Although the messages about climate change / global warming become more deafening than ever, and the effects more pronounced, there hasn’t been a proper answer yet to the question – “what exactly do you want me to do about it?”
Most of the answers to this question – “turn off your lights, unplug your mobile phone charger, don’t spend to long in the shower, recycle as much as possible” seem out of keeping with the sheer scale of the problem. And to put it bluntly, they really are pretty pointless acts on their own. If you do a little, you achieve a little.
There is a better answer to this question, though, and the benefits of taking up the challenge it offers include getting debt free, becoming financially independent, and having more time to spend on the people you love, and doing the things you love. That’s in addition to playing your part in reducing the chances of a violent and irreversible shift in our natural world, of course…
We’ve got a 40 gigatonne problem
Human activity produces 40 gigagtonnes a year of greenhouse gases. The biggest contributing activities are burning coal, oil and gas. Clearing forests, agriculture and producing cement also play a role. These gases have built up in a big way over the past 50 years and have caused the planet to warm to the tune of about 0.75 degrees celsius of warming on land (and more in our oceans). If we continue to burn 40 gigatonnes worth of gas a year, we have just over 6 years left to have a reasonable (66%) chance of preventing a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees celsius. I’m not dwelling on what a rise of 1.5 degrees celsius probably means, but you can be sure it will be nothing good over the coming decades, given how evident the impact of half this amount have already been.
Of course, we knew all these things a decade or more ago, and emissions have risen since then. But we have got what we have got. So, what next. Let’s try a slightly happier theme for a moment….
Feeling wealthy? No? This will help
This report on global wealth from Credit Suisse shows that a person needs just US $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. You need more than $77,000 to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%.
I’m guessing that if you live anywhere in the developed world, you have more than $3,650 to your name, which puts you in the top half. You are probably in the top 10% too. You may well also be in the top 1% – I’m not far off, and many of my friends and acquaintances will qualify. If you felt like it, take a moment to work out your net worth. It can be a good read….
Hurray! Good for us! So we are probably doing better than most in financial terms, even if it doesn’t feel like that most of the time. But what about that 40 gigatonne / six year thing that we started with? Being in the top 10%, or 1% of the global rich list is a good thing, but it does mean that we are also more than likely to be in the top bracket of gas emitters too. If we divide this 40 gigatonnes of gas by the 7 billion people on the planet, we all use up an average of 5.5 tonnes of gas per person per year. The causes of this include land use change (i.e. chopping down forests), industry, government, and personal direct emissions from home, car, and non-business flying. As a member of the global 10% rich list, you will almost certainly be exceeding this 5.5 tonnes average by a wide margin.
The Challenge: two tonnes per person, per year
If everyone in the top 10% of that global rich list were producing 2 tonnes instead of between 12 and 25 tonnes, this would buy us some time to quit burning fossil fuels completely – maybe even until around 2030. Not to mention a host of other financial, personal, social, and environmental benefits that would follow on too.
“But that is IMPOSSIBLE!” you say. The average person in the UK burns 13 tonnes per person per year. The average American burns 18 tonnes per year. Even the average Chinese person burns 7 tonnes. It’s a huge leap. Can’t be done.
It is a challenge. No doubt about that. But the rewards go beyond merely slowing or avoiding further radical changes to our planetary weather systems. They can help us, our families and our communities to prosper too, in many important ways.
And here’s the twist….
I am firmly in the 10% global rich club, and not so far off the 1% elite. My emissions are two tonnes a year, and they have been at around that level for 8 years now, through a number of significant changes which include having children and giving up my office-based career to work from home.
The weird thing is, that I owe my current, very happy position, to living a two tonne lifestyle. I estimate that it has saved my family over £80k over those 8 years. I’ve spent a lot more time with my young family as a result. And I still hope to make the 1% global elite club at some point in my life. It’s also worth pointing out that whilst I had to make changes, I get a foreign holiday each year (plus a good few UK-based ones too). I own a car, and a 4 bedroom house. I eat meat, and I don’t wear a hair shirt. Well, not often, anyway.
The point of me sharing this with you is that I believe that if I can do it, then you can too – and it will make you better off. Which can in turn free you up to make important choices about how you want to live.
The starting point is to have a look at your current household spend and emissions. Our free cost and carbon helper is a quick and easy way to do this – get it here. It only takes about 5 minutes to get an approximate view of where you are at now. Then start looking at the areas you can improve. The process is a very personal one, and it will be different for everyone. If you get a really high initial reading, please don’t despair. It’s relatively easy to bring both cost and carbon down quickly. And the benefits are considerable at every level.
How much do you really spend on fuel, food and stuff? Find out now with our FREE, quick calculator.
Download the Helper as an Excel file here.