A new study finds that many North Americans actually often underestimate GHG emissions from their activities and are largely incapable of making trade-offs between different actions.

Lowering your carbon footprint, the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all your activities, has been promoted as a positive effort that individuals can take to help fight climate change. But calculating a carbon footprint can be a difficult task.

new study finds that many North Americans actually often underestimate GHG emissions from their activities and are largely incapable of making trade-offs between different actions. Seth Wynes, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of British Columbia and author of the new study, described the study in The Conversation.

When asked to categorise environmental-conscious activities as having low, medium, or high impact, many participants listed driving less and recycling as high impact. Switching personal vehicle habits is a high impact activity while recycling is not.  Reducing air travel and meat consumption were incorrectly ranked, which both have a huge impact on an individual’s carbon footprint.

Pushing the practice of reducing your personal carbon footprint may not be effective as once thought, since most people cannot gauge which activities will have the greatest impact on the environment. People can often spend too much time and effort on something that actually doesn’t have a big impact on mitigating climate change.

When balancing individual action with political action, Wynes commented in The Conversation that “we can test ways to incentivise lifestyle change while increasing policy support, ideally with resources that don’t take away from political action. That could include projects on university campuses, in corporate offices and in grade schools (twelve-year-olds can’t vote, but they can learn what constitutes a sustainable meal and how to cook it). These approaches are helpful because they bring attention to climate change but don’t rely on individuals mastering the difficult subject of carbon footprints on their own.”

Although individuals don’t know the science behind GHG emissions calculating, day-to-day choices can still help in the fight against climate change when done in a meaningful fashion.

Original source: https://www.onegreenplanet.org

 

 

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