It turns out that not only can humans get on top of the problem, but also that there is plenty all of us can do as individuals—far more than most of us imagineby Mike Berners-Lee / April 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
It is plain to all of us that climate change is a global challenge, but each one of us can feel like just one speck in the huge mass of humanity. Is there really anything meaningful that any one of us can do to help? It’s a fair question.
And even more so when we contemplate the harsh reality that so far climate change—to take just one example of our species’ enormous impact on our ever-more-fragile planet—has so far proved totally immune to any of the talks, resolutions, targets or actions of people, businesses or governments.
To spell that out, the carbon emissions curve is still rising year on year exactly as it was doing before climate change ever hit the headlines. At the global level, there is still zero detectable evidence of human governance.
So much for the bad news—now, for some evidence-based and well-founded hope. Firstly, our failure so far to have agency absolutely does not prove that having agency is not possible in the future.
Secondly, the simple act of facing the stark realities that I’ve outlined is an essential and incredibly helpful step in the quest for an effective course of action. The knowledge that nothing so far has worked at all gives us key information about the nature of the challenge—and we can use this to guide our efforts.
It turns out that not only can humans get on top of the problem, but also that there is plenty all of us can do as individuals—far more in fact than most of us imagine.
Cutting the impact of our own lifestyles is still an important part of the equation. It demonstrates our commitment, it sets a culture and it brings authenticity to the other essential actions we take to exert influence in every part of our lives.
Understanding the challenge
First, though, let’s analyse the problem a little further, because this will help us target our efforts. Why is it that the individual efforts of people, businesses and nations have proved not just insufficient, but have actually added up to zero?
It boils down to the balloon squeezing effect—otherwise known as “rebounds.” At the moment, the way things are working is that if we cut the carbon in one place, the…