Worried about climate change?
Here’s how you can make a real difference this year
A new year, and it is once again time for the dreaded New Year’s resolutions. Driven in large part by the sense of guilt of our over-indulging over the Christmas period, the beginning of January is normally the time many of us resolve to become a better version of ourselves in the coming year.
Some people really dislike this annual ritual. The good news for them is that there is a special day to help them along: 17 January is “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day”.
For the rest of us, there are real benefits in promising to try and do better in the coming year – even if we know that most of us will fail to stick to our good intentions.
For starters, by making a list of things we would like to improve about how we live, we force ourselves to be honest about our past foibles. And by setting fresh goals, we allow ourselves to set a direction for the year ahead, feeding our optimism and sense of hope. And by trying to be better, feel better or contribute more, we can also inspire others to do the same.
Small steps to tackle big challenges
At a time of doom and gloom, getting a sense of control over your life and your priorities is hugely important. Many of us are worried about climate change and how it will affect us. Every day, we are confronted with more news about the state of the climate, and the more we read about it, the more pressing and depressing the situation seems to become.
Climate awareness is at an all-time high, and with it comes a fair dose of climate anxiety.
Yet, as with most major challenges, climate anxiety can be tackled, by breaking the overall challenge down into manageable chunks, and by focusing on the positives.
Climate change is a hugely complex issue. For most people, the science is too complicated and too bewildering, and the challenge of changing our society at every level seems too great for any person, company or government to solve.
In that context, it is only natural that many of us become disheartened.
Yet, all over Ireland, there are people who are working on the solutions, and who are setting the examples that the rest of us can follow.
And the good news is that these “climate heroes” are not superheroes with incredible powers or tech wizards with the latest gadgets; rather, they are ordinary people like you and me.
Their secret is that they have decided to focus on what they can control and to change the habits that have the greatest impact on the climate.
How to become a Climate Hero
Anyone can become a climate hero. And here are some easy steps to help you get there:
1. Start talking
The most effective thing we can all do to tackle climate change is to break the silence. Too many of us think you need to be an expert on the issue to be allowed to have an opinion, and more of us think that we are the only ones who are worried about global warming.
If none of us feels we can voice our concerns, the silence will continue, and the misplaced perception that no one cares will be allowed to fester. If no one speaks up, nothing will change.
2. Read up
It is often said that knowledge is power, and this also applies to global warming.
If you want to learn more about climate change and how to stop it, ignore the news headlines, and pick up a book.
There are many good books about the causes of global warming and what can be done to stop it from getting out of control. Consider enrolling in a training course or learning about climate change with others (eg through NGOs, community groups or adult learning centres): You will meet other people with similar interests, and you can engage in meaningful conversations around climate change.
3. Pick your starting point
Take action to reduce your own carbon footprint.
We know that the average person in Ireland emits about 12 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, about 50% more than the average European.
And the main sources of these emissions are our transport, our food and our homes. So if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, it makes sense to make changes to how you travel, what you eat and how you use energy at home:
- Meat and dairy products are the greatest sources of food-related greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing the amount of meat you eat, and by changing to plant-based milk alternatives, you will significantly reduce your emissions. You will also have a more varied diet.
- The average person in Ireland typically travels about 16,000 km by car each year. Ditching the car in favour of public transport (or bicycles and walking) will save about 2,000 kg of greenhouse gas emissions annually. And if you really want to make an impact, stop flying: aircraft on short haul routes emit 251 grams of carbon dioxide per person, for every kilometre travelled – compared to 171 g/km of CO2 for a diesel car, and 19 grams per km for a foot-passenger travelling on a ferry.
The important thing is to take the first step towards a less carbon-intensive lifestyle.
(Click here for more suggestions for environmentally friendly New Year’s resolutions)
Once you have started on your climate journey, you will get inspired to try other options to reduce your carbon footprint.
As other people see what you are trying to do, they too will get inspired and as you speak up about your efforts, they will understand that their own concerns are more widespread than they assumed, and they will be more likely to feel that their own efforts matter, too.
Your first step will become the beginning on a shared journey. You will have become a Climate Hero.
Surely, that’s worth aspiring to in this new year?