Senior Officer, Sustainability Community, MIT Solve
Here’s your 10 second reminder on what we know about climate change: It’s real. It’s us. Scientists agree. It’s bad. There’s hope.
Climate is often an overwhelming topic. Two major reports in the last few months—the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C and the US Fourth National Climate Assessment—point to large impacts on people and their livelihoods. The reports also highlight a need to make drastic changes in a short timeframe. This got translated as “12 years left to stop climate change!” in media coverage, but the truth is both more troubling and perhaps more empowering.
What we need to do is to halve our emissions every decade, reaching zero by 2050—sooner if possible. That probably still won’t get us to a 1.5°C target, but 1.8°C is far better than 2°. The mitigation and adaptation necessary to reach even 2°C are likely to be more disruptive than most of us can comprehend, but it’ll be easier if we act faster.
I recently hosted a lunch and learn discussion at Solve to talk about these complexities, which culminated with six day-to-day actions to lead a more sustainable lifestyle:
- Calculate your personal carbon footprint. I’m a fan of this calculator from Sitra in Finland.
- Decarbonize your electricity. You can do this in many places in an afternoon by changing electricity suppliers. Aim for plans that source zero-carbon power from your region.
- Eat less meat, particularly beef. Start with one to two meat-free meals per week, find some new recipes, and be surprised at how easy it is to cut back. Read more
- Fly less, and be really intentional when you do. Weekend getaways or quick work trips make this culturally hard, but it is critical for those of us who are rich enough to regularly fly. You will not be alone, as hundreds of people are making pledges.
- Talk about climate change to people! You don't have to be an expert; follow Solve’s lead and have a lunch conversation. We know that most people care, but often feel uncomfortable raising that concern.
- Send positive emails/phone calls to your local officials about bike lanes, better transit, denser zoning, etc. Local decisions shape land use and transportation, which are two huge drivers of carbon emissions. Officials hear from the angry opposed citizens, but not from those in quiet support—often the majority!