What can you do to combat climate change?

What are the best quick fixes you can do to help mitigate the crisis and play your part?
09 November 2021

Interview with 

Neil Jennings, The Grantham Institute Imperial College London




What can we do to help mitigate the crisis, make a difference, and protect our own mental welfare? Here’s a couple of things that the students at Putney High School are up to...

Student #1 - I know that I personally have a lot of stuff from when I was a child it's plastic toys and things like that. I'm going to try and encourage people to give to, like, charity shops or reuse things that, you know, you thought you would never use again.

Student #2 - P***y and I at the moment are involved in a young enterprise project. And what we're doing is like a sustainable vegetarian cookbook.

Student #3 - First, while we try to make the meals quite cheap and easy because we're selling to students mostly,

Harry - And tasty?

Student #3 - Oh yeah, definitely tasty is a big part of it, since we're going to be eating the recipes as well. But I think red meat is probably the biggest part of people's carbon footprint. So trying to educate them on this is probably the best way to do it. Even if people aren't vegetarian all the time, even if they make just a small change in their lives, it can make quite a big difference.

Harry - I even heard that one of the students is developing an app to incentivize savings on domestic water usage, Chris.

Chris - Well, they know what they say. You always get the best ideas from young people who have been unbiased and brainwashed by so-called education. You think outside the box. With us now to help us all think a bit more outside the box and consider some of the actions that we can all take alongside the things that Kathleen was saying about education and so on is Neil Jennings. He's from the Grantham Institute for climate change and the environment at Imperial College in London, he's been at COP26. Neil, you've drawn up a list of nine things that you think should really be on all of our radar for behavioural change around climate change. Do you just want to run us by them?

Neil - Yeah, so it links into some of the ideas that the young women there touched on. Amongst the list, we've got things like reducing meat consumption and driving less walking and cycling more, using more public transport. And for those who fly, you know, flying less and reducing waste. And the two ones that I would like to bring out are making your voice heard by those in power. So whether that's your local MP or your councillor, or indeed businesses to contact them, to let them know that you care about this as an issue and to ask them and push them, if you like, to put the right infrastructure and the right incentives in place to make as easy as possible for us as citizens to be able to make some of these changes, like eating less meat or using more public transport. And the second of the ones I always like to pull out is around talking to each other about the changes that we've made. You know, some of this stuff will be hard. Some of the changes that we need need to make to, to, to tackle climate change, there'll be challenges that we face along the way. So it's so important that we chat to our friends, to our families about what we tried to do, about our experiences, what went well, what didn't, so that we can help each other overcome some of the challenges that we face along the way to help to kind of, also help to kind of normalise some of these behaviours that are good for the environment. As well, in many cases, it has been also good for our health as well.

Chris - Why have you picked on those two as your top two though? I mean, we can consider some of the others in a minute, but why those two as priorities, what's the evidence you've got that they really matter?

Neil - I think it's because it links in with the mental health piece, that first one, that there's some things which we can't control. There's things in our homes, which we have control over whether that's lights, the car that we choose to drive, but there's things that we need our elected officials to do to make it easier for us to make some of these other changes. So, you know, we need our elected officials to make sure we've got good charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. We need them to put the right incentives or infrastructure in place to make it easy for us to cycle and to feel safe when we're doing so. So I think those ones I always bring out because it links in with the mental health piece about, we need our elected officials to step up and people feel a level of anxiety and concern around climate change because we don't always see our leaders leading.

Chris - Sorry to interrupt you on this, but the problem with this now is that the political cycle is in some countries four years, in our country five years at most, before we're all going for an election again. And so really what our governments worry about, they worry about being re-elected. Climate change is not a five-year problem - well it wasn't, it is rapidly becoming one, but it wasn't. So it's sort of outside the time sphere that really, really galvanizes politicians and that's probably its weakness, isn't it?

Neil - So, but I guess the one thing that we've seen over the last few years is this very significant increase in the level of concern amongst climate change by the public. So Ipsos Mori do surveys every month and climate change, or the environment more broadly, has been figuring in the top three issues of concern that a representative sample of the UK public cite. So this has gone from being something which, you know, it was kind of like hovering around 10-th place for quite a while to actually one of the concerns that, you know, elected officials should be concerned about from the perspective of getting reelected. So I know, I know what you mean in that respect, but I do think things have changed.

Chris - Why do you think there has been this about-turn in terms of people's interests? I've noticed it too. And I thought, perhaps it's just because COP26 was happening for the first time, really on home territory. Is it that, or is it actually, everyone's concerned about it and it's a slew of recent bad weather that's driven this?

Neil - Yeah, barely a week or a month has gone by without a very significant weather-related event that's associated with what we'd expect to see from a warming climate. So let's see over the summer, we had floods in New York, in China, in London, in Germany. And those are exactly the kind of events would expect to see more of associated with climate change and Helen Barry earlier on touched on the kind of wildfires in Australia. So there's heightened levels of awareness about this issue because of what people are seeing and connecting the dots and saying, we need more action on this.

Chris - Neil Jennings, thank you very much. Harry.

Harry - Cheers, Chris, and that's ending the chapter for today on our discussion on climate change. Something that Helen said to me that I'd like to bring up to you as well was that each of us are from a different background and we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves. Whatever you can do to help mitigate this crisis is great. Make sure you do take time to give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. And well, let's finish as we usually do by sinking our teeth into a juicy thought-provoking question sent in by you - and Julia Ravey has some food for thought for Jodie.




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