Climate change has brought humanity its greatest challenge — and perhaps its best opportunity to unite — as disruptions increasingly affect environments, economies, and people’s lives around the world. The most immediate action we can take is to try to mitigate the continued changing of our climate, as we lay the groundwork for building resilience and adaptation for the future.
As countries and individuals learn improved ways to grow food, engineer infrastructure, and utilize new forms of energy, we must act now if these new strategies are to be successful. Climate change mitigation can make the difference.
What is climate change mitigation?
Mitigation means implementing actions that slow down the causes of climate change. This specifically involves reducing carbon emissions to prevent further warming of the planet. Strategies for climate change mitigation include policy changes and industry regulations.
Scientists have proven that the main cause of climate change is human activity; particularly the emission of greenhouse gasses from fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas. As they are burned, these carbon-based fuels release gasses that cover the planet, insulating it like a sweater. This prevents heat from dissipating into space and causes global temperatures to rise.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane are the two most prevalent greenhouse gases. The massive amounts of CO2 in the environment are from over a century of burning fossil fuels. Commercial agriculture — particularly the raising of cattle — and landfill storage have contributed to the dangerous levels of methane trapped in the atmosphere.
By definition, climate change mitigation includes the actions policymakers, industry leaders, and communities can take right now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help stabilize the planet’s temperature.
Read more: Climate resilience: How to help smallholder farmers respond to climate change
Strategies to mitigate climate change
While there is no “one size fits all” solution to climate change mitigation, scientists advise that the immediate reduction of greenhouse gasses emitted can help blunt its worst effects. “Net zero” is the term for reducing emissions to as close to nothing as possible and must be reached by 2050 in order to prevent the planet from warming beyond 1.5°C, which is necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change and preserve a livable planet.
Policymakers and industry leaders have the power to make a tremendous difference in reaching net zero with legislation and budgeting that prioritizes:
- Retrofitting existing public buildings and infrastructure
- Adopting renewable energy sources
- Investing in sustainable transportation
- Slowing deforestation
Countries that have signed on to the Paris Agreement to address climate change are working to implement these strategies, though economic disparity can prevent some countries from reaching their climate change mitigation goals. It is not only imperative that the planet’s wealthier governments provide support towards global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is also part of the accord.
Article 4 of the Paris Agreement states that “developed countries should continue to take the lead” in reduction targets, while “developing countries should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts and are encouraged to move toward economy-wide targets over time in the light of different national circumstances.”
These large changes made at a societal level will be extremely effective at reducing emissions worldwide.
Read more: How entrepreneurs are using their Kiva U.S. loans to mitigate climate change
Can I personally help mitigate climate change?
You might not think that one person can make a difference in staving off the effects of climate change. Certainly, world leaders and industry giants have the biggest opportunity to reduce the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions. But by cutting back on our own carbon emissions and supporting sustainable practices, we can make a collective impact.
We can each personally mitigate climate change by:
- Using electricity more efficiently
- Driving less
- Eating less red meat
- Buying from local farmers
- Recycling clothing items or buying secondhand
- Holding representatives accountable for climate change policies
As millions of people adopt and adapt to these practices, we can help bring our planet closer to net zero — and direct humanity to a better future right now.
Read more: 5 ways to actively help the earth
How can I help others’ mitigation efforts?
In addition to adopting more efficient habits to reduce our emissions, we can support other people’s efforts to mitigate climate change by investing in eco-friendly loans. Here are a few ways:
- Back sustainable agriculture. Buying products from local farmers reduces transportation emissions, and organic produce uses less energy without harming wildlife. We can help sustainable farmers all over the world by helping provide capital for seeds, fertilizer, and more efficient equipment.
- Make solar power accessible. While people in some countries use too much energy, others don’t have any at all. Contributing to the effort to bring safe, affordable electricity to developing communities is easy. Read more about how Kiva partner d.light aims to bring solar power to one billion people by 2030, with the help of Kiva lenders.
- Reduce emissions from cooking. More than 2.6 billion people burn charcoal, kerosene, and other dangerous carbon-releasing fuels to prepare their meals. We can help them acquire clean cookstoves that reduce pollution in homes and the atmosphere.
- Turn organic waste into renewable energy. Biodigesters turn food waste into renewable energy that is used for fertilizer on farms and reduces the carbon footprint of a business.
Funding these services can make it affordable for people around the world to take steps to mitigate climate change and face the future of a changing planet together.