5 resolutions you should make for the planet in 2019

 

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an urgent wake-up call: We need ambitious action to avoid climate catastrophe, and we need it now. Climate change isn’t a problem for the distant future, scientists warned, it’s a crisis that’s already at our doorstep.

Especially now, as we close one year and enter the next, it’s time to think about ways each one of us can make an impact. Tackling this crisis should be every world leader’s top New Year’s resolution.

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Unfortunately, they continue to hit the snooze button on climate action. International climate talks held earlier in December were sponsored by a coal company. The meeting ended with a barely reached agreement too weak to achieve the needed greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

And at the climate conference, the Trump administration held a panel promoting fossil fuels. Back home, the administration is barreling toward opening the Arctic wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling. 

Despite this lack of leadership, there’s hope. The Green New Deal is making waves on Capitol Hill. And communities from Oregon to Florida voted in favor of shifting away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.

You don’t have to be a political leader to have a positive impact on the climate. The choices each of us makes every day can reduce our own carbon footprints, shift markets, and influence policy makers.

Here are five resolutions you can make to fight climate change:

1) Eat less meat and dairy. The global food system contributes up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, with about half of those emissions coming from animal agriculture.

And Americans eat more meat per capita than almost any other country: Nearly 220 pounds per person, per year.

But every time you sit down to eat, you have an opportunity to choose plant-based foods that are healthier for you and the planet. In fact, if Americans cut the amount of beef they ate in half, the emissions savings would be analogous to taking more than 15 million cars off the road for a year.

2) Go solar. If we’re going to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need a rapid, just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Distributed solar, located at or near where the energy is used, has the least impact on wildlife and can put power back in the hands of communities.

One home installing a solar energy system can have a measurable effect on the environment. For someone in Connecticut, for example, switching from fossil fuels to solar power has the same emissions reduction effect as planting 155 trees every year. In New York, going solar can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning 5,253 pounds of coal each year.

It’s not always feasible to control where your home’s energy comes from — but you can still join the solar revolution by investing in community solar or urging your local utility to support rooftop solar expansion. 

3) Change up your commute. Between heading to the office or school and running errands, our daily tailpipe emissions add up. In fact, the EPA estimates that a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

This year, rethink how you get around. Walk, bike or take public transit when possible. Utilize public bike shares. Arrange carpools and cluster errands to avoid excess driving. Driving less has an added benefit of reducing traffic for those still on the road.

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When you have to get behind the wheel, take it easy on the lead foot. Driving efficiently helps reduce your car’s emissions. Keeping your car tuned up can also help maximize your gas mileage.

4) Practice safe sex. In the United States, 45 percent of all pregnancies are unintended. When combined with the highest consumption rates in the world, population growth is a significant threat to wildlife. In fact, choosing to have one fewer child is the most effective action to reduce an individual's carbon footprint and saves nearly 60 metric tons of carbon emissions per year, according to a 2017 study.

Making the choice to have a smaller family starts with practicing safe sex. That way you can ensure you and your partner only add to your family if and when you’re ready.

5) Get politically involved. No matter how dedicated we are to climate action, our ability to reduce our own carbon footprints is shaped by policy. Laws determine whether solar power is available in our neighborhoods, influence the costs of plant-based foods and affect the accessibility of contraception and family planning services.

Collective action is an important part of fighting climate change. We also need to make our collective voices heard at town halls, at the ballot box and at our representatives’ offices to push political leaders to make climate change a priority.

Stephanie Feldstein is the population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity.