The Most Impactful Climate Actions You Can Take (Updated 2020 Version)
Updated: Feb 8
Learn about the Three Main Categories of Drawdown Action.
Everyone I talk with wants to know which actions will make the most difference. What do you want first—the good or the bad news? I’ll give you the bad news first and then spend the rest of the blog on the good news.
The bad news: There is no silver bullet, no one thing you can do to make a significant difference on climate. We need to implement an array of climate solutions to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.
The good news: Researchers have identified a host of things we can do to have more impact. You can select the actions that best fit with your commitment and interests.
In an earlier post, I described the top solutions identified by Project Drawdown in their 2017 book. Since then, they’ve updated their research and published a revised edition called the Drawdown Review. (You can find it on their home page). In this report they narrow the focus to three main areas of action and provide ten key insights. I won’t go into all ten, but here are a few key take-aways.
Select Insights from the Drawdown Review.
We don’t have to wait for innovations to take purposeful action now. If we scale up the climate solutions that we already have, we can get to where, by 2050, GHG emissions in the atmosphere will steadily decline (point of drawdown).
There is no one action that will fix this complex crisis. We need to work together to implement the many available interconnected solutions.
Climate solutions can also contribute to a fairer and more diverse world.
There is no financial reason for stalling on climate solutions. Project Drawdown’s analysis suggsets that net savings from scaling up solutions exceeds net implementation costs fivefold. And we need to make sure we create jobs for those in industries, like coal, that are shutting down.
Some of the most powerful climate solutions don’t receive the attention they deserve. Actions, like reducing food waste, switching to a plant-rich diet, preventing leaks in commercial refrigerators, and restoring forests, are crucial to reducing emissions. We also need to look beyond technology to natural and social systems to address this crisis.
All of us can play a role in advancing climate solutions. No one can do it all, but we each can contribute and be a change agent in our own way. In addition to individual action, there is a range of diverse interventions communities, organizations, regions, nationals agencies, and international bodies can implement. It will take all of these levels of action to create the shift needed.
Drawdown’s Three Main Categories of Action
1. Reduce Sources of Emissions to Zero: The actions in this area focus on how we use energy, grow food, care for the land, make products, transport goods, and manage and construct buildings.
2. Support Natural Carbon Sinks: The solutions here draw on how the land and oceans are a part of the climate system and naturally absorb carbon. They look at what we can do to support and enhance ecosystem processes for carbon sink, biodiversity, and food system purposes.
The land actions cluster around waste and diets, ecosystem protection and restoration, improved agriculture practices, and prudent use of degraded land.
Actions related to the oceans focus on practices that can sequester carbon in coastal, marine, and open ocean environments in a way that enhances their natural processes. Solutions for coastal and ocean sinks center on ecosystem protection and restoration and improved agriculture practices.
3. Improve Society by Fostering Equality for All: Climate solutions are never just climate
solutions. They also address health issues, foster a more resilient food system, and provide affordable energy, nutritious food, good jobs, storm protection, and clean water. Similarly, initiatives, designed primarily to ensure rights and foster equality, can also benefit climate change efforts.
When we protect indigenous peoples’ land rights, we take care of forest ecosystems too.
Likewise, access to high-quality, voluntary reproductive healthcare and inclusive education are fundamental human rights and cornerstones of gender equality that also benefit the climate. When levels of education for girls and women rise, access to reproductive healthcare improves. Women’s empowerment also expands, and fertility drops. The growing number of people eating, moving, plugging in, building, buying, using, and wasting, drives the amount of fossil-fueled emissions higher.
It is important to note, like I did in my last blog post on Climate Justice, that vast differences in emissions exist between high-income countries and low-income ones. And the wealthiest individuals emit significantly higher emissions than those of lesser financial means. It is crucial to always place human rights and equality at the center of what we do. Then, benefits to the planet become a ripple effect of access and agency for all.
One final insight from the report: We will need to rely on deep commitment, collaboration, and ingenuity to reach the point of drawdown. We can achieve that if we all come together and take action. We can do this because we must. As Greta Thunberg told the U.S. Congress in 2019, “Giving up can never be an option.”
In which of the three categories will you commit to taking action this week and month?
Check out the list of Actions under my signature to help you identify your top priorities.
I’d love to know what’s grabbing your attention or what questions are running through your mind. Let me know in the comments section. I’ll respond in one of my blog posts.
If you’d like me to notify you when I’ve posted a new article on my blog, please sign up at the bottom of this page. I promise I will only send one email a week.
All the best,
Krista / Eco-Omi
Climate Actions You Can Take as an Individual:
While a portion of solutions in the above three solution categories require institutional action, there are many solutions you can implement in your own life to contribute to solving the climate crisis. Most of them are very doable and will probably all seem familiar to you. (Note: I have placed a star next to the most impactful actions).
1. You can support Equality for All by:
2. You can address Food Waste and Diet by:
Eating more vegetables and less meat (switching to a more plant-rich diet). *
Reducing food waste. Roughly a third of the world’s food is never eaten, which means land and resources used and greenhouse gases emitted in producing it were unnecessary. Less waste reduces overall demand. *
3. You can enhance Energy Efficiency by:
Replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. Check with your local utility to see if they have a free bulb program. *
Installing a smart thermostat in your home.
Adding insulation to your home to increase efficiency.
Replacing your home heating system (when its life is up) with a high-efficiency heat pump.
Installing a solar water heater in your house if your location allows.
Installing low-flow toilets, showerheads, faucets and other appliances.
4. You can shift Energy Production to renewables by:
Purchasing solar energy through your local utility, taking part in a community solar project or installing a solar system at home. *
Buying wind power through your local utility. *
Installing a geothermal system to heat your home.
5. You can support the Use of Waste in new products by:
Recycling as much as possible. *
Composting food waste, either in your backyard or by taking part in a community compost program. *
Buying and using recycled paper.
6. You can use decrease the impact of Transportation by:
Driving an electric car. *
Using public transportation. *
Driving a hybrid car. *
Taking high-speed rail instead of flying. *
Riding a bike, including electric bikes.
Working from home more often.
7. You can Protect Ecosystems by:
Donating to organizations, like those listed on World Organization’s site, that restore coastal wetlands.*
Planting trees in your community.
Buying only FSC certified wood for building projects.
8. You can help shift Agricultural Systems by:
Buying food grown by farmers who use practices that regenerate the soil by using cover crops, minimal tilling, compost, organic inputs, and reduced synthetic fertilizer. *
9. You can address the use of Refrigerants by:
Properly disposing of refrigerators and other appliances that use refrigerants. *
Writing letters to companies that use large refrigeration systems to ask them to manage leaks in their systems and replace refrigerants with more emission friendly alternatives.