Embracing the beauty of the earth and leading a low carbon footprint life is good for the soul. The joy of collecting your own eggs and growing your own food is immensurable.
Walking, cycling and public transport instead of using your car makes a huge difference. Keeping your tyres inflated and how you drive can reduce your petrol consumption.
Insulating and sealing your house, planting trees and placing water tanks in strategic positions cuts down your energy use for heating and cooling your house.
Changing your lighting to LEDs can halve your electricity bill.
Unfortunately, a significant portion of the population does not recognise that they can make a difference by changing their behaviour. This could be because people do not accept the evidence or overwhelmed by the enormity of the data and feel powerless. I have been told by friends they accept climate change, but that it is not impacting on them now.
We are all impacted now.
What we are facing in 2017 is documented in The Climate report from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO 2016. With some comments from me.
- Rising sea surface temperature and acidification of the ocean. This has had a major impact on The Great Barrier Reef as with ocean acidification coral cannot absorb the calcium carbonate to maintain their skeletons and the stony skeletons that support the coral reef will dissolve.
- The duration, frequency and intensity of extreme weather heat events across a large part of Australia. There has been a documented higher number of deaths during moderate and severe heat waves by the Department of Health. The most likely affected are the vulnerable, the isolated and people who must work outdoors on hot days. Public health measures are crucial. House and urban design needs to be adapted for future rising heat.
- Extreme fire weather and a longer fire season across parts of Australia. Australia has had numerous devastating bush fires. Australian Firefighter’s Climate Alliance have their members at the frontline of these fires and are calling for action on climate change.
- Altered rainfall patterns and areas of prolonged drought which greatly affect the ability of our famers to plan for their cropping. This impacts our water and food security.
- Rising sea levels around Australia, amplifying the effects of high tides and storm. This is taken very seriously by the Insurance Council of Australia. Rising cost of insurance will impact on all of us.
Australia has ratified the Paris agreement to minimise global warming to less than 2 degrees.
Human consumption of fossil fuel is the primary driver of climate change. 80 per cent of the energy supplied to NSW and Victoria is from coal. We have the technology to be fossil free for energy now. All we are missing is the political will.
Other things that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, that are easily doable
Banking and fossil fuel
The big four banks Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank all invest in fossil fuels. Choose a bank that does not invest in fossil fuels. Send a clear message to our financial institutions that divesting from fossil fuels is a viable option.
The low carbon footprint food choice
Your choice of food and where is comes from impacts on the climate.
Refrigeration, transport and storage add to the carbon foot print. Eat local fresh and manufactured food. This supports our own growers and industry. Go to your local farmers market.
Eat less red meat
- Cows and sheep are ruminant animals and produce methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas. It absorbs heat and re emits heat there by keeping the earth’s atmosphere warmer. The amount of methane produced can be reduced by the type of feed that the animal has.
- Tree and land clearing for cattle grazing. This has been extensive in many countries including Australia. This has an impact on the environment and ecosystems. There is a loss of biodiversity and soil fertility in the areas cleared.
- The consumption of red meat (this includes pork, which has a much smaller carbon foot print than other red meat) and processed meat is convincingly associated with a modest increase in the risk for bowel cancer.
A low carbon foot print diet is a healthy diet. Eat less red meat and processed meat. Eat the lower carbon choice of fish or chicken. Make sure that your fish is locally sourced from a sustainable supply when possible.
Eat more non-meat protein. Eat more plant based foods.
I have several patients and colleagues who are vegetarian to reduce their carbon foot print.
Solar Panels and batteries
Move to solar panels and batteries, if you can afford to. It is predicted that the cost will fall in the next 12 months and the energy cost from fossils fuels are likely to rise. I am still producing more energy than I needs each day from my solar panels and this is exported to the grid. I have earned $136 from selling power to the grid, with the help of Reposit Power in the past 6 months. My final bill for this period was $201
If you can’t afford batteries, most energy retailers have a green option on the electricity bill and you can choose the proportion of this. Or move to a retailer that deals only with energy from renewables.
Our day to day choices make a profound difference to our carbon footprint.
We all care about the planet and the future of our children regardless of our political persuasion. We need to create the political will for our elected representatives to act on climate change.
If you are keen to do more and you have the time and energy. You will find that there are many within your own community who want effective policies from government for a sustainable future. Let your voice be heard and mobilise the people around you to advocate for a liveable future for our children.
Without a healthy planet, we can’t have healthy people.
Dr Kim Loo, General Practitioner
Member of Doctors for the Environment