Climate Corner: What Individuals Can Do Right Now


It will be 100 years since scientists recognized the greenhouse-gas, heat-trapping impact on our atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. Forty years ago, James Hansen of Columbia University found that global warming was occurring much more quickly than previously thought and predicted that it would be very hard to persuade politicians and the public to react to head off a climate crisis.

Hansen was right. We have been terribly slow. But today, in the face of increasingly severe storms, drought, forest fires and rising sea levels, we are waking up. More and more people are asking what they can do. There is a lot.

Project Drawdown ( may be the best source for information on climate-change solutions and for mapping out the impacts, costs and benefits of more than 80 actions to stop and perhaps reverse global warming.

Much must be done by governments and businesses, but according to Drawdown, individuals and households acting as consumers can make a surprisingly high 25-30% of needed greenhouse-gas reductions. We are part of an economic system that relies on fossil fuels, from the food and electricity we buy to the buildings we occupy. Our choices do matter.

What beyond crucial political action can we do to combat the climate crisis, and how will it matter?

Drawdown has identified 20 high-impact actions that individuals in high-income countries can take that, together, could reduce future greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, and they fall into four categories: food (a 12.8% possible reduction), energy (8.6%), travel (2.8%) and waste (1.3%). Visit for a detailed description and analysis of each of these actions.

In almost all cases, these actions will save money and improve our health in addition to reducing the potentially devastating effects of our rapidly warming oceans and atmosphere. 

Here’s a list of 11 things you can do, boiled down by Drawdown. It’s not too late for a few New Year’s resolutions.

• Cut food waste by buying only what you know you’ll eat.
• Eat more veggies by replacing some of your meat with healthful, protein-rich plants.
• Switch to clean, renewable energy in your home.
• Improve the window and wall insulation in your home.
• Save by shifting to energy-efficient LED light bulbs.
• Install heat pumps and smart thermostats to heat and cool smarter.
• Invest in solar panels and solar hot water.
• Make your next car an electric or hybrid vehicle.
• Get around in a more green way by sharing a ride, traveling by bike, using public transit or walking.
• Fly less by staying local, making a video call or finding another way to travel.
• Reduce your use of single-use plastic and recycle correctly.