When one looks up how to stop climate change, a variety of suggestions commonly pop up. Ranging from taking five-minute showers to reusing water for house plants, all these suggestions implicate individuals as the ones that can reverse catastrophic climate change. Although these small actions can make a positive environmental difference, many are unaware of the larger contributors to global emissions — big business and a lack of government action.
According to The Guardian, just 100 corporate companies account for around 71% of global emissions. These large corporations, some of which being gas companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron, are shown to have the largest fuel emissions of any other source since 1988.
While ‘green’ individual actions are not to be dismissed as fruitless, it is important to shift the focus from the individual to larger corporations and government policy change in the fight against climate change. Through trends of sustainability, individuals can influence companies to make more sustainable choices, however, these efforts are not always enough.
According to an article by Fast Company, if the fossil fuel industry and high-polluting countries are not forced to change, we will be on course to increase global average temperatures by 4°C by the end of the century. Although this seems like a relatively small increase, it could lead to destructive effects such as increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates, unprecedented heat waves in many regions, substantially exacerbated water scarcity and more.
Professor Steven Sherwood, at the University of New South Wales in Australia, conducted a study on the potential impacts of the predicted rise in temperature.
“Rises in global average temperatures of [at least 4C by 2100] will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don’t urgently start to curb our emissions,” Sherwood said.
In order to enact serious change, government legislation must be introduced that forces different industries to introduce sustainable changes. In the case of environmental regulation, the power of the government has the opportunities to expand into many different realms of the issue. For example, companies could be directed to purchase emissions rights, profits from which can be used to aid climate change-vulnerable communities.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has enacted many policies that have caused us to step backward in the quest for a healthy environment. Specifically pertaining to air pollution, the Trump administration decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement in June of 2017 as well as allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to loosen restrictions on toxic air pollution.
Hazel Shah, a junior at Paly, has spread awareness about the importance of increased government legislation surrounding environmental issues by attending protests such as the Climate March in San Francisco.
“I believe it’s really important to go beyond doing climate-friendly things yourself and raise awareness about the larger problems affecting the environment,” Shah said. “Many don’t realize how much government policy is hurting the environment.”
As students and members of a politically active generation, it is our obligation to take the pursuit of a healthier environment past small household actions. We must acknowledge the need for immediate action and urge lawmakers to enact change through petition and protest.
Michael E. Mann, an American climatologist and geophysicist, urges Americans to take their quest for helping the environment past personal changes, and involve themselves in government policy.
Mann said, “The single biggest way to have an impact on climate change and other environmental crises is through collective pressure on policymakers to act in our interest rather than special interests.”