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Climate Change

Wind Tubines - a renewable energy source © Public Domain

Wind Tubines - a renewable energy source

Climate change is a big problem and one that impacts upon every living thing on planet earth. This issue pervades every aspect of our lives – we see it in the world around us; our extreme weather, ongoing drought or loss of habitat, we read about it in the papers every day and whether we know it or not even the price we pay for petrol, the food and goods we buy, and even the state of our health can be affected by climate change.

While climate change may seem insurmountable the solutions don't necessarily have to involve radical changes to our lives, but rather, are achievable by working smarter and using our resources more efficiently.

Planet Ark’s campaigns provide practical ways for individuals, business and communities to help manage climate change. Please visit individual campaign pages for information on getting involved.

What Can You Do?

Over the past 100 years the world has grown rich on a diet of carbon rich fossil fuels such oil, coal and gas. One of the downsides of the huge amount of fossil fuels we have burnt is that it is now affecting the stability of our climate though global warming.

Each year, Australians emit more than 550 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. That's an average of 26 tonnes per person (enough gas to fill around 26 typical 3 bedroom houses). This includes emissions from a variety of sources, many of which are ‘downstream', for example the greenhouse gases emitted in growing, transporting and having your food stored in a supermarket.

Per person, Australians are the highest greenhouse gas emitters in the world.

Directly, our households generate about a fifth of this total through everyday activities such as driving to work, heating or cooling our houses, heating water, lighting and electrical appliances. Even sending our food waste to be buried in landfills creates greenhouse gases. This equals about 15 tonnes per household each year, though this varies depending on: the size and number of people in the house, and the size and number of cars the family owns.

How do I cut this down and go on a 'carbon diet'?

Like any good diet you need a strategy. Our recommended strategy is to first calculate your carbon output, then set a target of how much carbon ‘weight' you want to lose. There are many good carbon calculators online.

A good target is 50%, as that is roughly the proportion we need to ‘lose' globally to stabilise climate change. The three stages we recommend you go through are:

  • Reduce - the amount of carbon you put out. An example is replacing incandescent globes with compact fluorescents.
  • Replace - fossil fuel based energy with renewable. An example is to replace black coal fired power electricity with renewable energy.
  • Offset - your carbon. An example is to have trees planted to offset the emissions of items such as car and air travel.

Below is Planet Ark's suggested list of the most important ways of reducing your carbon.

Great choices you can make right now:

  • Switch off lights and appliances when they're not needed. Simple but very effective.
  • Install energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps. They can save up to 80% of your lighting bill and last up to 8 times longer. For more information visit the 7 Myths of compact fluorescent lamps web site.
  • Cut hot water usage by installing a 3-star, water-efficient showerhead, taking shorter showers and using cold-water clothes washing.
  • Switch to a GreenPower electricity contract. Get the maximum % of GreenPower you can afford. For the most competitive rates visit greenpowerpricewatch.com.au
  • Switch to low greenhouse impact transport options like your legs, bicycles or public transport. Use phone, email or video conferencing wherever possible.
  • Make your home more pleasant to live in and reduce your need for home heating and cooling and by installing insulation, draft-sealing and shading.
  • If you have a heating or cooling system set the thermostat appropriately. Each degree you turn it up in summer and down in winter can save you 10% in energy.
  • Divert garden and food wastes from landfill to composting (either at home or through a Council scheme - if they don't have one ring them up and ask for one to be set up).

Great choices you can make in the future:

  • When buying your next car ask if you really need it - maybe a public transport pass, a good bicycle and an occasional taxi ride will do the job. You will save lots of money and get fit as well.
  • If you still decide you need a car, then buy a fuel-efficient one such as a hybrid. For ratings of the most efficient cars and to find out how efficient you current car is, go to www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au
  • When choosing a home location, consider the time and cost of travel from there to work, school, shops and leisure activities.
  • When replacing an electric hot water service, install a solar unit preferably backed by natural gas.
  • When building, renovating, or buying a home, aim for high energy-efficiency. Go to www.greenhouse.gov.au/yourhome/ for more info.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances. This is very important for appliances that get used often such as fridges and washing machines and last a long time. Just don't pick the cheapest as the extra upfront cost is paid for by your power bill savings. Go to www.energyrating.gov.au to pick the most efficient.