“What can I do to address climate change in my own life?”
It’s a question that Alex Hall gets a lot, especially when global warming makes the headlines. He’s a professor at UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, but this question is one he’s faced in his own home. So as world leaders meet at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow (COP26), KCRW talks with Alex Hall about the best ways individuals can make changes.
“There are so many great opportunities around sustainability and climate, but the ones that work the best are the ones that rebuild community, because that’s something we need a lot of too,” Hall says. “Make it rewarding, fun and cool. Being part of communal change is cool.”
Globally, the goal is to limit the use of fossil fuels like oil, carbon and natural gas, and replace them with renewable sources of energy. Scientists warn we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which will require dramatic and systemic change.
The best way to tackle a problem that seems insurmountable? Pick just one thing from the following list and focus on that alone. Do that for a few years and you will have accomplished it all, Hall says.
- Read about success stories.
- Follow local advocates on social media.
- Participate in community events around climate.
The most significant thing you can do is take collective action
- Vote in every election for leaders at every level (city, county, school board, state, federal) who represent your position on climate goals.
- Make your positions known to elected representatives.
- Join a climate group or initiative in your area.
- Encourage companies and groups you’re affiliated with to make structural changes around sustainability.
- Be visible about your own efforts to reduce emissions.
Transportation tops the list when it comes to sources of greenhouse gas emissions, so changing how you move around is one of the best things you can do. Credit: U.S. EPA, 2019.
Take individual actions (pick one at a time)
- Estimate your carbon footprint with a calculator to pick a focus.
- Change where you bank and invest to line up with your values. Some of the United States’ largest banks are also the largest funders of fossil fuels.
- Cut back on air travel, book direct flights, or explore carbon offsets.
- Walk, bike, or take public transit when you can.
- Drive electric: Read up on electric charging options that are available.
- Eat less meat and more plant-based foods.
- Cut down on the online deliveries.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle paper, glass and metal. Cut down on plastic.
Save money by making changes at home
- Cut down on heating and A/C by fixing your insulation.
- Replace old furnaces, air conditioning units and water heaters.
- Unplug unused appliances or use a “smart power strip.”
- Plant drought-tolerant plants that belong.
- Get your power from companies that purchase wind or solar.
- If you live in Los Angeles and you’re a customer of LADWP, you can enroll in the Green Power Program.
Hall emphasizes that it’s essential to share what you’re doing.
“Individual acts can add up, but only if they’re accompanied by social contagion,” Hall says. “Be out and proud about it. That’s how you scale up individual actions.”
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story during the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.