The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates we have about 550 gigatonnes of carbon emissions left before we cause irreparable damage to the climate (about 10 to 15 years at a rate of 42 gigatonnes per year).
Global warming is such an enormous, existential crisis that it’s easy to feel lost and incapable of helping. Thankfully, we can all make small changes that in concert reduce our impact on our local environments. Simple things like avoiding cheap plastics, investing in local agriculture and becoming politically active can create lasting effects for your area.
Get the most out of the carbon you use
A good first start to mitigate the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere begins with your existing use of carbon and fossil fuels. Bundle trips and errands together to minimize the days you’re on the road. Private cars and trucks are responsible for as much as a third of pollutants in some areas of the U.S. Switch cheap, non-durable plastics (bags, blister packs, or other disposables) out for more robust plastic containers to slow production of an ecologically damaging product.
Plant a flower bed or tree
Adding plants where you live, whether it’s rural, an apartment, or the suburbs, can help act as a carbon sink, add natural beauty to your living space, and can even provide you with homegrown vegetables or fruits. This bio-intensive agriculture can involve anything from simple flower beds on an apartment patio to trees and a beehives in your suburban backyard. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) has a guide for aspiring micro-farmers that details how to become an urban farmer.
There are likely many eco-volunteer groups looking for assistance in your area. Small and medium sized organizations in a local area often look for help and can lead to additional opportunities. If there aren’t any local orgs to get involved in, look into larger ones like the Citizens Climate Lobby and Habitat for Humanity. If you’re interested in ecological studies or science, many universities or colleges look for volunteers to assist in survey work.
Make your voice heard locally
Attend city council meetings to find out your local government is doing to mitigate climate change. Use statistics like your area’s walk score to reinforce the need for public transit solutions or telecommute incentives. Pay special attention to planning discussions, because they’re great opportunities to submit concerns related to over-development and urban sprawl. Attending city and county council meetings will also put you in touch with other advocates and activists and help your coordinate your efforts.
The IPCC’s special report, released on October 8, 2018 set off a warning siren among nations of the world that we haven’t made enough progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It demonstrated the dangerous and ecologically devastated future the world could enter if warming continues unchecked and detailed a number of large scale, systemic solutions to help bring emissions down within a decade.
While tackling this crisis feels daunting, remember that you have many options that can make a big difference over time and each year we scale down our pollutants gives us more time for the future.
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