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Climate change: Do individual actions really matter?

Climate change: Do individual actions really matter?

What’s happening

A sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released last week placed blame for rising global temperatures squarely on human activity and predicted even more severe weather in the coming years unless drastic measures are taken to reduce global emissions.

“How hot it gets is still up to us,” Kim Cobb, one of the lead authors of the report told Yahoo Finance.

The new report adds to an overwhelming volume of scientific evidence that major changes must be made at every level of the world economy to prevent already-extreme weather events from becoming even more catastrophic. Governments around the world have established ambitious plans to reduce their carbon emissions. President Biden, for example, committed to cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade.

The sense of urgency is also being felt on an individual level. Concern about climate change has become an increasingly important factor in many people’s lives, informing everything from day-to-day decisions such as what they drive and what they eat to major life choices like where they will live and whether they’ll have children.

Why there’s debate

Stories offering advice on what people can do to help avert the worst impacts of climate change have become a staple of news coverage whenever a worrying new climate report is released. But many activists and scientists take issue with the idea that individual decisions should be the focus of efforts to stem global warming.

Personal lifestyle choices, they say, make only a tiny difference relative to the massive impact that corporations and governments can have if they were willing to treat climate change with the seriousness it deserves.

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