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Four decisions that actually matter for climate change

Did you take part in Earth Hour last month? On the 24th of March each year a big part of the earth’s population in the most energy consuming countries turn the lights off for one hour to stress the environmental challenges the world is facing.

Letting the cities go dark is a great way to raise awareness, however no solution related to light bulbs will keep us under the climate goal set by the UN Paris agreement in 2015: to not let the world’s temperature increase with more than 2⁰C. Nonetheless “conserving energy” is among the most commonly suggested ways to influence the climate by both school books and governmental recommendations. This, while several of the high-impact choices that individuals can make are not even mentioned. So what are the things that actually matter? Here is the top four, starting from the one with the lowest impact:

  1. Buy green energy.
  2. Don’t fly. One transatlantic flight equals two years of meat eating.
  3. Choose a car free life style.
  4. Have one fewer child.

Personal choices to reduce your contribution to climate change

(Click the image to see a larger version.)

The last one might seem controversial if misinterpreted. The point is not that couples shouldn’t have children but rather the fact that children become adults having their own cars, going for vacations to sunny islands far away and thus make a carbon footprint. Unless you raise a “zero carbon footprint baby” of course, which some parents actually choose to do.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t care about Earth Hour? No, it doesn’t. Let’s keep turning the lights off on the 24th of March because it’s a great reminder of the collective action needed. But, if we really want to stay below that 2⁰C mark one hour won’t do. Then we need to pay attention to the four big impact factors every single one of the year’s 8 760 hours.

If you want to know more about what impacts the climate please listen to Kimberly Nicholas’ talk at the Institute earlier this spring. You can also visit Kimberly's website to learn more.