The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Tom Ptak

Thursday, 02 December 2021 11:41

You’ve got the whole world in your hands

earth and limb m1199291564l color 2stretch mask 0

Personal climate-change remedies have a wide cumulative impact and are part of the solution, so don’t give up

Tom Ptak is assistant professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University. This story was originally published by The Conversation.

The average American’s everyday interactions with energy sources are limited. They range from turning appliances on or off, to commuting, to paying utility bills.

The connections between those acts and rising global temperatures may seem distant.

However, individuals hold many keys to unlocking solutions to climate change — the biggest challenge our species currently faces — which is perhaps why the fossil fuel industry spent decades misleading and misinforming the public about it.

I’m an assistant professor of geography and environmental studies at Texas State University. My research explores how geography affects the complex relationships between societies, energy and contemporary environmental challenges. I’ve found that the human element is critical for developing creative, effective and sustainable solutions to climate challenges.

There’s a large and growing body of evidence showing that individuals can have a major impact on climate change in a number of ways. Citizen action can compel utilities to increase renewable energy and governments to enact strong climate action laws. When enough individuals make changes that lower daily household energy consumption, huge emissions reductions can result. Consumer demand can compel businesses to pursue climate and environmental sustainability.

These actions combined could bridge the “emissions gap”: the significant difference between the greenhouse gas emissions expected globally and how much they need to drop in the next few decades to avoid catastrophic climate change.