You're in luck! XRSF scientists have compiled a couple of lists - easiest to hardest - of things that you can do to have an effect on the climate. We have broken these down into "activist" activities and "individual" (life style and more) activities:
Be willing to talk to people in your life about the climate crisis. Speaking up and speaking out is powerful stuff!
Vote for candidates that put climate first
Join American Promise. Let’s face it - the main reason that our government has failed to take drastic action on climate is the gigantic influence of money in our political system. “Follow the money” is more than a cute catch phrase. Joe Manchin has received more money from fossil fuel interests (and owns part of a coal company) than any other congressional candidate. Is it any wonder that he blocks all attempts to transition off of this fuel? He is not the only one. Limit the money in the political process and we will have a chance to get back to “by and for the people.” We can not overstate the importance of this.
Talk about and support policies that reduce carbon dependence like a carbon tax. Nothing will unleash creative innovation in a capitalist society like reflecting the true costs of carbon in the price of fossil fuels. There are ways to impose a carbon tax (like the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan) that doesn’t disproportionally penalize low-income families.
Join Extinction Rebellion Global or if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, join Extinction Rebellion SF and do an occasional march
Call or write to your governmental representatives - once or regularly - and tell them that climate action is extremely important and ask them what they are doing to head off catastrophic climate change.
Write op-eds to your local newspaper and challenge them to raise their level of climate reporting. There are climate-related aspects to a wide variety of stories… for instance finance, politics, supply chain, agriculture… that just get overlooked. It’s lazy reporting that needs to improve in short order.
On the individual front:
Recycle whatever you can
Take public transport as often as possible or work from home.
Check your own carbon budget at places like WREN.CO or TERRAPASS.COM and make a lifestyle change or two. Possibly eat less meat, for instance. Offset your carbon budget as much as you can afford.
Check into your retirement accounts and make sure that your savings and investments are fossil-free. At least ask about it when speaking with your HR department or financial advisors. Begin putting pressure on the investment sector. This can be a huge factor for progress!
Travel greener or simply TRAVEL LESS. The Union of Concerned Scientists has produced an excellent guide for you: https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/getting-there-greener
When your hot water heater or clothes dryer dies, consider heat pump versions of these appliances. Spend a little more now, save lots in the long term.
If you need an automobile, consider an electric one. They aren’t perfect, they do still have an environmental impact, but they are a vast improvement over combustion engine cars. The longer you drive one, the cleaner it gets because the electricity grid is constantly getting greener. There is no combustion engine car that can make this statement. Even if your electricity is generated with fossil fuels, the efficiency of electric cars is so high that they still have a lower “carbon per mile” footprint than gasoline or diesel cars.
Make sure your house is fully insulated and sealed.
Put solar panels on your house or purchase green electricity if possible in your area.
If your home burns fossil fuels for heat, consider switching to a high-efficiency electrical system like a heat pump. Some heat pumps can generate 4 times the heat in your home than what would normally be used by simply heating the air directly with resistive (for instance baseboard) heating. This sounds magical, and it kind-of is, but check out “mini-split heat pumps” on the internet. Amazing technology.
Move to a smaller, walking-friendly community. Sounds nice, but hard to do in the U.S. At least for now.
For those of us privileged to live in high income nations, consider having one less kid when you are planning your family life. It’s a tricky subject, fraught with several layers of “that’s none of your business,” but we need to be really honest here. There are more humans on the planet than it can handle, and each person in the U.S. has a greater impact than most other countries, since each person here emits, on average, 16 tons of CO2 per year. Each additional person puts additional pressure on the Earth’s life-sustaining systems and diminishing food supply. Any stories and justifications to the contrary are simply ignoring the empirical facts. Have kids if you want them, love them like crazy, and consider having fewer than you may want. This is likely the greatest-impact “corrective action” any of us can take.
Anonymous scientist, 11/1/22