As individuals, we’ve been urged to do our bit to help combat climate change. By adjusting our everyday habits to use less plastic, reduce food waste and try out cleaner/greener energy, for example; we can become part of the solution. But are these actions enough?
There’s no doubt that as individuals we can make valuable decisions in our everyday lives that lessen our impact on the environment. By making eco-friendly and sustainable choices in our homes; we’re generating a more extensive conversation and movement that focuses on the effects of climate change and what can be done to impede its alarming progress. However, if more isn’t done — and soon — we’re looking directly at crossing some climate tipping points that will lead to irreversible environmental disaster.
We must continue finding climate change solutions in our own lives that acknowledge the impacts we produce on our planet — we can make a difference. But our actions should never be allowed to deflect rightful attention away from Big-Money corporations that have generated products and practices profoundly responsible for global warming.
As fossil fuels cumulatively account for 84% of the world’s energy consumption (non-renewable sources of oil, natural gas and carbon); reducing their usage is the single most essential aspect to be tackled by any climate action campaign. When burned, fossil fuels release immense amounts of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into the air that then traps heat in our atmosphere. With vast numbers of companies around the world using fossil fuels to provide electricity and heat and an extensive range of products (including steel and plastic); they are by far the most devastating contributors to climate change. In fact, just 100 companies out of the hundreds of thousands around the globe have been responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming since 1998.
Another substantive issue responsible for releasing considerable amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — a staggering 1.5 billion tons of it a year — is deforestation. Tropical forests and areas of woodland, the lungs of the planet, are being cut down and burned at roughly 30 million acres annually. Around half of all plants and wildlife on Earth live in and rely on rainforests to thrive and survive; as do we, although many still seem to be unaware of this fact. Rainforests and woodlands absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis. When they are cut down, burned or left to rot, the stored carbon is released into the air.
And we cannot ignore the correlation between extractive capitalism/corporate greed and attacks on Indigenous rights. Up to 80% of the world’s biodiversity is being conserved by Indigenous People because it’s located on the lands they steward and/or own. If we don’t support preserving their culture, lands and traditional knowledge from further colonization, commercially developed land theft and forced “modernization” (basically, assimilation); we will lose more of the natural world to industrialization — we’re losing species at about a thousand times the natural rate of extinction, for example. A robust climate action plan goes hand-in-hand with climate justice and Indigenous rights. This kind of environmental reform will take more than just individuals making informed consumer decisions. The entire infrastructure of energy technologies and Big-Money business needs an overhaul. We can push for corporate climate action and renewable/sustainable practices and products with our buying power and changes in lifestyle; but it’s going to take change on a systemic, governmental level to impede the progress of climate change.
Big Oil and Gas multinationals will try cleaning up their image before they clean up the planet. Rebranding to seem like they are working towards sustainable, greener practices is just smoke and mirrors at this point, especially if they say they are going ‘net zero’. This is just a fancy way of obscuring the fact that they’re extracting the same amount of fossil fuel; while planting trees to “offset” the damage they’re still doing — it’s an environmental action mirage. Like the capitalism it thrives on, Big Oil and Gas want continual growth because it’s a money-making behemoth. They’ve even gone as far as creating misleading counter-narratives to bury decades worth of scientific findings that warned fossil fuels were driving climate destruction.
What can we do in addition to our own individual, everyday eco-friendly actions, to help fight climate change in a globally meaningful way?
- Become educated about how Big Oil and Gas corporations lobby governments and international environmental conferences to control climate change discussions and direct policies that benefit them.
- Vote at all levels of government for representatives and leaders who take climate change seriously and commit to taking bold action. If you don’t know their stances, ask them — find their contact information online or Tweet them, for example.
- Find town hall meetings near you to speak with your government representative to discuss climate action plans locally (and beyond) — hold them accountable if promises are made. A quick search on the internet will typically provide the information you require; if you’re in the U.S., you can click here to discover when/where they’re happening.
- World leaders attend an annual UN Climate Change Conference to discuss global and country-led climate action goals. Follow what their plans are and hold your political leader/s accountable by looking to see if the proposals are non-binding suggestions or concrete, measurable policies. The next UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), is happening from 31st Oct to 12th Nov 2021.
- Support, donate and work with organizations that fight for climate action through the intersections of race, gender and poverty. Climate justice and racial justice are deeply connected; tackling both of them benefits us all. Join their frontline actions and initiatives to hold governments/fossil fuel industries accountable, etc. Here are some really great organisations you can follow: Climate Justice Alliance | Cultural Survival | NDN Collective | Amazon Frontlines | Climate Emergency Fund | Sandbag
- Action points to focus on; eliminate subsidies that go to the fossil fuel industry (American taxpayers give $20 billion per year); end lobbying and federal campaign donations that control policymaking in their favour; establish an industry-wide standard that fines all corporations for any litter/ecological damage caused by their products that end up in waterways/oceans/other areas of environmental significance; make it such a financial burden to cause litter pollution that industries develop products/packaging that focuses on closed-loop recycling.
Our planet needs individual climate action that leads to a more energy-efficient, eco-friendly and reciprocitous lifestyle. But we can’t solely rely on sustainable living to get us out of the collective trouble we’re in. It’s going to take a comprehensive, systemic industry shift that ends the current practices of Big-Money corporations and complicit governments that are hastening unrecoverable ecological collapse.
The Causes Of Climate Change – NASA
Threats To Orangutans – Orangutan Conservacy
Six Ways Loss Of Arctic Ice Impacts Everyone – World Wildlife Fund