There are two possible approaches to climate change:
- MITIGATION – working towards community life having a minimal effect on the environment in general and carbon levels in particular (“net zero”), including low energy use and taking up fewer resources
- ADAPTATION – preparing for expected changes in the climate in future, such as rising flood levels and warmer temperatures (which are already happening)
There is a third area for action, one already under threat from human activity but under further threat from climate change:
- BIODIVERSITY – conserving and creating wildlife habitats so that wealth of plants and animals (including pollinating insects) on which life depends can continue to grow and thrive
Much of the current media focus is around Mitigation, while providing a sustainable future will need to include elements of Adaptation, as global warming will inevitably cause temperatures to reach at least 1.5ºC greater than the pre-industrial era.
There is a consensus that while there are many ways through this crisis there are no single effective ways, and that whatever we do it’s going to cost, either in terms of finance or the time needed to make often unwelcome changes.
Different actions are possible at different levels of society, from local households up to international governments. While the smallest individual actions will only have a small impact, collective action is necessary to achieve the necessary halt in global warming – for example, everyone reducing the amount of energy they use or the amount of car or air travel they undertake.
Author Paul Behrens (see below) has suggested there are five areas for action which may mitigate 85% of the impact of climate change – more solar and wind energy, electrification (rather than using fossil fuels), retrofitting buildings (including insulation), change in mobility habits (including less car use) and move to a plant-based diet (less emissions from farming).
There will be a certain amount we can do at the society level we operate, and with the time, health and resources at our disposal. The current issue – as illustrated by the below-target consensus reached at COP26 the international Glasgow conference in November 2021 – seems to be not so much about knowing the problems, or knowing the solutions, but effective communication that spurs us on at all levels to actually take some action, and to keep doing so.
Beyond our own actions we can also support action by other people at other levels by campaigning, which is something we can all do if only by attending meetings, by writing letters to express our views, or by voting.
Follow these links to pages on the different levels of society:
As this is a complex issue, there are many publications that overlap in their coverage and none that provide a universally approved road map to solving the climate change crisis – you need to read with a critical eye. Keeping up with media reports is recommended, and reading the most recent publications such as:
Paul Behrens, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times (Indigo Press 2022)
Paul Hawken, Regeneration (Penguin Books 2021)
Christiana Figueres & Tom Rivett-Carnac, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis (Manilla Press 2020)
Chris Goodall, What We Need to Do Now: For a Zero Carbon Future (Profile Books 2020)
Rob Hopkins, From What Is to What If (Chelsea Green Publishing 2019)
This page was last updated on 16th February 2023.