We know that the ocean and its blue carbon ecosystems play a critical role in regulating the climate. However, they have faced an alarming rate of degradation due to human activities, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.
In this unit, you will learn what action we humans, both as individuals and as a society, can take to reduce our carbon footprint and keep our oceans clean and healthy.
INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS: LET’S PLAY OUR PART!
Small changes in our daily activities can help us reduce our carbon footprint and keep our oceans healthy through a sustainable lifestyle.
1. Educate yourself and others about climate change and blue carbon ecosystems
Nelson Mandela once said education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. THIS IS TRUE!!! By learning and broadening your knowledge of global issues, including climate change and degradation of blue carbon ecosystems, you also learn what you can do to address these problems. You have already taken an important step by taking this course, but your journey should not stop here.
Stay up to date by reading news and scientific articles, join seminars, webinars, and workshops, and follow organizations and companies that are addressing the climate crisis.
Most importantly, share your knowledge with others. Invite your friends, family, and colleagues to complete this course and participate in climate activism. The more people and institutions are aware of the climate crisis, the more we can do to address it.
2. Learn the 5R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot
Understanding and implementing the 5Rs in your life is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and decelerate the climate crisis:
Avoid consuming things you don’t really need. Say no to wasteful things such as single-use plastic products.
This way, you help eliminate waste at the source, preventing it from ending up in overcrowded landfills and polluting our oceans.
Downsize what you purchase and start using less! Be more mindful of what you really need and think about how you could reduce your overall consumption. Start by evaluating your purchasing habits and resist impulsive buying. Bring reusable bags when you shop and carry a water bottle with you when you are out to limit your consumption of single-use plastic.
Also, declutter the things you don’t need anymore and donate them to people who need them or to local thrift stores. Furthermore, by reducing what you consume, you are not only making changes to help the environment but also help you save more money!😁
Stop buying disposable items and replace them with reusable ones. If things break, repair or upcycle them to extend their use.
Buy second-hand items from your local thrift store. These steps will not only reduce your carbon footprint but also save your money!
For the products you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse, recycle when possible. It still takes energy and resources to recycle and not all items are recyclable, so this should be your last step to reduce your waste. Check with your local waste management company or find a recycling center near you to learn what items can be recycled.
Set up a compost system for your food scraps or find a food scrap drop off center like community gardens near your house. Composting not only enriches soil but also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Composting also means less food waste being dumped in the landfills, thus reducing methane emissions from landfills.
3. Reduce your energy use
Did you know that energy production accounts for nearly three-quarters of all GHG emissions?. Therefore actions you take to lower your energy consumption will do a lot to lessen your carbon footprint. These include unplugging electronic devices and turning off lights when not in use, using LEDs or other low-energy light bulbs, taking shorter showers and using cold water, and choosing energy-efficient appliances for your home.
Not only are these actions good for the planet, but they also save you money. If possible, switching your energy supply sources is a great way to invest in renewable energy and of course, could save your money on bills too!
4. Drive less
Walk or cycle instead of using a car or motorbike. This simple action is good for your body as well as the environment! For longer journeys, use public transport, or try car-sharing schemes.
5. Eat Sustainably
Choose fresh, seasonal produce that is grown locally to help reduce the carbon emissions from transportation, preservation and prolonged refrigeration. This way, you can also support local farmers.
Also, try to limit your consumption of meat and dairy products as they have the largest environmental impacts. If you can, choose a plant-based diet which is not only better for the environment but also for your health.
6. Absorb your carbon footprint
Reduce what you can, absorb what you can’t. While implementing the actions above will do a lot to reduce your carbon footprint, it’s not possible for most of us to completely eliminate our carbon footprint. That’s where carbon keep comes in. Basically, carbon keep is when you reduce your GHG emissions by doing activities or funding projects that reduce or absorb carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
Examples of carbon keep activities include planting trees, conserving and restoring mangroves and other blue carbon ecosystems. You can also support local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are doing community-based projects to plant trees while helping and supporting the livelihood of local people, such as CarbonEthics!
7. Talk About Climate Crisis
Speak up about climate change! Conversations are a great way to spread big ideas, so talk to your family, friends, and coworkers about the climate crisis and what they can do about it. Use social media to voice out the threats to our ocean and the climate crisis.
This is an important step to encourage communities to make changes collectively. Sometimes, this can be challenging but you have to be consistent because climate change is a battle we have to tackle together.
WHO ELSE NEEDS TO TAKE ACTION?
Of course, individual actions are significant, especially when done collectively, but it is not enough. Other actors, namely businesses, civil society, and government also play a big part in combating climate change.
