So what can we do?
I believe that everybody can play a fundamental role in combating climate change and in reducing the associated social and economic tensions. Not taking action is irresponsible and damaging!
Playing our part isn’t about making drastic lifestyle changes or huge sacrifices; using less energy, conservation and efficiency measures can be as simple and cheap.
Here at the top 10 things that we can do in our daily life:
1. Install energy-saving light bulbs
Energy saving light bulbs last up to 12 times longer than normal bulbs. There's a wide range of attractive designs now available and they emit 70% less carbon dioxide than normal bulbs. Change yours today!
2. Turn off appliances when you've finished
It makes no sense to leave appliances on if you're not using them - you're simply wasting energy, losing money and contributing to climate change. Turn that TV off when you're not watching it!
3. Switch to a renewable electricity supplier
Some energy suppliers can now provide you with electricity that is produced from 100% renewable sources, thus avoiding causing climate change. It's easy to switch and prices are very competitive.
4. Actively monitor your energy use
If you keep an eye on the electricity you use it's much easier to reduce your climate change impact and save money on your bill. There are various easy-to-use products that let you see exactly what you're using.
5. Insulate your house
Insulating your house is a very effective way to reduce your carbon emissions. On average 30% of your heat simply escapes through the walls and is wasted. It's simple and easy to install and makes a big difference.
6. Turn down your heating
Turning down your thermostat by just 1°C could cut your carbon dioxide emissions by over 5% as well as saving you around £30 per year. Do you really need the house to be that hot? What about wearing a jumper?
7. Use a modern and efficient boiler
Modern condensing boilers use considerably less gas than traditional ones, thus significantly reducing the impact on climate change. They're quick to install and save on space as well as money.
8. Use low-emission forms of transport
Each time we fly or drive by road we contribute directly to climate change by burning fossil fuels. If we switch more of our journeys to train or bus this reduces our impact and if we walk or cycle we have no impact!
9. Cut down on unnecessary flights
Air travel is a huge contributor to climate change and its impact is growing more rapidly each year. Always ask yourself - do you really need to fly or is it possible to travel closer to home or go via train instead?
10. Don't buy things you don't really need
Most of us far more 'stuff' than we ever need. Every time you buy a product you're responsible for the emissions due to its manufacture, packaging and transport. So only buy stuff you really need or will actually use.
Beyond these simple steps, I believe that as citizens we have a huge power to influence how the world is going, locally and globally.
We have the power to vote and choose who best represents our ideas and values. We have the power to support NGOs and charities dedicated to raising awareness about climate change and sustainable development. Shifts in our behaviour will have further benefits associated with the stimulation of the high-tech low-energy manufacturing sector and increased employment, reduced urban air pollution, reduced dependence on fossil fuels (linked to global political instability), reduced impacts on ecosystems and habitats. It is up to us to make the difference.
Personally I have changed my very old inefficient boiler with a new condensing boiler for my home in London. In Shanghai I walk to work and live in a old lane house, as I ma against the new mega developments that erase culture and history under the banner of a modern (and better) life. I am also seeking for a form of direct carbon offsetting for the flights I take to visit my family in Italy, looking for Gold Standard Carbon Offsetting Projects that at least would provide me with a more transparent and auditable offsetting mechanism compared to many other more nebulous offsets available in the market. Overall I promote as much as possible energy efficiency and sustainable solutions through my work at Arup Associates and seek to disseminate the urgency of climate change by talking to architects, engineers and construction professionals in UK and internationally.