Meat, air conditioning, flies and SUVs all drive up emissions, the latest in science – and cleaner living can make a difference
Lifestyle changes around the world could reduce emissions twice as much as Brazil’s by 2030, compared to technological solutions alone, according to a leaked draft of an upcoming scientific report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Eating meat, air-conditioning, flying, and SUV driving are among the increasingly high-carbon lifestyle choices associated with disposable income. These trends make consumer behavior relevant to tackling climate change – especially among the rich, who have the largest carbon footprint.
The IPCC stated that “individual behavior changes cannot be reduced in isolation” [greenhouse gas] -Emissions substantial ”, but“ Individuals can help to overcome barriers and enable climate protection ”.
“If 10-30% of the population showed commitment to low-carbon technologies, behaviors and lifestyles, new social norms would be established,” the draft report says.
For decades, climate activists have been hotly debating the relative importance of what individuals buy in making change. Some argue that it lets governments and big business off the hook, while others argue that it empowers governments and corporations and urges them to act.
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For the first time, Extinction Rebellion scientists will leak a large section on demand-side action to the IPCC in the February 2022 section of the Assessment Report 6 on Stopping Global Warming.
In summary, the published scientific research is summarized: “Lifestyle options such as heating and cooling setpoint adjustments, reduced device usage, shift to human-centered mobility and public transport, reduced air travel and improved recycling can enable additional savings of 2 GtCo2eq in 2030 and 3 GtCo2eq savings in 2050 beyond the savings achieved in conventional technology-oriented mitigation scenarios. “
The total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 were 59 Gt Co2 and 2 Gt are roughly double the annual emissions of Brazil. Of these 59 Gt, 38 Gt came from fossil fuels and industry.
Karen Moberg is a researcher at the Western Norway Research Institute and studies the climate impact of household consumption in European countries. She told Climate Home News, “I’ve heard arguments like ‘why are you focusing on individuals when the fossil fuel companies are the real bastards,’ but those are really two sides of the same coin. Saying that individual consumption matters doesn’t mean we should forget how we produce our energy. We have to do both. “
UK Prime Minister’s climate spokesperson Allegra Stratton recently launched a “one step greener” campaign by encouraging people not to wash their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. This has been heavily criticized as the issue has been trivialized.
Moberg said not washing the dishes was a “gentle measure”. While these small changes are “important,” she said, “it’s really about how we transport ourselves and how much we do and what we eat and how it is produced and how far it is traveled and how much energy is used overall in our apartments. “”.
She added: “In addition to a policy to accelerate the energy transition, we need a state policy that aims to reduce individual consumption in a fair and equitable manner.”
Air traffic grew by 28.5% between 2010 and 2020, SUV use by 17% and meat consumption by 12%, as the draft report shows. The energy demand for cooling households increased by 40% from 2010 to 2018.
The report states: “Switching to a diet high in vegetable protein in regions with excessive calorie consumption and foods from animal sources can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and “Plant-based diets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to” to 50% compared to the average emission-intensive western diet ”.
While individuals can reduce their own meat consumption, the report notes that government measures like a red meat tax or an advertising campaign can help significantly. But this policy can be unpopular. In April, US Republicans falsely claimed that President Joe Biden was planning to cut red meat consumption as part of his climate change plan.
The IPCC report is under review by government officials and academics and is subject to change prior to its scheduled publication in February 2022. The IPCC does not comment on the content of leaked drafts.
In a statement, scientists told Rebellion that they leaked the document “because” [we] expect the final version to be watered down ”.
The final text of the executive summary is negotiated line by line between government officials. Some, especially Saudi Arabia, have already tried to weaken the language – but leading scholars are there to defend the evidence.