Stop Blaming Each Other For The Climate Crisis – Coronavirus Shows What We Can Achieve Together

A climate action march in London, February 2020, before the onset of lockdown. JessicaGirvan1/Shutterstock

How can I reduce my carbon footprint? As sustainability researchers, we regularly field this question, from friends and family but also journalists. The answer is simple: cut down on flying, driving and eating animal products. Google is awash with the same advice and the science backs it up.

Of course, changes to our diet, travel and lifestyle are entirely necessary to avert climate breakdown. These are most needed in high income countries, given their disproportionate responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will finally dedicate – for the first time since its first report in 1990 – an entire chapter to demand side solutions in its upcoming sixth Assessment Report. The UK government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change recognises that society will need to change fundamentally for the UK to meet net zero emissions by 2050. And each individual can help this effort.

If you live in a developed country, not taking that one long-haul flight a year could reduce your annual carbon emissions by up to half. Going vegan can cut your food-related emissions by over 70%. And switching to a renewable energy provider can knock another sizeable chunk off your carbon footprint. But we’re still sceptical about whether these changes can really scale up to what’s needed.

Stop Blaming Each Other For The Climate Crisis – Coronavirus Shows What We Can Achieve Together Going vegan can drastically lower your carbon footprint, but it’s unlikely that most people will give up animal products. Antonina Vlasova/Shutterstock

To have any meaningful impact, measures to reduce carbon footprints require everyone adopting them. But even among the most well-informed people, there’s little evidence of positive environmental behaviour. Conservationists, despite their acute awareness of the ecological and climate crisis, have environmental footprints that are no lower than their colleagues in medicine or economics, for example.

Even if everyone adopts a low carbon lifestyle, we can only hope to influence at most half of the emissions linked to human activity, with the remainder being locked up in infrastructure, such as roads, airports, and buildings. A recent study found that with reasonable levels of adoption, green consumer actions could only reduce the EU’s carbon footprint by 25%. But the actions commonly taken to reduce carbon footprints – recycling, reusing bags and changing light bulbs – have little effect.

Instead of obsessing over our individual carbon footprint, we need to realise our collective power. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated this beautifully. In many places, people have surprised their own governments by overwhelmingly obeying lockdown restrictions and supporting their extension.

People who are healthy and to whom the virus poses little risk are isolating to protect the most vulnerable in their community. And it’s working. These individual actions are helping suppress the transmission of the virus and reduce the number of new cases. This shows how our individual actions can add up when they’re taken in solidarity with others.

Stop Blaming Each Other For The Climate Crisis – Coronavirus Shows What We Can Achieve Together Social distancing has put paid to the idea that individuals are too selfish to act for the collective good. Fatmawati achmad zaenuri/Shutterstock

Building collective power

The real culprits of the climate emergency have been eclipsed by individual guilt and blame. If we invested the energy we currently do in challenging each other’s green credentials into calling out how governments and businesses have derailed environmental action instead, we might be further ahead.

A recent report found 134 countries have commitments to reduce emissions over the next decade that are insufficient for limiting global warming to well below 2°C, as outlined in the international Paris Agreement on climate change. Building the movements to challenge and ultimately change this situation will be profound. Acting alone simply isn’t an option.

Even before the pandemic, recent history vindicated collective action by ordinary people. Movements such as Extinction Rebellion and the Greta Thunberg-inspired Fridays for Future have placed the environment front and centre in political debates. Electoral gains for green parties illustrate a new appetite for solutions to environmental problems.

Grassroots campaigns have pressured governments and corporations to honour their commitments on climate change. Legal action has helped advance the notion that a safe climate is a fundamental human right that must be respected in law. Calls for fossil fuel divestment have led universities, pension schemes and whole countries to abandon investments in fossil fuel companies.

Direct action, such as protests disrupting airport expansion, has stirred public support for scaling back major infrastructure decisions that would accelerate climate change. Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, announced after global protests that it would stop investing in companies that threaten the environment, such as coal production.

Individual action will only disrupt business as usual once we realise we are not one, but many. As we try desperately to flatten the coronavirus curve, we should reflect on how, through cooperation, we can do the same for climate change. 

About The Author

Oliver Taherzadeh, PhD Candidate in Geography, University of Cambridge and Benedict Probst, Felllow at Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, University of Cambridge

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

Related Books

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
9780143130444In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy

by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
1610919564With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein
1451697392In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
by Ken Buesseler
The ocean plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. The driving force comes from tiny plankton that produce…
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
by Gabriel Filippelli and Joseph D. Ortiz
“Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” is not what anyone wants to hear about their city’s tap water. But the combined effects of…
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
by Gregg Howe and Nathan Havko
For millennia, insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle: to eat or not be…
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
A Georgia Town Gets Half Of Its Electricity From President Jimmy Carter's Solar Farm
A Georgia Town Gets Half Of Its Electricity From President Jimmy Carter's Solar Farm
by Johnna Crider
Plains, Georgia, is a small town that is just south of Columbus, Macon, and Atlanta and north of Albany. It is the…

LATEST ARTICLES

Hurricanes And Other Extreme Weather Disasters Prompt Some People To Move And Trap Others In Place
Hurricanes And Other Extreme Weather Disasters Prompt Some People To Move And Trap Others In Place
by Jack DeWaard
If it seems like extreme weather disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires are becoming more frequent, severe and…
If All Cars Were Electric, UK Carbon Emissions Would Drop By 12%
If All Cars Were Electric, UK Carbon Emissions Would Drop By 12%
by George Milev and Amin Al-Habaibeh
The COVID-19 lockdown has led to reduced pollution and emissions in the UK and around the world, providing a clear…
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro Is Devastating Indigenous Lands, With The World Distracted
by Brian Garvey, and Mauricio Torres
The Amazon fires of 2019 drove the greatest single year loss of Brazilian forest in a decade. But with the world in the…
Why Countries Don't Count Emissions From Goods They Import
Why Countries Don't Count Emissions From Goods They Import
by Sarah McLaren
I would like to know if New Zealand’s carbon emissions of 0.17% include emissions produced from products manufactured…
Green Bailouts: Relying On Carbon Offsetting Will Let Polluting Airlines Off The Hook
Green Bailouts: Relying On Carbon Offsetting Will Let Polluting Airlines Off The Hook
by Ben Christopher Howard
The coronavirus pandemic has grounded thousands of aircraft, contributing to the largest-ever annual fall in CO₂…
Longer Growing Seasons Have A Limited Effect On Combating Climate Change
Longer Growing Seasons Have A Limited Effect On Combating Climate Change
by Alemu Gonsamo
Climate warming is leading to early springs and delayed autumns in colder environments, allowing plants to grow for a…
Both Conservatives And Liberals Want A Green Energy Future, But For Different Reasons
Both Conservatives And Liberals Want A Green Energy Future, But For Different Reasons
by Deidra Miniard et al
Political divisions are a growing fixture in the United States today, whether the topic is marriage across party lines,…
How The Climate Impact Of Beef Compares With Plant-based Alternatives
How The Climate Impact Of Beef Compares With Plant-based Alternatives
by Alexandra Macmillan and Jono Drew
I am wondering about the climate impact of vegan meat versus beef. How does a highly processed patty compare to…