Photo by Marcus Spiske of a climate action protester holding a sign that reads: Planet Over Profit.
Advocacy & News

The Truth About Individual Accountability & Climate Action

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; 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. 

Background Image: an aerial drone photo of some icebergs floating the dark waters of the ocean. Foreground Image: A white rectangle text box has the words, ‘The Truth About Individual Accountability & Climate Action’ which is the title of the article on the site Transatlantic Notes.

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.

A large male orangutan sits next to a tree with a facial expression that seems like he is in deep thought. Photo taken by CHUTTERSNAP.
Deforestation because of the palm oil industry has greatly diminished the habitat & population of orangutans. It’s believed that if direct action isn’t taken they will be extinct in 10 years | Photo via CHUTTERSNAP.

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.

Glacial ice floating in the sea in Iceland. Photo taken by Ryan Richards.
Glaciers and sea ice are melting at alarming rates. If emissions continue as they are, the Arctic could be ice-free by 2040 | Photo via Ryan Richards

What can we do in addition to our own individual, everyday eco-friendly actions, to help fight climate change in a globally meaningful way? 

  • 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.


Further Info:

How Heat Waves Form, And How Climate Change Makes Them Worse – Vox

The Causes Of Climate Change – NASA

Threats To Orangutans – Orangutan Conservacy

Six Ways Loss Of Arctic Ice Impacts Everyone – World Wildlife Fund

If you enjoy reading Transatlantic Notes and would like to show your support for the work being done, please consider making a small donation. Thank you.

34 thoughts on “The Truth About Individual Accountability & Climate Action”

  1. This is such an important discussion to have. While I truly believe that our collective individual actions can force change (I’ve seen it happen over the last 20 years with people changing their diets to incorporate less meat), it is important to hold those large corporations accountable in a bigger way. Thank you for continuing to share about these important topics!

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    1. I’ve seen a lot of change over the last couple decades that has been as a result of collective individual power, and I am definitely encouraged by that. I just hope more people push to end big oil and gas from lobbying governments and being able to dictate what happens at environmental conferences. I hope this accountability comes soon — thank you so much for reading and for all that you do to raise awareness and help people transition to a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle.

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  2. Such an eye-opening post. There really is more I could be doing to help on a personal level, I really need to educate myself more to make sure I’m making the right choices!

    Corinne x

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  3. Thank you! Everyone seems to be blaming individuals and their right to board an airplane when really it’s the large corporations that cause the real damage. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t drive or take a train instead of flying whenever possible, but we’re not the bad guys.

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    1. We’re responsible for the choices we make and many things we buy, use, discard, etc are hugely impactful on the environment. Changes to our lifestyle must be made — but we are not solely responsible for trying to fight/slow climate change. The fossil fuel industry is overwhelmingly responsible too, but they’ve somehow managed to place the burden on us alone. It’s ridiculous that they are not being held accountable! Thank you so much for reading!

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  4. This is a really informative post. This planet is our home and we all should try to learn and do whatever we can to keep it a viable place.
    Tha climate change is to me the biggest proof that we must do something now.
    Thank you so much for sharing ball these info 🙂

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  5. Thank you for sharing and bringing more awareness to the topic of Climate change. As an individual I do try my best to make better choices, especially after reading into it more and watching a few things on YouTube etc… but I know I there are areas I need to improve on. As individuals we do have a part to play in helping to do our bit for our planet, but I thinks it’s wholly irresponsible for big companies to pass the buck and shirk responsibility. I whole heartedly agree with your statement “Big oil and gas multinationals will try cleaning up their image before they clean up the planet”. How they are perceived vs what they are actually doing are two different things and they will always be looking for the best way to spin their image to come out on top and look like a stand up company.

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    1. We can take many actions in our personal lives, and I fully support that and work towards this in my own life. I hope that a shift happens soon where our attention is turned to those multinational corporations who are causing more harm than we are. Climate action and climate justice needs to be globally comprehensive on a corporate fossil fuel level — which has yet to happen. Hopefully more and more people will demand and work towards getting this type of accountability. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. It is very interesting to get to know the role of indigenous people in saving the environment and individual actions we can take. Thanks for sharing these!

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    1. NDN Collective has just released their climate justice campaign and has resources coming out throughout the week that focuses on Indigenous-led action so if you want to learn more I’d recommend checking out their website. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  7. This post is so heartbreaking to read, but is also the cold reality of the world we live in. Thank you for sharing this information packed post and bringing awareness to the harm done to our planet and environment. You’ve shared some wonderful resources – thank you!

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    1. It was tough to research and write as it stares you right in the face just how urgent the changes we need from the fossil fuel industry and the government is. I’m encouraged that the resources I’ve shared can help others step up and demand climate action and climate justice. Thank you so much for reading!

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  8. I loved this post. It’s alarming to know how the earth is degrading everyday. And knowing that we are deliberately harming our own habitat is terrible. While I know that the government are meant to make policies and implement rules that will make everyone more conscious of how they treat the earth and the environment, we are humans too and if the government don’t take action, we can take action. If everyone does their little bit to treat the environment with caution and care, things would be so much better. The fact is we have little to no alternative to earth and so if the earth is destroyed, we will be destroyed as well. Global warming and climate change are two things that could be taken care of in a number of ways. If everyone in the world would plant a tree, we might be on our journey to saying goodbye to Global warming and a lot of people know this but instead of planting more trees, we cut down the ones we have. How good is that? The change can start from us. We shouldn’t wait for the government. Since we know what is right and good for the planet, we should do it. Fab post girl! xx

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    1. I agree that we as individuals can do our bit and I really hope more and more people do this and demand change. We are a part of the solution but with Big Oil and Big Gas, etc controlling governments and being funded by them (and vice versa) they aren’t going to change because climate damage makes them too much money. We need to create governments who aren’t in the palm of the fossil fuel industry as even with all the work we do it’s not going to be enough if the biggest polluters of all time are still doing what they do. What we must do is remember we do have power to vote people in who aren’t bought climate deniers, we can demand sustainable products/practices from companies with our buying power but this has to be done with huge fossil fuel industry change — and they aren’t doing what they say they are. I really hope there are huge shifts soon because we’re too close to destruction. Thank you so much for your comment and sharing your care for the Earth. It’s encouraging to know there are people who care.

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  9. Wow! I was just thinking about climate change during our big heatwave 2 weeks ago and how sad it is. Could not believe the temperatures in BC were hotter than tropical countries! Thank you for sharing such an informative post. There are so many changes we can start making now. xx

    Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

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  10. This was such an interesting post full of great resources! I think that the more we share and learn about the environment and climate change the more eye-opening it will be. We all need to realise that we need to ask for change now! Thank you for sharing this x

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  11. I love this post and I really appreciate that you’ve considered both individual accountability and corporate responsibility. This was really informative. Thanks for the piece x

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    1. For any climate action to have any impact it will take both to make a difference so I hope everyone continues their individual actions and now add holding corporations and governments responsible. Thank you so much for reading!

      Like

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