18 votes

We must radically reduce carbon emissions by 2030 in order to avoid the most catastrophic damage of climate change. How can you help?

28 comments

  1. Bear
    (edited )
    Link
    As a city dwelling consumer, my electricity is from fully renewable sources, I watch my fresh water usage very closely, I eat a vegetarian diet, I get around in a power wheelchair, I don't have...

    As a city dwelling consumer, my electricity is from fully renewable sources, I watch my fresh water usage very closely, I eat a vegetarian diet, I get around in a power wheelchair, I don't have kids, etc. I live in a pretty ecologically minded state (California), and I vote for the candidates who have plans for tackling climate change. My personal impacts are about as effective as they can be at this point.

    At this point, the major contributors are companies, meat farms, etc. Major change will only come when those sources of emissions are shut down. But it will be painful, and it will be disruptive.

    Who’s Really Responsible for Climate Change?

    In fact, only 100 investor and state-owned fossil fuel companies are responsible for around 70 percent of the world’s historical GHG emissions. This contradicts the narrative pushed by fossil fuel interests that individuals’ actions alone can combat climate change, as individual actions have minute effects relative to these emissions — average American households produce only 8.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total of over 33 billion tons globally.

    22 votes
  2. [12]
    vektor
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm going to put here again what I have posed a few times before: Individual action isn't meaningless. Whether it's the "X companies produce Y% of GHG emissions" or "we need collective, not...

    I'm going to put here again what I have posed a few times before: Individual action isn't meaningless.

    Whether it's the "X companies produce Y% of GHG emissions" or "we need collective, not individual change", it just reads to me as an absolution of actual responsibility. I will completely accept that as consumers, the consequences of our choices aren't transparent to us: We don't actually know how much emissions our consumption causes. But ultimately, every emission is done in the name of a consumer somewhere. And sure, some people consume more than others, right.

    But to then say "individuals can't change things, therefore I don't have to change my habits" is wrong. Firstly, it sends the wrong message. By doing so, your consumption ends up in a statistic somewhere that politicians use to shape their decisions. 2% of the population vegans? Well, guess we can't emission tax the meat/dairy industry; that's just not viable. 2% own electric cars? 0.1% of the population produces their own power? Too bad, not a significant amount of voters. By doing the right things, you are being the trim tab.

    Also, side note, does anyone know what the author's gripe with soy is? Why is it so bad?

    A different way of looking at this is this: You have about 1/n amount of the political power in your country of n people. A priori, you also have 1/n of the consumption/emissions of your country. If you apply pressure on your own emissions, you can lower your country's emissions from 1 to 1-1/n or more realistically 1-1/2n relatively reliably if you are able and willing to make some tough choices. Incremental, but reliable.

    OTOH, if you apply pressure on your country's emissions by way of political power (i.e. voting the greenest party even if you don't like their other policies) you're making less tough choices (in my country, if you care about the climate, you're probably the person that cares with many of their other policies too). You are also not affecting much change either. Sure, you might bring those emissions down from 1 to 1/2 if your party gets a very healthy majority. But realistically, that isn't going to happen. There are too many people out there who like the status quo, full smog ahead and damn the younger generations. There's two ways here, politically: Radical change happens, or it doesn't. Majority or not. If green policy has no majority appeal, it won't happen at all and your political power goes to waste more or less.

    Your expected impact is roughly equal on both sides: Reliable, small change on the individual level or highly unreliable, big changes on the collective side. (if you're part of a majority for collective change, I'm splitting the "credit" for that change to everyone constituting that majority, so it evens out.) To suggest that we should use one lever because it is likely to be sufficient (at least at the country level) IF we pull it off and neglect the other one "because it isn't sufficient anyway" seems selfish to me. It's looking at the personal cost of climate action - going vegan, taking the bike, etc, and thinking "well, I'm not going to be the only one making sacrifices here." It's the climate equivalent of a petulant child throwing a cookie on the floor and saying "if I can't have it, no one can".

