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What Can You Actually Do About Climate Change?

What Can You Actually Do About Climate Change?

Last month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report, sounding a “code red for humanity.” The IPCC stressed the need for drastic emissions cuts immediately if we want to maintain a habitable planet and warned that we are running out of time to act to avoid climate catastrophe. It was hard not to come away from the report feeling helpless. By now, we all know the obvious things we should be doing to help the planet: eating less meat, avoiding single-use plastics, riding a bike, flying less, etc. But with excessive consumption and doomsday reports everywhere you look, it can be hard to know how much of a difference these changes can make — especially when many things that are touted as ecofriendly turn out to be more complicated. We spoke to experts about which actions have real impact in the face of climate change, from individual behaviors to public policies to push for.

Drive Less

Yes, it’s obvious, and it’s not easy to do — but it really does make a difference. According to the EPA, personal vehicles account for about one-fifth of the country’s total greenhouse-gas emissions. “The thing that is heating up the planet is that people get into cars, turn the key, and start burning fossil fuels,” says Michael Manville, an associate professor of urban planning at UCLA.

According to experts, even reducing your driving time in small ways helps. Susan Handy, a professor of environmental science and policy at the University of California, Davis, recommends making car trips more thoughtful and planned — such as staying local for grocery shopping, consolidating errands into a single trip, and, if possible, avoiding driving during rush hour, when congestion results in more time spent driving. And obviously: Don’t drive if you don’t have to. If you live somewhere that isn’t walkable, Handy suggests using an electric bike.