20 Small Acts to Fight Climate Change

Fight climate change with these 20 small acts you can do as an individual, at home, and on the go.

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD
6-minute read
Episode #237

An estimated tens of thousands of people showed up in Washington, DC in the spring of 2017—in solidarity with an additional nearly 400 sister marches that spread across the globe—to have their voices heard in support of taking bigger steps toward protecting our planet – and our future - from the now inevitable onset of climate change. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, spanning back over the past 150 years, the United States is the number one cumulative producer of carbon dioxide worldwide and still produces 16% of the current CO2 emissions despite making up just 4% of global population. China currently produces the most CO2 of any country (with the US in second) but the US more than doubles those emissions per capita.

Despite our dominating role in CO2 emissions, the U.S. as a nation has been slow to adopt firm and lasting measures to address the realities of climate change. The large and diverse participation in the Climate March suggests that people are ready for that change.

This readiness perhaps comes in part because people in the US and worldwide are already starting to notice first hand the changes brought on by a warming climate. According to the National Climate Assessment, a 2014 report produced by more than 300 experts together with a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee and reviewed by the public, experts, federal agencies, and a panel of National Academy of Sciences, US residents are already regularly observing longer, hotter summers,  more intense rain storms, more acidic oceans (sea water which is more corrosive), longer, more severe seasonal allergies, and differences in plants species that thrive in their yard or neighborhood.

Given how steeply global average temperatures are already rising, large-scale policy changes and solutions are necessary to move toward a cooler climate. But does that mean that there’s nothing we can do as individuals other than hope for the best? Let’s look at 20 ways you can have a positive impact on reducing carbon emissions and safeguarding the future of our planet.

As an Individual

1. Be informed. At the start of 2017, the US Environmental Protection Agency provided extensive online information on the results of decades of scientific studies on the impacts and risks of climate change. Now, however, that information has been entirely removed and replaced with a note stating that “we are currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.” However, much of the information is still available (although not maintained and updated) via snapshots of the previous pages. The Canadian government also maintains a site with basic climate change information. Knowing what to expect from rising global temperatures can help you make more informed choices to protect yourself and your family.

2. Choose your information carefully. Despite our shared planet, climate change has surprisingly become a controversial issue so always check your sources. Does a source make claims without citing the research? Who funded that research? For example, if a source cites reliable studies showing that CO2 emissions or global average temperatures are on the rise but suggests that humans are not the cause, does that source propose any mitigating or adaptive action? What is the real motivation behind a call not to act if we can agree that the threat exists?

3. Contact your representatives both locally and nationally to find out their stance on the climate change issues that matter most to you. Ask them, for example, what plans they have to inspire economic innovation or to create new jobs in the face of a changing climate. Do they have plans aimed at mitigation (for example, providing incentives for individuals and corporations to lower CO2 emissions through carbon taxes) or aimed at adaptation (i.e., preparations for cities that are vulnerable to sea level rise? If you’re not impressed by their response, tell them so and consider that response when they are up for re-election.

4. Donate to causes that are working to address the climate change issues that affect or matter to you. Are you a fan of camping? Donate to a national or state park. Do you prefer to keep it local? Find organizations that are advocating for river or beach clean up, wildlife preservation, or cleaner air in your town or city.

5. Tell others what you are doing. Sometimes the hardest part of tackling issues that seem as large as climate change is taking that first step. Let others know that you are making that step and that they can do it too.


Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr Sabrina Stierwalt earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Cornell University and is now a Professor of Physics at Occidental College.