The Role of the Individual Against Climate Change

Category: Impact Investing Date: 22 January 2022

What can you do in the process of mitigating and adapting to climate change?

Although this question is often asked in the academic context over two different approaches “What can you do?” and “What should you do?” and it is discussed with the concepts of ethics and common sense, the human impact on climate change has been presented to us without question. Therefore, it can be discussed on the question of why something should be done to mitigate the negative effects of climate change after indicating how and to what extent human activities affect climate change. The answer to this question will show the contribution of individuals on climate change and will push to answer the question, what are the individual measures that can be taken, that is, what can you do?

The effects on climate change have increased with the use of fossil fuels after the Industrial Revolution. The agriculture and livestock activities, which intensified with the development of technology, increased the emission of greenhouse gases. The rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has triggered climate change by trapping the heat from the sun and increasing average temperatures. Acceleration of urbanization and increase in electricity consumption with population growth, deforestation brought by agriculture, animal husbandry and mining activities are other factors that cause climate change. The increase in the use of fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel, along with the diversification of transportation possibilities, has increased carbon dioxide emission, which plays a leading role in global warming. In scientific studies, it has been revealed that the effects of natural origin cannot explain global warming alone, but when the greenhouse gases emitted by human-driven activities are taken into account, global warming can be explained.

Source: United States Environmental Agency

Although this information and data explain the human-driven activities of climate change on a large scale, they do not clearly show the effects of the activities of individuals in daily life on climate change. These changes, which show their effect on the climate by spreading and increasing over time, cause individuals to have difficulty seeing their own effects. Individuals cannot see the changes they cause on climate change, and they believe that a step they will take on climate change will have little or no effect compared to the effect they see in total. Ethical concerns and arguments for common sense also come to light at this point; It is not only states, institutions, organizations and companies that should take responsibility for mitigating the damage done to the world by human activities, but also individuals. While there are those who support the idea that “individuals should act with this responsibility in everything they do in their daily life”, there are also those who think that the long-term benefits are not worth the short-term costs, and therefore common sense and ethics do not play a role. However, scientific data show that the size of a single person’s impact on climate change is very high based on the fact that carbon emissions per capita are at very high levels. According to the data of 2019, while the average carbon emission per capita in the world is 4.8 tons, the carbon emission per capita in Turkey is calculated as 4.86 tons.

According to the research in John Broome’s book published in 2012, the total gas emission caused by a Westerner during his lifetime is enough to cause a 6-month reduction from the life of a healthy person.


The 5th Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), completed in 2014, stated that every step to be taken to mitigate climate change would serve the public interest and individuals, institutions and states can only achieve this goal through a collective action without acting in their own interests. The report also underlined that adaptation actions to climate change will affect greater masses under the leadership of individuals.

At this point, it is concluded that every activity of individuals in every aspect of their daily lives has an impact on climate change and causes calculable and predictable damages, and the necessity for each individual to act with a certain responsibility emerges.

A few examples of the steps that can be taken individually in the process of mitigation and adaptation to climate change are

  • using energy-efficient products at home, strengthening thermal insulation and using renewable energy sources,
  • saving on the use of hot water, knowing that the energy used for heating water is too much,
  • using public transportation and cycling instead of individual vehicles, walking short distances, reducing the use of airplanes as much as possible in long distances, using train, bus and sea routes,
  • reducing the consumption of animal products, consuming local foods and decreasing food waste, consuming knowing where and how food is produced and demanding low carbon in consumer products,
  • reducing the risk of fire by regularly cleaning the surrounding bushes,
  • raising awareness of people around and encouraging them to take action.

Each of the changes given above can be difficult, expensive and difficult for individuals to maintain. It may not be possible to apply all of them at the same time, but at this point, even starting with changes that are related to a certain motivation can prepare the environment for improvements. In addition, if individuals want to spend fewer resources to realize these changes, making certain demands from governments and companies will be one of the first things to be done. It is also necessary to be aware that change reaches many people through agreements and protocols that guide change in the national and international arena. Knowing that change starts with the individual and the effect of the change that will be created by each individual who reaches awareness will increase personal motivation. Even trying to change any habit in daily life by guiding it with climate sensitivity would be great progress. It should not be forgotten that climate change affects both the present and the future, and therefore, the decision to be taken today as an individual will determine the present and future of many people and most importantly of the world.

For more information:

UN- Act Now

Greenpeace – 11 Actions We Must Take Now



Broome, J. (2008). The Ethics of CLIMATE CHANGE. Scientific American, 298(6), 96–102.

Fragnière, A. (2016): Climate change and individual duties. In WIREs Climate Change 7 (6), pp. 798–814.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp.