Climate change and social blame

The average Australian’s carbon footprint is around 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

15 tonnes… thats a lot of gas.

For us to keep global warming levels below 2 degrees by the year 2050, it is proposed that the average Australian needs to decrease their carbon footprint to 2 tonnes. The obvious question would be how do we get there? But I think the more important question is, who’s responsible for change?

Don’t eat red meat, catch public transport, use a keep-cup. Most of us are pretty familiar with the things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. We know each of these small actions contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and help to reduce the impact of climate change. But when 70% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions are the result of just 100 companies, carrying around a keep-cup seems somewhat futile.

On a global average, Americans have a relatively large carbon footprint, larger than us Aussies. Yet, the average American’s contribution to the total global problem is 0.0000000003%. With this in mind, you may be asking yourself, what’s the point?

Sustainability efforts aren’t always easy. In fact, many facets of Australian society don’t really lend themselves to being sustainable. Generally speaking, it’s usually cheaper and more convenient to eat fast food, shop fast fashion, and disregard environmental causes.

As individuals, we really don’t have a great deal of control over most sources of greenhouse gas emissions. As consumers we have power in how we choose to spend our money, but this is often limited.

Widespread systematic change is necessary to shift the seas on climate change. The actions of one individual won’t do that, but as a community we can.

Don’t ditch the keep-cup just yet.

Although your personal carbon footprint is arguably negligible in the grand scheme of things, it is the way you communicate your efforts that holds the greatest power.

Harvard Business Review notes that successful social movements are built on strength in small numbers, not large crowds.

The three degrees of influence is a social network theory underpinned by the idea that we’re capable of having a ripple effect to influence people beyond who we are directly connected to. In essence, we influence our friends, friends of friends, and so on.

We aren’t powerless in the mitigating climate change. Recent history demonstrates endless examples of successful social movements. We’ve witnessed constitutional change around marriage equality in Australia. Social change is possible, I would argue, it is inevitable.

Whilst we shouldn’t shift the focus from corporations and governments onto individuals to take responsibility for climate change, we should exercise our rights and the (albeit limited) power we have. The enormity of climate crisis may feel daunting, but we can make a difference from the ground up.

2 Responses to “Climate change and social blame”

  1. Ethan Newnham says:

    I really like the way that you’ve reconciled the need for systematic change while still giving the individual a degree of responsibility – I wish this perspective was more widespread!

  2. Mathilda Bates says:

    This is such an interesting article that combats the everyday stigma individuals often face in relation to climate change. “Can I really make a difference?” is a question I often ask myself when it comes to sustainable choices and actions. But, I completely agree – every little choice matters, and hopefully, a social movement will be the catalyst we need to truly turn things around. Thanks for sharing!