How much of an impact can the behavior of one individual have on such complex issues as climate change? It seems that we have a greater impact than we thought we might have. Even skeptics believe in climate change, although, some doubt that it is caused by human behavior. Still, approximately 97% of climate scientists agree that the cause of climate change is human activity. Today, it’s very common for people to choose to eat less beef and buying electric cars. This trend is becoming a social norm when compared to human behavior a few decades ago. Furthermore, houses are equipped with solar panels more than they were only a few years ago. All of that has only one goal and that is slowing down climate change.
However, as individuals, we often feel helpless to make an impact on huge problems such as climate change. Can we individually really have a great impact on slowing down climate change? According to a study published last month in PLOS, we have a greater impact on climate change that we thought we do.
How? Our behavior has an impact on others and it creates peer pressure when we decide to for example stop eating beef. It can inspire some people around us to do the same.
Scientists also found that as human behavior has an impact on our planet, climate change also has a great impact on human behavior. People who live in places with rising temperatures are therefore more likely to notice the effects of climate change and they might be more prone to doing something about it compared to people who don’t feel the effects of climate change. Once more people do something about climate change, the social norms are changing and it is more acceptable for more people to start adopting habits which can slow down climate change than those that are increasing the effects of global warming. Once enough people are inspired by others, the change is visible and the collective behavior can help us slow the warming of our planet.
There are people who do things to fight climate change and people who don’t. Both groups learn their behaviors by following the behaviors of others and then they choose to switch to behavior that suits their social norms and values. Social norms are making it hard for us to change behavior or it can encourage us to change our behavior so it can be in line with more socially acceptable norms.
Social pressure and social learning can have a great impact on climate change.
Furthermore, scientists are proposing reducing the costs of mitigation through incentives such as tax breaks. These decisions would increase human activity that could help to slow down climate change.
Raising social awareness about climate change can have a great impact on the behavior of others. Thomas Bury, co-author of the study said:
“Our socio-climate model indicates that an increase in social media and other campaigns to raise awareness, such as climate marches and international reports, should ideally be followed by governmental and other incentives to reduce carbon emissions.”
The most important thing is that your choices and behavior matter. You can start with small steps such as buying a reusable bag, switching to energy-efficient appliances, riding a bike and slowly cutting beef from your diet. What also matters is talking to others about why you choose the actions that you do. The only way we can make a difference is if we inspire others to take action as well.