    10 votes
    1. [6]
      Grzmot
      Link Parent
      I think because soy is being farmed a lot in South America at the cost of the Amazonas.

      Also, side note, does anyone know what the author's gripe with soy is? Why is it so bad?

      I think because soy is being farmed a lot in South America at the cost of the Amazonas.

      7 votes
      1. [5]
        vektor
        Link Parent
        That is a fair point, but the scale of that is entirely to do with meat production rather than human-consumption soy production, right? If people were eating vegetarian diets, we wouldn't use that...

        That is a fair point, but the scale of that is entirely to do with meat production rather than human-consumption soy production, right? If people were eating vegetarian diets, we wouldn't use that space for soy.

        (also depends highly on the market. EU human-consumption soy seems to come from EU sources mostly.)

        5 votes
        1. [4]
          vord
          Link Parent
          There are other reasons as well. Soy does interfere with some medications (wife's thyroid medication is one). A lot of the preparations are highly processed, which can always throw a wrench in...

          There are other reasons as well. Soy does interfere with some medications (wife's thyroid medication is one). A lot of the preparations are highly processed, which can always throw a wrench in studing their health benefits. I read a study at one point that, much like the coffee/alcohol studies, show that many health benefits attributed to soy are when consumed in moderation in traditionally processed ways.

          I personally think soy has its place in the human diet, and it is quite complimentary in many dishes, but it is not a pancea for meat-replacement the way its also pitched.

          As far as the South America farming problem...that's more than just a meat issue. It's one of being able to use cheap labor and weak environmental protections that makes deforestation profitable.

          4 votes
          1. [3]
            spctrvl
            Link Parent
            Meat substitutes made out of wheat gluten are generally better than soy based ones IMO, and I say that as someone who genuinely likes tofu.

            Meat substitutes made out of wheat gluten are generally better than soy based ones IMO, and I say that as someone who genuinely likes tofu.

            3 votes
            1. [2]
              teaearlgraycold
              Link Parent
              I’m all about Field Roast’s gluten sausages

              I’m all about Field Roast’s gluten sausages

              3 votes
              1. spctrvl
                Link Parent
                Kroger does these great store brand gluten kielbasas and chorizos. I've put them in everything from sandwiches to sushi. They also have these gluten deli slices that are pretty great, used the ham...

                Kroger does these great store brand gluten kielbasas and chorizos. I've put them in everything from sandwiches to sushi. They also have these gluten deli slices that are pretty great, used the ham ones on a pizza last week.

                2 votes
    2. vord
      Link Parent
      I think part of the issue is that there are many disagreements on the best approaches to reducing individual consumption. And at the end of the day, getting the individual population to a point...

      I think part of the issue is that there are many disagreements on the best approaches to reducing individual consumption.

      And at the end of the day, getting the individual population to a point where it's considered politically tenable is logistically impossible. Support for marijuana legalization has been at 65% or higher for decades, and it's still barely gaining traction.

      Working top-down is substantially easier, since a lot of easy wins sound great to the general populous and not nearly as detrimental to average life.

      Those electric car incentives? Remove the cost, distance, all-electric, and new restriction...a used prius is stil way better than a new all-gas sedan. Make it essentially free for people to buy smaller short range electric vehicles. A small 4-seater electric car for under 10k that can only go 80 miles would be an instant-purchse for me to reduce my minivan usage until I can afford a newer hybrid or electric minivan.

      7 votes
    3. vektor
      Link Parent
      Kurzgesagt making essentially my point too. - just found this on YT. Interestingly, this german youtube channel's appeal to go vote for climate protections comes just a few days before german...

      Kurzgesagt making essentially my point too. - just found this on YT. Interestingly, this german youtube channel's appeal to go vote for climate protections comes just a few days before german elections on Sunday. However, this was only uploaded in the english version. Their german channel (Dinge Erklärt - Kurtgesagt) is usually out of order and sync by a few weeks.

