List of actually-meaningful things we can do about climate change

After reading the epically-bad list that @doctorow posted, I wanted to crowd-source a list of things that people can do to help address climate change that are actually impactful.

Although I recycle, use LED bulbs, and bike to work, I don’t think that these are actually meaningful things that I, as an individual, can do. They make me feel better, but their actual contribution towards helping prevent climate change is basically nil.

Sure, if 50% of people in the world, including all the people in developing countries, did these things then it would have an impact, but that’s unlikely to happen just by “leading by example.”

So what are the things that I, personally, can do that will make the most impact? Personally, I think it all comes down to policy change, and for the most part it’s easier for me to effect change with my wallet than by other means (e.g. standing for election). Therefore, my three contributions to this (hopefully crown-sourced list) are:

  1. Donate to climate-policy lobbying groups. My favorite, though I’d be happy to be told a better one, is the Environmental Defense Fund
  2. Vote for, campaign for, and donate to candidates who take climate change seriously
  3. Call up your congress-critters or other representatives and make sure that they are taking climate change seriously

One thing that I’m interested in is whether donating $500 to an organization like EDF is more impactful than $500 directly to an environmental conservancy, or reforesting program, or carbon credits, or what-not. Is there a way to actually measure the impact of that $500? How many tons of carbon have been saved due to policy changes caused by lobbying, and what was the cost? (Obviously I’m not expecting concrete answers, but the discussion might prove fruitful.)


One of the problems that I have is that if you are disabled, poor or financially insecure you have fewer options.

I might be able to afford to make donations to an environmental group right now, but if my disability benefits get suspended (technically they shouldn’t, but the DWP haven’t been reliable about following the law) then I risk becoming homeless.

I can write to my MP and MEP and if I choose to vote next year I could vote Green, but what else can I do? I feel useless which isn’t helpful.


I boycott BP because I hate their guts for screwing up the Gulf. I’m not sure it helps the environment but it makes me feel better. I’m sure the other oil companies are just as terrible in their own special ways, but BP makes my blood boil


We’ve started buying our energy from Good Energy. My attitude is that as well as lying in the domain of making me feel better, I also expect it to have a positive market influence in encouraging supply of renewables and discouraging the supply of other kinds. I can be sure my electricity supply is being met by renewables, forcing an increase in capacity of renewables as per legal requirements for the other suppliers.

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Don’t vote Green, vote for whichever candidate that actually has a chance of winning in your constituency has the best climate policies. That will double the effectiveness of your vote. Otherwise, remember that by being poor you are consuming less and thus are actually doing more to help than someone who spends lots of money on things like carbon offsetting.

The best thing to do is to get a suitable advanced degree and then start working on developing the technologies we need. I’d suggest electricity storage is the lowest-hanging fruit now – we’re getting pretty good at generating renewable electricity from wind and sun, but we have no good way to get it from windy and sunny times and places to where it’s actually needed. We need much better technologies for both industrial-scale storage (gigawatt-hours of it) and also batteries suitable for individual consumers’ houses and cars (a few or a few dozen kilowatt-hours). Better carbon sequestration technology would also be extremely useful, but it’s harder to see how anyone will make enough money from it for it to be worth the investment.

Also remember that by being poor, you are unlikely to suddenly be very rich. You do not need to help future-fantasy-rich-you to the detriment of current-poor-you.

In Boston we can pay extra to use renewable electricity from our electrical company NSTAR. Anyone in New England who uses NSTAR ought to do this, if they can afford it. It’s only a few dollars more a month, and it increases the incentive to keep producing electricity from renewables.

Seattle City Light is municipally owned and generates ~90% of its energy hydro-electrically. It’s cheap, too! :slight_smile:

For 2012, the fuel mix for Seattle City Light was approximately 89.8% hydroelectric, 4.4% nuclear, 3.9% wind, 0.8% coal, 0.6% other (including biomass, natural gas, petroleum and waste), and 0.5% landfill gases.

From Reddit this morning, here’s quite a good action: Glasgow University First in Europe to Divest From Fossil Fuel Industry.

A protest by 1,300 students led the university to divest £18 million from fossil fuels.

In keeping with my goals of the most impactful things an individual can do, each student who protested could be considered responsible for about £13,800 ($22,400) removed from fossil fuel investments.

That’s probably a lot more than most of us could do with recycling, LED bulbs, and even buying green energy from local companies.

It speaks again to the power of political action, but at a smaller scale than national politics. So perhaps another item on the list could be something like

  • Lobby your city government or university to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Help form a protest if you must.

My constituency is Oxford East, all but a Labour safe seat. Second place at the last election was LIb-Dem and third place was Conservative, and I have a strong aversion to voting for either of them (I would only vote for them if they are the only chance of stopping Ukip, which they aren’t.) This leaves the Green Party who were in fourth place.

If any of the Labour party councillors I have known over the years read this, it’s nothing personal, I just feel completely betrayed by your party.

I’m more financially insecure than poor. I’m also physically disabled and mentally ill, which can mean I consume more. What were luxuries become self harm and suicide distraction methods. Physical pain may mean I have to get a taxi home instead of a bus. I live in one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the UK, but I can’t cycle past the end of my street without hurting.

I think I am one of the reasons why 14 and 15 were on that bad list. I need to stop blaming myself.

Fastidiously enumerate a list of climate change deniers and policy makers who ignore and exacerbate the threat.
After all the coastal flooding, death and loss of property, I for one would like to know that list is accurate.

As regards making a physical impact on the ongoing and out of control process, short of building giant heat-sink lasers at the poles and pointing them at space, aerosolising some kind of carbon capture mechanism or, y’know, towing man-made icebergs back up to the poles instead of pulling whatever is left back down for drinking water… I dunno.

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Great article but I don’t see the words ‘micro’ or ‘nano’ anywhere.

LOL they mention Bill Gates’ ‘cloud whitening trials’ but not his fleet of reflective, height-adjustable, ocean buoys.

Buzzwords. Trendy these days but not needed for everything; though, if you want funding, wrenching some in is generally a good idea.

Oh? If you can source it, add it there! :smiley:

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