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What difference can I make?

3 December 2015
World in hands
World in hands

It’s the UN climate change meeting from 30 Nov – 11 Dec 2015 #COP21, perhaps a once-and-for-all opportunity to salvage the planet for the next generation. So I’ve decided to go outside my usual brief of more sustainable IT, and comment on what I think is the most important broader issue, which is inertia.

It’s often asked “What difference can I make to climate change?” And “There are so many people in the world, the population is growing, they are all using more electricity, so there’s no point.” With the world’s politicians now at that conference in Paris, making decisions about commitments at an international level, there is no better time to ask these questions.

Many politicians, and even many major corporations, are trying to do the right thing – and they will do more with a bit of encouragement. For example, China and the USA, two of the largest emitting countries, are now committing to reducing emissions. India is open to negotiation on limiting coal use, which could also open the door for more green energy jobs in the west and in India.

But the question remains “what difference can I make”?

At an individual level, we can all make a significant difference in two ways: by reducing our own impact, and by inspiring others.

1. Reduce your own impact

Find out where your biggest impacts are, and reduce them. For example, use the WWF Footprint calculator to help you to work out where your biggest impacts are. If you create a profile first it will give you tips to reduce your impact. There is plenty of well thought-out advice available e.g. the excellent book “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” has been made available online for free.

And I admit that I’m not perfect (few of us are) – for example, I have a car. But I’ve deliberately chosen to live two miles from work so that my overall car impact is minimised. Before I leave work every evening, I switch off as many lights as I can safely find in my building. I switch off my printer, I print duplex, I drink tap water where possible, I switch off lights around the house, and so on. And I’m always looking for more to do. I’d encourage people not to think “I’m not perfect so there is no point”. But rather “what can I do that will make the biggest difference?”

2. Lead and inspire others to make a bigger difference

Spread the word. Tell your friends. Put it on Facebook. Start your own blog. Email your political representatives (e.g. UK Members of Parliament) and give them a little bit of encouragement. It’s not too late. Ideally, do it this week.

Follow @chrisdcardiff on Twitter.


  1. Luke

    I just tried the WWF calculator. Pretty scary and makes you more aware as you fill it in… The trouble is, there are some people that are just SO oblivious to it. It’s hard to get through to those people.

    • Christopher Dickson

      Thanks Luke. Yes everyone is different but for me there seems to be very little energy and carbon used by small electronic devices like my phone – there’s more about this side of things in the Hot Air book. But then how much energy relatively is due to heating and travel. Plane travel will be a big issue for many. I think they’ve just changed the WWF calculator a bit, so now you can type your email address at the end and then they send you ideas and tips.

      Good result at the climate conference. Now we need to make sure it is implemented.

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