Words by Smiley Team
In the face of worsening impacts of climate change, there is some hope that we can mitigate against this human-driven challenge through climate action, the UN’s 13th Sustainable Development Goal.
On the whole, people’s hopes for change focus on areas of government policy such as the economy, energy, transport, food, farming, nature and protecting people.
While the changes we need most require national and international policy decisions, there are still actions individuals can take. A starting point might be to educate yourself on facts about climate change. The international body responsible for advancing knowledge on this subject is the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their in-depth climate reports offer an authoritative, up-to-date source of information.
Once you’ve got the facts, you’ll probably want to act on them. Opinions on the best form of climate action vary greatly between environmental groups and organisations. While some pin their hopes on technological fixes and individual efforts, others, such as Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace say collective action will drive change at the scale and speed required.
The World Wildlife Fund is among organisations that encourage individuals to reduce their own impact. As well as campaigning for wider changes within industries of government policy, they promote diet changes, more efficient energy use, less waste and more conscious consumption.
As David Attenborough has said, “Stop waste. Stop wasting energy, stop wasting food, stop wasting plastic and stop wasting time. This is a precious world and each of us can use our actions and our voice to save our planet.”
However, while 90 companies, largely comprised of fossil fuel players, are responsible for two-thirds of global carbon emissions, more is needed than simply individual efforts. Meanwhile, global leaders have failed to meet their own targets set out in meetings of the IPCC. Since the IPCC first met in 1988, emissions have rocketed higher than in humanity’s entire history preceding it.
Groups such as Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion call for direct action. A Greenpeace spokesperson tells Smiley News: “If you’re lucky enough to live in a democracy, then you can have much more impact through protest and campaigning than you can from any decisions you make as a consumer.” The kind of action you can take depends on your circumstances and the political climate of your country.
The spokesperson adds: "Arranging a face to face meeting with your MP is more powerful than a letter, which is itself more powerful than sending an email, which beats signing a petition."
Another benefit of collective action is that it helps reduce the mental toll and risk of burnout. Whatever steps you decide are most appropriate, climate anxiety is likely to affect you as you learn more about the extent of the crisis we are in. Nearly 60% of children and young people worldwide suggest they experience climate anxiety, according to one survey.
To work through this, Greenpeace suggest: “You should also consider talking to your friends, family and acquaintances about your concerns – most people are worried, but wrongly think that most other people aren’t.”
A selection of alternative environmental groups prefer to strengthen communities and create defences against increasingly frequent extreme weather events. These include Transition Network, Climate Emergency Centres and the Deep Adaptation movement.
Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever your main interests, there is usually a kind of climate action that will most suit you.
As a last word of advice, Greenpeace says: “Coordinating with others will increase the impact of whatever you do - you may have skills that combine with those of other members of a group to make you more effective together than acting alone, and experienced activists can help you avoid wasting time on tactics that don’t work.
“So the first step is to look for campaign groups that are focused on the issues you care about, find out what they’re doing and join in where you can make the biggest contribution.”
Support one of the organisations tackling climate change from the list below.
The WWF collaborates with communities, finance and businesses to raise awareness and campaign for changes in lifestyles, business strategies and more.
Created by a group of researchers and activists in 2018, Extinction Rebellion is a non-violent civil disobedience movement aimed at escalating climate action from previous tactics and pressuring those in power to make systemic changes.
Launched by a small group of concerned activists in 1971, Greenpeace is the oldest organisation leading peaceful direct action against specific targets.
This international youth-led movement involves school pupils and students striking in order to call for global leaders to ensure younger generations have a future.
Friends of the Earth is another international group that takes a range of actions for the climate from planting trees to lobbying MPs.
Protect Our Winters or POW is an environmental organisation promoting innovative technological fixes to climate change.
This British organisation is focused on stopping littering and waste in order to clean up public spaces.
As the UK’s largest network of people dedicated to climate action, The Climate Coalition connects over 100 organisations through approaches such as awareness-raising and lobbying MPs.
ClientEarth takes a systemic approach, using the law to challenge environmentally destructive projects, investments or policy decisions.
This environmental group is committed to driving transformation by lobbying organisations to improve their behaviour.
Through conservation work and collaborations with companies, the Rainforest Trust hopes to preserve and restore one of the world’s most important natural carbon sinks.