Wynes And Nicholas Environmental Research Letters
Wynes And Nicholas Environmental Research Letters – Governments and schools are not communicating the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint, according to new research.
Published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study from Lund University found that the incremental changes recommended by governments may represent a missed opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below the levels needed to prevent 2°C of global warming.
Wynes And Nicholas Environmental Research Letters
The four actions that most significantly reduce an individual’s carbon footprint are: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car-free, and having smaller families.
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The research analyzed 39 peer-reviewed articles, carbon calculators and government reports to calculate the potential of a range of individual lifestyle choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This comprehensive analysis identifies the actions individuals can take that will have the greatest impact on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
Lead author Seth Wynes said: “There are so many factors that influence the climate impact of personal choices, but bringing all these studies together gives us confidence that we have identified actions that make a big difference. Those of us , who want to take action on the climate, it is necessary to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact.This research is about helping people make more informed choices.
“We found that there are four actions that could result in significant decreases in an individual’s carbon footprint: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car-free and having smaller families. For example, living car-free saves about 2 .4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, while eating a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
“These actions therefore have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies such as extensive recycling (which is 4 times less effective than a plant-based diet) or replacing household light bulbs (8 times less effective).”
Sustainable Food System
The researchers also found that neither Canadian textbooks nor government resources from the EU, US, Canada and Australia highlight these actions, instead focusing on incremental changes with much less potential to reduce emissions.
Study co-author Kimberly Nicholas said: “We recognize that these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyles actually have. Personally, I’ve found making many of these changes really positive. It’s especially important. for youth establishing lifelong patterns to be aware of which choices have the greatest impact. We hope this information sparks discussion and empowers individuals,” she concluded.
More information: “The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education and Government Recommendations vs. Effective Individual Actions” Wynes S and Nicholas K 2017 Environ. Res. Easy. 12 074024, iopscience.iop.org/article/10. … 088/1748-9326/aa7541
Citation: Most effective individual steps to tackle climate change not discussed (2017, July 11) retrieved September 25, 2022 from https:///news/2017-07-effective-individual-tackle-climate-discussed.html
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We published an open access scientific peer-reviewed study on our findings in July 2017 (video abstract here). Many common questions can be answered in our survey FAQ (including why we focused on the most influential personal choices of high emitters).
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We share our views on population climate impact, the method of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from having a child, and ethical responsibility for emissions in response to a comment from
And onsystemic factors beyond individual actions, the role of overuse, and the ethics of communicating about family planning in response to a comment by Laycock and Lam. Below we share materials that Seth and I have created (sometimes in collaboration with talented graphic designers, communications experts and others), including:
Feel free to use our infographics or other materials for educational or other communication purposes (high resolution downloads available below). Permission is not required, but we appreciate hearing from you to find out where the materials are being used. Please refer to the images below as follows:
Data from Wynes, Seth and Kimberly A Nicholas.2017. “The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education and Government Recommendations Miss the Most Effective Individual Actions.” Environmental Research Letters 12(7). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541. Image credit: Catrin Jakobsson.
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My take on the 4 choices we identified that make the biggest difference to the climate: living car-free, eating a plant-based diet, avoiding flying, and planning smaller families. 2 minute video from Lund University
Seth & I have been part of two Reddit AMAs. The first was in 2015 when we joined Eric Holthaus and others, and the second we led in November 2017 on our paper.
A new study has identified the four actions that would have the biggest impact on an individual’s greenhouse gas emissions: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel, living car-free and having fewer children.
The comprehensive study analyzed 39 peer-reviewed articles, carbon calculators and government sources to quantify the most influential personal lifestyle choices in developed countries.
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“There are so many factors that influence the climate impact of personal choices, but bringing all these studies together gives us confidence that we have identified actions that make a big difference. Those of us who want to step forward on climate, need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact. This research is about helping people make more informed choices,” says lead author Seth Wynes.
The study showed that on average you save around 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year by eating a plant-based diet. Each avoided transatlantic round-trip flight saves 1.6 tons, and living car-free for a year saves 2.4 tons.
To put this into context, the emissions of carbon dioxide per per capita does not exceed 2.1 tonnes annually in the year 2050 – if the goal of limiting the global temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius is to be achieved.
Family size also matters: when taking into account the impact of future offspring at current emission rates, having one less child would save 58.6 tonnes per year. However, a reduction in total national emissions can make the climate impact of an extra child up to 17 times smaller.
The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education And Government Recommendations Miss The Most Effective Individual Actions
The study also found that the four key actions identified are usually missing from government recommendations and high school textbooks, which instead tend to recommend small, incremental changes, such as recycling or switching to reusable shopping bags.
But according to the study, eating a plant-based diet saves around 4 times more greenhouse gas emissions per year than recycling. By avoiding just one transatlantic flight, you save 8 times more, and living car-free saves 11 times more. Similarly, switching from plastic to canvas bags is less than 1% as effective for the climate as a year without consuming meat.
Kimberly Nicholas, associate professor at Lund University’s Center for Sustainability Studies and study co-author, says: “We recognize that these are deeply personal choices. But we cannot ignore the climate effect that our lifestyle actually has. Personally, I have found it really positive to make many of these changes. It is especially important for young people who are establishing lifelong patterns to be aware of which choices have the greatest impact. We hope this information sparks discussion and empowers individuals,” she concludes.
Dr. Jonathan Foley, director of the California Academy of Sciences, commented: “Institutions must also lead by example. We need to use our positions to show climate leadership and reinforce positive individual action across society.” The academy announced on June 13 that it will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, the first major science museum to do so.
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All actions were compared on a life cycle basis for one person making the decision under current average conditions in developed countries. It means:
Emissions saved by switching from omnivores to plant-based diets (eg difference between emissions of foods consumed by self-selected meat eaters versus self-selected vegetarians). Includes emissions from fertiliser, methane production from livestock and transport of food to retail centres.
Emissions for one person flying on a return flight (eg New York to London) under average conditions. Note that long-haul flights are more (eg flying from London to Hong Kong return is 2.97 tonnes).
Emissions saved per person based on average kilometers traveled and vehicle occupancy. Includes emissions from car production and maintenance in addition to fuel combustion.
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Estimates the cumulative impact of current and future descendants based on the “percentage of blood” of the offspring and current emission levels for all emissions produced during the lifetime of the descendants divided by the life expectancy