      In any case, this makes essentially my point of "use both your money and your vote", albeit more eloquently. Watch till the end, as they change their angle a few times during the video. Interesting side note: They compute that if you have a zero-emission life, you save one second's worth of emissions of the global energy sector. Not even a tiny dent. However, 7 billion seconds (i.e. one for every person on earth) are 200 years. Now we're getting somewhere. But that's not even the point; the point is more that there's synergies with other dimensions of the problem, like funding research, fostering societal change, supporting green politicians. Spending your money on the good guys and showing up in the stats is also important.

      5 votes
    4. [2]
      Octofox
      Link Parent
      It’s always this huge finger pointing game where the consumers go “it’s not my job, the companies are at fault” and the companies go “it’s not my fault, the government allows it” and the...

      It’s always this huge finger pointing game where the consumers go “it’s not my job, the companies are at fault” and the companies go “it’s not my fault, the government allows it” and the government is funded by the companies so they point it back to the consumer.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. spctrvl
          Link Parent
          Who shapes consumption patterns with lobbying and advertising? Who succeeds in pushing infrastructure that requires the purchase of their products to meaningfully interact with society? If...

          Who shapes consumption patterns with lobbying and advertising? Who succeeds in pushing infrastructure that requires the purchase of their products to meaningfully interact with society?

          If fighting climate change was as simple as making personal choices in a vacuum, we'd be a great deal closer to solving it. But supply and demand aren't independent variables, and companies do a lot behind the scenes on the demand side of things to create the demand for their supply. The choice of whether or not I own a car is one that was made for me before I was born, as were many of the other most climatically impactful decisions I could ostensibly make.

          6 votes
    5. skybrian
      Link Parent
      I disagree on impact. I think of it sort of like voting. Your maximum possible impact on an election by voting yourself is one vote, which is usually tiny. That doesn't mean you shouldn't vote,...

      I disagree on impact. I think of it sort of like voting. Your maximum possible impact on an election by voting yourself is one vote, which is usually tiny. That doesn't mean you shouldn't vote, but if you want to have more impact than that, you have to work on influencing others.

      But collectively, it does add up. We saw, and are still seeing, the impact of consumer spending decisions on the economy during the pandemic.

      3 votes
  3. [9]
    EscapedYank
    Link
    If you are young, there is a single (non) action you can take above all others to reduce your long term carbon impact on the planet. More than becoming a vegetarian, stop flying, switching to an...

    If you are young, there is a single (non) action you can take above all others to reduce your long term carbon impact on the planet. More than becoming a vegetarian, stop flying, switching to an electric vehicle, replacing your gas heater with a heat pump . . . have no children.

    6 votes
    1. [6]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      I’m not completely sure of this anymore. We need more climate minded voters. We need them today but we also need them in 10 years, 20 years etc. Of course adopting children can both give you a...

      I’m not completely sure of this anymore. We need more climate minded voters. We need them today but we also need them in 10 years, 20 years etc.

      Of course adopting children can both give you a family and the world some voters.

      9 votes
      1. [5]
        vektor
        Link Parent
        Yep. I mean, adoption seems like it would improve welfare all around. Only downside is that many people prefer bio kids. But why then do we make adoption so damn hard? And don't tell me it's...

        Yep. I mean, adoption seems like it would improve welfare all around. Only downside is that many people prefer bio kids.

        But why then do we make adoption so damn hard?

        And don't tell me it's because kids are such a huge responsibility. Nature doesn't seem to agree.

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          teaearlgraycold
          Link Parent
          I think if it didn’t rob people of a human right reproduction would be just as restricted. We aren’t truly so keen on personal freedom in the US as some claim. The ideas of eugenics expand into...

          I think if it didn’t rob people of a human right reproduction would be just as restricted. We aren’t truly so keen on personal freedom in the US as some claim. The ideas of eugenics expand into adoption. The exact same concept of determining who is allowed to adopt, when translated to who is allowed to have biological children, comes from eugenics.

