The fires in Australia that burned through the start of 2020 are a stark reminder of how climate change exacerbates and intensifies normal weather patterns to make them unrecognizable.
We are already facing a future of climate breakdown.
Seeing such as a display of natural onslaught, we cannot continue “business as usual.”
Thankfully, the world’s scientists have already discovered the solution to climate breakdown. They set a carbon budget that sets the limit on the amount or volume of carbon emission the Earth can tolerate and keep global average temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius. All we — yes, us Earthlings — need to do is to NOT exceed this carbon budget.
Why Care about the Carbon Budget
Scientists have set a carbon budget of 750 billion tonnes of CO2 until 2050 to keep Earth from heating up to over 1.5 degree Celsius within that period. This means your personal carbon budget is limited to about 2.3 tonnes of CO2 per year over the next 30 years. Compare this to the present carbon footprint of an average American which, as of 2018, is about 15 metric tonnes.
You might be saying this is the international panel on climate change’s (IPCC’s) problem. But climate change is fundamentally a human problem, and in 2020 it’s everyone’s responsibility to take action on climate.
We agree with Michael Mann in urging people to communicate both “the threat and the opportunity in the climate challenge” and we deeply believe that there are reasons for hope despite these grim scenarios. For one, we all know the solution is utterly basic: change our old ways and live within the carbon budget.
By old ways, we mean a lifestyle that relies heavily on fossil fuels. The old way means having coal and petroleum as a major energy source to power our homes and vehicles, respectively. The old way means we give less attention to the causes of pollution in favor of self-serving comfort.
How do you lower your carbon
footprint? The first thing to know is what aspects of your lifestyle are the most “carbon-intensive” this differs from person to person, depending on how and where you live.
UNEP notes six domains that determine lifestyle carbon footprint: nutrition, housing, mobility, consumer goods, leisure, and services. Let’s walk through these low-carbon lifestyle options one step at a time and get a sense of how to live within the carbon budget.
1. Low-carbon Nutritional or Dietary Options
Dietitians have been telling us to choose a plant-based diet, and now even the climate scientists are echoing this. Going vegan or vegetarian is not only good for our health, it is also good for the environment. If you must eat meat, choose low-carbon protein such as poultry or fish. However, in the age of fast food, it turns out we’re not only trashing our health, we’re also throwing out so much food and contributing to mindless food loss.
2. Eco-friendly housing
You must have heard of green architecture. This is the way to go, specially for mass housing. Construction shares an average of 30% CO2 and mitigating this to within the carbon budget means opting for smaller spaces, using renewable energy, choosing natural ventilation over air conditioners and improving efficiency of construction.
It would be better to use energy efficient appliances and fixtures such as LED lighting and bioenergy for heating to save on costs. Using recycled building materials will test your creativity and keep your monetary and carbon budget intact!
3. Clean transport
For a long while airplanes have been recognized as a climate killer. Flightnook offers a service to neutralize your CO2 emissions through offsets and cleaner jet fuel — to create a cleaner future for travel. Calculate your last flight’s emissions here.
We all love to move and go to places and hindering mobility of people and products is surely out of the question. There are however low-carbon options such as ensuring vehicle fuel efficiency and taking efficient airplanes, better travel planning and moving closer to places of work. Engaging in carbon offset programs and picking up the habit of personal carbon offsetting (e.g. reforestation programs) may be considered to keep your personal carbon budget low.
4. Reduced consumerism
A large chunk of carbon emissions on the planet come from industries that manufacture products we like to buy but actually do not need. Controlling the urge to buy new clothes, electronic gadgets, chemical-based products and other things that are not necessities must be done not tomorrow but today. Scientists suggest that recycling, repairing, reusing and refurbishing products can reduce the impact of consumer goods to the environment. Sustainable manufacturing practices, including the use of renewable electricity in manufacturing goods supply chain, will lead to significant carbon emission reduction.
5. Eco-friendly leisure and sustainable services
What does low carbon leisure look like? It can be the most fun you’ll have! Choosing the outdoors and going on eco-adventures are some ways to cut your personal carbon footprint. Instead of partying all night, choose to party beyond the city and out of the usual bright lights. Eco-tourism is on the rise and there are many affordable guided tours for a low carbon leisure you’ll never forget.
The service sector, like leisure, contributes 7% of CO2 emissions. Still, efficiency needs to be improved in service delivery, specifically for services that require energy and transport.
Small steps can make big bounds if together we reduce our impact on the global carbon budget. Our carbon-intensive actions directly contribute to the drought and fires experienced around the world.
Help the animals and the environment this year by keeping a CO2 calculator to keep track of your carbon footprint and monitor how you are spending your carbon budget.
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