Over 30 years ago, as a college student, I studied the causes of climate change and advancing alpine treelines. Despite attempts by many activists to sound the alarm about global warming over the past three decades, we have not acted because we have lacked a critical renewable resource: will power.
We have known what we should do, but we simply have not done it. And the situation has worsened greatly because of our lack of action.
The consensus of the global scientific community is that we have about a decade to "downwardly adjust" the current trajectory of global warming trends away from a mid-century, worst-case scenario. I was reminded of this again at a recent presentation by Dr. James McCarthy, influential participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University. The scientists believe that if we act swiftly and definitively we can potentially induce a leveling of the greenhouse gas production and coincidental temperature increases to more tolerable and survivable levels.
At this point, many often ask "What can I do?" "How do I, a single person, a sole individual in a sea of over 300 million Americans, make a difference?" The answer is that each and every one of us, every day, makes decisions that impact the earth.
Of course, the first decision we make is whether we consume and how much to consume.
Clearly, in our modern world, it's something few of us can avoid entirely. But every time we buy, shop, eat, or travel, we are putting some kind of pressure on the planet. How little we consume or how consciously we consume sets the stage for how light or heavy our footprint actually is. Buying based on need rather than impulse, finding alternatives to driving everywhere and anywhere, and shifting our home energy use habits - these should be the first steps for every person and family committed to changing the future.
After that, each day presents a new opportunity to reconsider the consumer choices we make in our daily lives. And the best part is they're not choices that make our lives harder or less enjoyable - they're simply choices that reflect our growing awareness.
Our actions, individually, may seem inconsequential, but collectively we can be a powerful force for good. Corporations spend enormous sums trying to figure out what pleases their current and potential consumers. This idea of harnessing that power led me to gather a group of colleagues and activists to help start Climate Counts. Every day with the Climate Counts Company Scorecard, almost every purchase you make can be looked at in a new light.
Let's say tonight you head out for a bottle of beer. At Climate Counts, we have looked at three of the largest brewers, and discovered SAB Miller is, in our words, "striding" toward an ever-deepening commitment to climate protection, while Molson, for example, still has some work to do. Right now, Miller's efforts to measure its company-wide greenhouse gas emissions and substantively strive to reduce those emissions makes the company stand out among the largest companies in the sector (although, certainly, smaller and more values-oriented brewers may be the real pacesetters on climate protection, if not market share). So order a Miller instead of a Molson, and you're using your money well. Take an additional step and let both companies know you've made that choice (using links on the Climate Counts website), and you've really made a difference.
And that's just three major companies - we've also looked at 53 other global companies in seven other consumer sectors. And there are more ahead.
As Yogi Berra is credited with saying: "It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future." But one thing is certain: just as many, many consumers can place a massive footprint on the environment, those same consumers can also come together to turn the marketplace on its head in a positive way. Change is almost always good, especially when our future and our children's future are at stake.
Please visit www.climatecounts.org and find out more about how your everyday purchases can help the earth and our environmental challenges.