do not divest. Investing your pension money with organisations such as Pensions for Purpose will be safer and may even earn more if you move it away from fossil fuels and into the green economy. Green companies are already returning twice as much profit as fossil-fuel enterprises.
The fossil-fuel industry will be greatly affected by future climate-change legislation and will cease to be profitable. Fossil-fuel companies will suffer from what is called stranded assets. A company’s nominal worth is based on how much fossil fuels they have in their oil and gas fields and coal mines – these assets will be worthless when fossil-fuel mining and drilling are banned due to climate change.
8. Resist excessive consumption
We do not need all those possessions. Buy less, and buy better. Reject the idea that consumption makes us happier and that we must always have new things to enhance our lives. Think carefully about what you need and live a sustainable, low-carbon lifestyle. Competing to get hold of the latest gadgets and gear can lead to higher levels of stress. Not obsessing about what everyone else has can reduce our social anxiety and help us to gain a better perspective on what matters. As we found out during the pandemic, it is often experiences, memories and time with friends and family that are most rewarding.
9. Reduce and reuse what you can
Encourage everyone you know to be more minimalistic. As consumers, we have a lot of power – let’s exercise it through better choices. Can we reject all that packaging? Do we really need the latest fast-fashion ‘bargain’? Investing in high-quality clothes and accessories means more wear and less waste. We know to ditch plastic bottles and throwaway coffee cups – so try to keep refillable and reusable alternatives to hand. Fix things when they break. Replacing your smartphone’s battery or screen instead of buying a whole new device is all part of living greener.
10. Protest and vote
People power is real. The School Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion demonstrations have brought together diverse groups of people across the world who want their governments to start taking the protection of the planet seriously. Protests are having an impact, and change is beginning to happen. In democratic countries, we are very lucky that we can vote in new governments. Demand that your politicians tell you where they stand on dealing with climate change. Demand that they declare where they are getting their campaign money. Demand action. And let’s vote for a change for the better.
Buy How to Save Our Planet: The Facts published by Penguin UK at bookshop.org
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