Science – Climate change: What can I do personally?

According to recent polls, about 80% of Kiwis consider that climate change is a serious problem. However, there is a real sense of uncertainty in the community about what individuals can do personally to help solve the climate problem. I have given many talks about climate change solutions to community groups across the Auckland region and the question, “What can I do about it personally?” is the most frequently raised issue from audiences. The following is an elaboration on the type of personal climate actions that I recommend in my community talks:

  1. Exercise your green consumer insight in all retail purchases and especially in domestic energy supply transactions. has listed the top 15 renewable energy companies in NZ and this list can help inform your choice of a supplier. Remember, consumer power is a very powerful tactic in encouraging positive renewable responses by company managements and by boards of directors.
  2. Ensure your long-term investments are in non-fossil fuel areas. Seek investments in renewable technologies. Avoid investments that are based on oil or natural gas (methane). Discuss the sustainability of your investments with an independent financial advisor.
  3. Employ renewable energy in your home and business. The cost of solar energy has decreased sharply in recent times and is projected to decline further in the period ahead. Seek independent advice about whether a solar battery is necessary for you, especially if you are retired.
  4. Switch from petrol internal combustion cars to either plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) or electric vehicles (EVs). Remember that EVs (20 moving parts) are simpler devices and so more durable than internal combustion cars (2000 moving parts). EVs will become cheaper to purchase over the coming several years as brand competition increases and the costs of research and development into improved batteries are cleared. EVs are less expensive to maintain and will last much longer than internal combustion cars. Second-hand PHEVs may be a sensible transition if your budget is tight.
  5. Consider installing enough solar panels to deliver most of the energy for your PHEV or EV. If you have a solar system, but not a solar battery, then charge your plug-in car when the solar panels are producing higher levels of energy (sunny days). My solar panels supply between 55-65% of my electric vehicle energy. The rest is supplied by the NZ grid which is 84% sustainable. The cost of this consumed energy is about 90% less than the increasingly expensive petrol for an equivalent internal combustion car.
  6. Use battery powered tools and electric devices in your property maintenance. Battery-powered mowers including robotic mowers are now common. Ride-on petrol mowers in contrast consume a lot of expensive petrol and generate significant emissions.
  7. Use public transport wherever it is feasible. If you are physically capable, then consider cycling or even walking to local destinations.
  8. Urge the company you work for to join the NZ Climate Leaders Coalition. About 100 companies have signed up at this stage and 35 of these have already achieved the required sustainability goals of the coalition.
  9. Urge young people in your family to get themselves qualified for careers in the massive global renewable revolution. Market analysts anticipate that there will be trillion-dollar global investments in renewable technologies over the next 10 years. These investments will generate a massive increase in jobs in the renewable sector globally. My advice to young people feeling anxious about inherited future disasters is to contribute their skills to future climate solutions.
  10. Read and promote the Auckland Council Climate Action Plan, which is ranked by the global agency CPD in the top 7% of international cities. This ranking is comparable to those of the main Australian cities.
  11. Urge your political representatives to become better informed about the climate risks and to take climate change much more seriously. We must not allow climate change in NZ to become politicised, as any left-right switches in government every few years are very likely to negate all progress towards climate remediation. The increasing probabilities of climate disasters are blind to political preference as insurance company reports confirm.
    The higher priority actions for you personally in the above list will depend on your own circumstances, including age and financial wellbeing, so read and think about the more valuable actions on the list for you personally. Then develop your own personal climate remediation plan and act on it!