Tackling climate change too daunting? It need not be as ordinary people can play their part

Boats are seen on the dried lake Poopo affected by climate change, in Bolivia, on Sept 1, 2017.
Boats are seen on the dried lake Poopo affected by climate change, in Bolivia, on Sept 1, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Fighting climate change might seem like a big problem that is for governments to solve. But it turns out there is a lot ordinary people can do.

"The most significant thing that people can do is reducing their power and their transport, which is oil-based," said Dr Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute in Perth, Western Australia.

"There are things you can do with electric cars but you can also change to using more public transport or biking or walking more or reducing the need for heating and cooling," he told reporters in a briefing ahead of the release in Incheon of the UN climate panel's special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 deg C on Monday.

"The power of this report is that it's not a simple thing any more to say: 'Governments, get going and fix it for us'. We've all got to play our part."

He gave the example of rooftop solar installations expanding rapidly in many countries, including Australia. In Perth, about 30 per cent of homes have rooftop solar.

Schools were also playing a role.

"Schools are adopting ways to cut carbon and children are taking home these ideas," Dr Newman, one of the report's lead authors, added.


Other choices included the type of car, air-conditioner or refrigerator consumers buy based on government-backed rating schemes.

Eating less beef and shifting to chicken and fish and more locally grown vegetables are other simple steps. Cattle farms require large volumes of water, and cows and sheep produce huge amounts of methane - a powerful greenhouse gas - in their digestive systems.

Combined, many of these efforts lead to healthier lifestyles and save money. For example, energy audits and use of smart electricity meters can be effective in promoting energy conservation because consumers can see the value.

Education is also key, said the panel's report.

The report found that education, information and community approaches could accelerate large-scale behaviour changes needed to limit warming to 1.5 deg C.

Community approaches, where change is initiated from the bottom up, can promote steps to adapt to climate change and to cut emissions, especially when community ties are strong.

How governments implement policies is also key, the report says.

"Acceptability is higher when people expect more positive and less negative effects of policy and system changes, including climate impacts," it says.

"Acceptability can increase when people experience positive effects after a policy has been implemented."