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How You Can Have a Positive Impact on the Climate Change Emergency

Life Sciences Lifestyle: Three steps to having a positive impact on climate change

COVID-19 isn’t the only worldwide emergency affecting billions of people—climate change continues to threaten us with devastating implications. Plant and wildlife sciences professor Ben Abbot explains that “with the global data streams that are now available, we can account for all the other changes in management and direct human activity to reveal the isolated effects of climate change. We can see the consequences of climate change reshaping the world around us.”

Before enacting change, we must understand the problem. Abbott offers insight into key contributions to climate change. First, we are burning fossil fuels for electricity production, industry, and transportation. Second, we are producing food at a huge scale, mainly intended for livestock. Third, we are transforming the Earth’s ecosystems, reducing its capacity to remove the pollutants dumped into the atmosphere, water, and soil.

Here are three opportunities for improvement, according to Abbott:
1. Change your method of transportation
We all have places to go, but the way we get there makes a big difference. Transportation is the number one source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. When we walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation, we vastly reduce our energy consumption. Personal vehicles like cars and trucks account for more than half of transportation pollution, whereas riding a bicycle uses less than 1 percent of the energy that’s required to drive a car. If 100 people traveled by bicycle it would use same amount of energy it takes to drive one car.

2. Adjust your diet
What you eat doesn’t just affect how your body functions—it affects how the planet functions. Eating a plant-based diet is one of the most impactful changes you can make to live more sustainably. Vegans reduce their agricultural carbon footprints by 73 percent. Eating a plant-based diet requires significantly less energy, water and nutrients than the typical American diet. Other suggestions include reducing dairy consumption, committing to meatless Mondays, and trying plant-based alternatives to benefit both your health and the Earth.

3. Support systematic changes
Individual choice and systemic change are often presented as alternative approaches to solving climate change. Abbott says, “We need both! We should make the right choices individually for moral reasons, and we should push for systematic change to create a more sustainable community for our families and neighbors.” When we hold ourselves accountable for what we consume, we grow personally, physically, and spiritually, becoming empowered to act on the scientific and societal opportunities related to global climate change. We must acknowledge the costs of excessive consumption and make changes to hold ourselves accountable for our treatment of our planet.

Ways to help end climate change
Photo by Audrey White and Dylan Smith

Life Science Lifestyle: connecting you to science
The Lifestyle series provides practical tips to enhance the quality of your every-day life through the outstanding scientific expertise and research of the faculty within the eight departments of the College of Life Sciences.