Monthly Archives: June 2014

The problem of waiting for governments to take action on climate change

Yeah they'll look at you weird, but in a good way ;)

Yeah they’ll look at you weird, but in a good way 😉

Some of the attitudes about climate change have already shifted in a favourable direction: that is the majority of people now think that climate change is real, and the pool of deniers is shrinking. However, now it is not the question of whether it is happening, it is a question of who should do something about it.

Climate change mitigation is usually framed as a global problem that must be dealt with at the legislative level: that is, to mitigate the effects of climate change we must reduce our carbon emissions, which can only be done if governments force corporations to do it. When framed like this, it takes the onus off regular people because anything they may do in their individual lives doesn’t really count, or has no impact.

I think one of the attitudes we need to change is this idea that the governments need to do something, and all we can do is wait until they act. We need to shift this attitude to the idea that everyone needs to do something in their life to reduce their personal carbon footprint, not because it will make some sort of impact on global emissions but because it will have SOCIAL IMPACT.

When you choose to not use plastic, when you choose to shop local, when you choose to bike or take public transit, you are communicating to those around you that you want to change to a sustainable lifestyle, that it is worth doing, and that we all have to start doing something. Just the mere fact that you are doing it activates descriptive norms for people around you. The more they see others doing it, the more it is in our collective conscious that this is what people who care about climate change do. The more diverse and unexpected people that do it, the more attention it will get, and the more different groups will identify with the shift. You are signalling to others around you about what is important. Some, who already do it too, will be more motivated because they will feel community support, some who don’t already do these things will follow, and when enough follow, that is how you reach a tipping point. Only then can our collective voice be loud enough to tell our governments to make better choices for all of us.

For more on what you can do to reduce your impact check out these links:

No impact project

My plastic-free life

Psychology for a better world: Strategies to inspire sustainability (free ebook)