          Having children is a big deal and raising them such that they aren’t fucked up requires responsibility. But I think you’re right, you can more or less yolo child rearing. A lot of people do just that and end up with population growth.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            FlippantGod
            Link Parent
            Adoption and having biological children are different, though. The idea of regulating who can have biological children is dystopian today because of obvious avenues for systemic abuse, but also...

            Adoption and having biological children are different, though. The idea of regulating who can have biological children is dystopian today because of obvious avenues for systemic abuse, but also because it infringes on obvious personal freedoms.

            Being capable of having biological children does not make someone an effective parent, so services exist.

            Adoption, while it might still be subject to systemic abuse, does not infringe on an obvious personal right. Wanting to adopt child does not magically grant the right to receive an extreme level of authority over a human being.

            In cases where someone is biologically unable to have children, and has a willing surrogate, I'm cool with it, just apply the normal processes. In all other cases, there is no automatic right to adopt. It should be regulated, and assurances of the capacity to raise the children should be made, in the same way they are required to get a drivers license if they want to operate a vehicle that can easily endanger others.

            4 votes
            1. teaearlgraycold
              Link Parent
              The proportion of couples this applies to is going up. Gay marriage, trans people with hampered fertility/virility, and a general trend towards trouble conceiving make this less of a fringe issue....

              In cases where someone is biologically unable to have children, and has a willing surrogate, I'm cool with it

              The proportion of couples this applies to is going up. Gay marriage, trans people with hampered fertility/virility, and a general trend towards trouble conceiving make this less of a fringe issue. I think the only reason the rules have been relatively unchanged is many people hesitate to adopt children.

              I think we should err on the side of caution though - but spend that caution on parental aid rather than mediocre-or-worse fostering of children. And certainly if someone will endanger children then they should be passed over.

              We need to make use of our excess unused labor force (and many of the misused and underused) by preparing them for social work, hospice work, etc. Those are jobs we will never want to automate away. Humans are fundamentally interested in being cared for by other humans. I would love to see a world where working means taking care of people. We could certainly use more of that in my country.

              2 votes
        2. Bear
          Link Parent
          We really need to remove the barriers to adoption that make the least sense, while at the same time, heavily incentivizing adoption over having bio kids. I could see some sort of tax credits for...

          Yep. I mean, adoption seems like it would improve welfare all around. Only downside is that many people prefer bio kids.

          We really need to remove the barriers to adoption that make the least sense, while at the same time, heavily incentivizing adoption over having bio kids. I could see some sort of tax credits for adopted kids being useful, for example.

          3 votes
    2. [2]
      Bear
      Link Parent
      I already made a choice long ago to have no children. I'd love to adopt, but that's not really in the cards for my life situation. As a sort of middle ground, I try to mentor the younger...

      If you are young, there is a single (non) action you can take above all others to reduce your long term carbon impact on the planet. More than becoming a vegetarian, stop flying, switching to an electric vehicle, replacing your gas heater with a heat pump . . . have no children.

      I already made a choice long ago to have no children. I'd love to adopt, but that's not really in the cards for my life situation. As a sort of middle ground, I try to mentor the younger generations, through organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and through friends.

      2 votes
      1. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        Seconding BB&BS. As someone who grew up with distant/absent father figures, my Big Brother was formative in my conceptualization of what it meant to be a man and an adult. (For better or for ill,...

        Seconding BB&BS. As someone who grew up with distant/absent father figures, my Big Brother was formative in my conceptualization of what it meant to be a man and an adult. (For better or for ill, as he moved across the country for a relationship after 9 months, breaking my heart in the process.)

        2 votes
  4. [2]
    EgoEimi
    (edited )
    Link
    There's the eternal debate of Do Corporations Change? vs. Do Individuals Change? Both need to change. There are two base truths: First, corporations do use their vast resources to shirk...

    There's the eternal debate of Do Corporations Change? vs. Do Individuals Change?

