The challenge of avoiding catastrophic climate breakdown requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, according to a new IPCC report.

Experts say that although the challenges are huge there is still time to create a thriving, sustainable future. The main focus is on the decisions facing governments around the world but the IPCC acknowledges the role individuals can play.

Here are some of the things people can do.

Collective action

Although individual choices and actions are important, experts say people need to unite if the scale of this challenge is to be met, making the political space for politicians and big businesses to make the necessary changes.

Bill McKibben, a leading climate campaigner and founder of 350.org, argues that the most important thing people can do is come together to form movements – or join existing groups – that can “push for changes big enough to matter”, from city-wide renewable energy programmes to large-scale divestment from fossil fuels.

Eat less meat – particularly beef

According to a report earlier this year, avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.

Insulate homes

Relatively simple measures such as insulating lofts and draft-proofing doors and windows on a large scale would see a big drop in energy consumption. However, the UK government substantially cut the amount that energy companies are forced to spend on helping households with energy efficiency measures. All that money is now focused on helping fuel-poor households, with no incentive for better-off households to improve their energy efficiency.

Solar panels

Switch to renewable energy wherever possible. In the UK, consider installing solar panels before April, when government incentives will end and the costs will increase for most people.

Transport

Walk or cycle where possible and if not – and it is available and affordable – use public transport. If you need to go by car, consider an electric one.

Reduce, recycle, reuse

Buy fewer things and consume less. Recycle wherever possible and – even better – reuse things. Demand a low carbon option in everything you consume, from clothes to food to energy. 

Vote

Many experts – including the IPCC – say there is still a chance to create a sustainable, cleaner and more equal global system. Individuals can hold politicians to account by supporting political parties that put the environment at the heart of their economic and industrial policies.

However the IPCC is clear that the real challenge from its report is to politicians, political systems and corporations rather than individuals.

Jim Skea, a co-chair of the IPCC working group on mitigation said the report had presented governments “with pretty hard choices”.

“We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” Skea said. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tickbox is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”


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Overwhelmed by climate change? Here's what you can do