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What has climate change got to do with me?

Scientists and politicians agree that humans are slowly changing the earth’s climate. This is happening because of the emission of greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide and methane) into the atmosphere, causing global warming (about 3 °C over the next 100 years) and a worldwide rise in sea level (about ˝ m).

Climate change means that millions of people living on low-lying islands and in coastal regions will be displaced, water and food supply will deteriorate, floods and droughts will be more frequent and extreme, and some infectious diseases such as malaria and yellow fever will thrive in the changing conditions.

In order to keep climate change at bay, emissions have to be reduced. Scientists say that annual emissions of 3.5 tonnes per person worldwide is a level that will stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. About three quarters of the world’s population emit less than 3.5 t per year. These are people living in developing countries like India. The average Australian emits about 25 t per year. This emission rate is far above that of developing countries and will need to be considerably reduced to avert the threat of climate change.

Fortunately there are many ways to assist in the reduction of Australia’s emissions. The personal greenhouse gas budget on the first worksheet can help to find the areas where you can start reducing your greenhouse gas emissions most effectively. Here are some ideas that can make a difference:

  • share, fix, borrow and swap rather than buying things
  • buy second hand rather than buying new
  • reuse and recycle, rather than throwing out
  • consume services, rather than consuming goods
  • buy locally grown, organic food, rather than buying conventionally grown or imported food
  • eat more fruit, vegetables, bread and cereal foods, and less meat products
  • join a renewable electricity scheme
  • install a solar hot water system, rather than using an electric system
  • use public transport whenever possible rather than using a car
  • where public transport is unavailable lobby local, state and federal politicians to provide it, meanwhile car pool
  • go by bicycle instead of car whenever possible
  • where safe cycling tracks are unavailable lobby local, state and federal politicians to provide them
  • use trains and coaches instead of flying where possible
  • plant trees
  • spend creative time, rather than spending money
  • increase quality of life, rather than standard of living

Contact:
Dr Christopher Dey
School of Physics, A28
The University of Sydney NSW 2006
+61 (0)2 9351-5979,
c.dey@physics.usyd.edu.au