    Both need to change.

    There are two base truths:

    First, corporations do use their vast resources to shirk responsibility and to encourage greater consumption. But this is the nature of our Darwinian world: entities that don't do this can't compete and grow to become significant.

    Companies that try to do good as their core business model accept inefficiencies that render them uncompetitive in the broader market. Ethical production has very low value to the market, which is far more concerned with price, quality, etc.

    It doesn't matter that 100 companies produce 70% of emissions. You could split them up into 100,000 companies and they'll altogether still produce the same amount because there's an eager market waiting, wanting cheap flights, heating, cars, clothes, and so on.

    Second, individuals buy and use productions from those corporations and thereby sanctioning those corporations' activities. Corporations don't go and burn oil for fun and giggles: at the other end there are individuals who want the output. But the modern lifestyle to which modern people aspire compel them to want/need these products.

    People want to own lots of things, drive their own cars, live in big houses, and fly and see the world. We can't lay the blame solely on corporate advertising. Fundamentally our culture has been about having nice things, having it better than our parents did, and having it better than our neighbors (keeping up with the Joneses).

    Combating climate change effectively requires (I think) that we change both sides of the equation — incrementally and in lockstep.

    We need to gradually change regulations in order to change the market game which corporations play. And we need to gradually change our cultures, societies, and cities that fundamentally shape our consumption habits.

    We need a business environment where all companies have to strictly monitor, report, and control their environmental impact, where one cannot discreetly undercut others. We need a trade environment where companies cannot leverage weak environmental regulations overseas as a manufacturing competitive advantage.

    We need a culture where the ultimate stage of success is not about owning a luxury car for every family member, a big house with a pool, and vacations to Bali, Mykonos, and Patagonia. You only need to spend ten minutes on TikTok and Instagram to see that this is what global society at large lusts after.

    6 votes
    1. spctrvl
      Link Parent
      I think that's ignoring the role that corporations have in shaping and inducing demand. As an example, decades of corporate infrastructure lobbying mean that I have to have a car. Even though I'd...

      I think that's ignoring the role that corporations have in shaping and inducing demand. As an example, decades of corporate infrastructure lobbying mean that I have to have a car. Even though I'd rather make the environmentally responsible decision to go car free, that's just not an option in all but a handful of cities in the United States because our public transit and pedestrian and bike infrastructure has been systematically destroyed on behalf of corporations that would rather have me buy their cars.

      6 votes
  5. [2]
    DaveJarvis
    Link
    Here's a summary: Earth warming by 3°C would be very, very bad: mass suffering and death zone. We must reduce global emissions to below 35 gigatonnes of annual CO₂. The Intergovernmental Panel on...

    Here's a summary:

    Earth warming by 3°C would be very, very bad: mass suffering and death zone. We must reduce global emissions to below 35 gigatonnes of annual CO₂. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report clarifying that our goal must be 1.5°C to avoid disaster, not 2°C. Achieving that means global carbon emissions must decrease significantly before 2030. Today’s emissions are between 40–45 gigatonnes per year. Following the Paris Agreement’s stipulations, global greenhouse gas emissions would still increase, peaking around 52–58 gigatonnes per year by 2030. That would coincide with 3°C warming by 2100.

    As individuals, actions having the most impact include:

    1. Vote for parties aiming to exceed the Paris Agreement.
    2. Never travel by airplane again (until electric planes take off).
    3. Eat less meat and dairy (ideally, a soy-free vegan diet).

    Other actions include:

    • Choose eco-friendly appliances.
    • Plant a vegetable garden to eat super locally.
    • Convert your home to solar power.
    • Invest responsibly by divesting of fossil fuel funds.
    3 votes
    1. teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      More realistically, until liquid hydrogen planes take off.

      until electric planes take off

      More realistically, until liquid hydrogen planes take off.

      2 votes
  6. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    I don’t expect this to happen. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

    I don’t expect this to happen. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

    1 vote