An infographic showing what you can do now to fight climate change!

To limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, zero emissions must be achieved by the middle of this century.

This means that in less than three decades, we need to reverse more than a century of emissions growth and reduce annual emissions to near zero, while offsetting any remaining unavoidable emissions by actively removing carbon from the atmosphere.

And to help speed up this process, we must do everything we can to reduce our use of fossil fuels. But many people don’t know about the most efficient way to do it. Fortunately, in the latest report from the United Nations Climate Change Committee (IPCC), an entire chapter is devoted to all the ways in which changes in human behavior can accelerate the transition to zero emissions.

The chapter includes an analysis of 60 individual actions that can help fight climate change, based on research by Diana Ivanova of the University of Leeds, to which she contributed.

These actions are grouped into three areas: avoiding consumption, changing consumption, and improving consumption (making it more efficient). The charts created for the IPCC report show what we found.

What to Avoid

By far the most efficient thing to avoid is transportation. Living without a car reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 2 tons of CO2 emissions per person per year, and the absence of one long trip reduces emissions by an average of 1.9 tons. This is the equivalent of a typical European car driving over 16,000 km from Hamburg, Germany to Ulaanbaatar and Mongolia and back.

Switch to different ways

Living sustainably is not just about letting things go. Significant emission reductions can be achieved by switching to a different way of doing things. And because driving is so polluted, for example, switching to public transport, walking or cycling can make a huge difference, with added benefits for your personal health and local air pollution levels.

Likewise, given the higher emissions associated with meat and dairy products, especially products from sheep and cattle, making the switch to a more sustainable diet can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. An all-vegetarian diet is the most effective way to do this, but significant savings can be made by simply switching from beef and lamb to pork and chicken.

What should be improved?

What we are already doing can be made more efficient by improving the carbon efficiency of the home, for example by using insulation and heat pumps, or by generating our own renewable energy by installing solar panels. Switching from a combustion engine car to an electric car – ideally a battery electric car that delivers greater emission reductions than hybrid or fuel cell cars – will make your car’s journeys more efficient. In addition, its impact on emissions will increase over time, and the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources will increase.

And in the race to zero emissions, every ton of CO2 really counts. If many of us consider even some of these proposals, collectively we are likely to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Of course, these changes must be simultaneously underpinned by major political action for sustainability.

If we want to use less energy from fossil fuels, we must either limit the use of fossil fuels or make them more expensive. The social consequences of this need to be carefully managed so that carbon pricing schemes can benefit people on low incomes: what could happen if incomes were redistributed to alleviate the financial burden of poor households.

But governments can do much more to help people live more sustainably, such as providing better and safer public transport and “active travel” infrastructure (like bike lanes and walking areas) so people have alternatives to driving and flying.

There is no avoiding the fact that if political decisions to combat climate change are made as urgently as our global situation requires, they will limit the extent to which we can indulge in carbon-intensive behaviour.

The report was prepared by Max Callahan, PhD Research Fellow in Climate Change from the University of Leeds.

Source: Science Alert.