Companies are some of the biggest contributors to climate change and can also be one of the most significant actors in the fight against it. Some actions that all companies - from small businesses to multinational corporations can put in place to reduce carbon emissions include:
Measure and analyze greenhouse gas emissions and consider solutions to reduce emissions
Identify and implement opportunities to reduce waste throughout business operations.
Increase awareness among employees and customers and encourage them to change their attitude and behaviour towards climate crisis
Minimize business travel
Make smarter purchasing decisions and work with sustainable suppliers to ensure that sustainability remains a priority throughout the entire supply chain
Cut energy consumption by updating energy systems to LED lighting, optimizing heating and cooling systems and installing products that are energy efficient.
Give renewable energies a go and avoid fossil fuels when possible.
How many of these actions do the brands you buy take part in? Investigate the business practices of the brands you purchase. And if you’re having trouble learning about a company’s business practices, remember this rule of thumb: If a company is not very transparent about sustainability, it’s probably not a good sign!
2. Civil Society Organizations and Nongovernmental Organizations
Another major actor in the fight against climate change are civil society organizations (CSO) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs and CSOs operate independently from business and government and are formed to promote a cause or issues. They come in all shapes and sizes and operate both locally and globally. Some examples of large NGOs you might have heard of include the UN and the World Resources Institute. CSOs and NGOs play an important role in fighting against climate change. Let’s take a look at what their roles are.
Both CSOs and NGOs play a role in raising community awareness of climate change and its likely impacts on their lives, livelihoods and habitats. For example, CarbonEthics educates people around climate change issues and blue carbon ecosystems while helping coastal communities to improve their livelihoods. CSOs and NGOs have the ability to increase interest within communities and provide an independent view on climate change issues. This is crucial to build trust in the issues and help enact behavioural change in communities.
CSOs and NGOs can help communities build up their capacities and empower them to reduce vulnerability, mitigate the risks and build resilience to climate change. For instance, in rural areas, CSOs and NGOs can help communities map and identify their local biodiversity resources with a view to their conservation and sustainable management in order to meet livelihood needs, especially during times of disasters and crises (floods, droughts, crop failures, epidemics).
CSOs and NGOs also help facilitate independent and open dialogue with the communities regarding the challenges that they have faced. This way, both CSOs and NGOs can help empower communities as active participants in the decision-making process with other stakeholders.
Besides their actions that directly help communities, CSOs and NGOs also help provide independent science-based and society-based policy advice for both local and central governments as well as businesses regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Indeed having CSOs and NGOs with clear mandates to engage communities, businesses and the public sector can help countries to tackle climate change more effectively and successfully.
As the policy creators, governments have one of the greatest roles in the fight against climate change. Both at the national and local levels, they play a critical role in helping to improve public knowledge and provide regulatory frameworks (policies and law enforcement) on climate change programs, particularly in the following areas:
Protect and restore key ecosystems
Governments have the power to enact laws that protect key ecosystems such as rivers, wetlands, oceans, forests, mangroves, seagrasses that absorb large quantities of carbon. Intervention and support from governments can play an important role in improving conservation and restoration efforts and empowering local communities to be drivers of change.
Support small agricultural producers
Government support of small local producers can help encourage sustainable farming practices. Unlike large industrial farms, small-scale farmers tend to employ more sustainable practices, care about land restoration, benefit nearby communities, and make animals and crops more resilient to climate change.
Promote green energy and stop incentivising the wasteful use of fossil fuels
Governments should analyze every action, public policy and strategy related to the production of energy with nature in mind. The transition to low-carbon energy must take place on a level playing field. Fossil-fuel subsidies distort energy markets and increase energy-related CO2 emissions. This has become a roadblock on the way to a cleaner and more efficient energy future. Achieving access to clean, modern energy services while meeting global climate targets is not an easy task. But with the right policies, aimed at the right sectors, with the right technologies, the world can soon be on track for a sustainable energy future. The Government can create a fossil fuel divestment plan, energy transition programs, and start incentivizing green industries such as solar panels and electric vehicles.
Bet on adaptation, not just mitigation
In the fight against climate change, mitigation - stopping the most drastic effects of climate change should be a cornerstone in all policies. However, some communities are already experiencing severe effects from climate change. Therefore, focus also needs to be placed on adaptation measures to increase community resilience to the worst impacts of climate change.
Given the far-reaching nature of climate change, effective policies and interventions from governments are needed to achieve the long-term climate goals and strengthen resilience to the worst effects of climate change.
Think you are ready to take action now?
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