The climate crisis is a global problem that has numerous causes. Coal-fired power plants, industry and the reduction in the absorption capacity for greenhouse gases through littering the oceans and clearing the rainforests are the main contributors to this.
They even contribute so much to the climate crisis that many people belittle their own private “climate sins” by saying that they do not have a great effect in comparison. In the following, I will shed light on why this thinking is wrong.
|1. Climate Crisis – The Influence of the Individual
2. Your behavior leaves its mark
3. Our standard of living is not sustainable
|1. What is the pee in the pool logic?
2. What influences does the individual have?
3. What are the arguments against luxury?
4. Why is behavior change necessary?
Climate Crisis – The Influence of the Individual
Most people do not understand why individuals should also try very hard to change their behavior in such a way that it does not contribute even more to the climate crisis.
Even if they take this position mostly out of habit and convenience, one hears the following reason again and again in order not to have to change anything in one’s own behavior: ›It doesn’t matter whether I change something, as long as everyone else is still doing it or as long as the coal-fired power plants are still doing it run or … ‹
When people say that they simply don’t see their individual actions helping to counteract the climate crisis because it won’t do anything if everyone doesn’t do it, then it’s as if they were saying: I just don’t pee in the outdoor pool when everyone else doesn’t either. Of course, they overlook the fact that this will never lead to being able to swim in urine-free water, because:
You cannot ask anything from others that you are not prepared to do yourself.
What the individual is actually contributing to the climate crisis through their everyday practice is amazing. The many individual actions taken together ultimately decide whether plastic, flying, smoking, driving a car, meat consumption and so on have an impact on the global climate or not.
Fortunately, if an individual pees in the swimming pool, it doesn’t turn into a sewer. But it marks a general breach of rules to ask others to do something that you don’t keep yourself.
This is one of the reasons why individuals have to change their behavior in favor of climate protection. We can easily demonstrate the influence of the individual using a few examples.
Your behavior leaves its mark
A flight from Frankfurt to Sydney causes almost € 2000 climate damage through emissions . In many cases, especially on very short and very long flights, climate damage is often three times the price of the flight. When you consider that there have been between 186,376 and 224,508 flights per day in the last 30 days (June 10th to July 10th), that’s pretty shocking .
Around 10% of German greenhouse gas emissions come from air traffic. More than half of the flights are vacation flights .
Two beef steaks a week cause a total of more than € 800 climate damage over a year and support a considerable amount of animal suffering that cannot be outweighed by any sum of money. In terms of climate damage, this is comparable to the emissions that a Kenyan produces in a whole year and even seven times as high as the annual emissions of a resident of the Democratic Republic of the Congo [1, 3].
Almost 17% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by meat consumption. 
If the annual environmental costs of over 50 billion euros generated by road traffic are put in relation to the number of German vehicles, an average of around 800 euros environmental damage occurs per car through emissions alone [4, 5]. In addition, of course, there are the costs incurred in the life cycle through production and scrapping, which I will leave out here.
Plastic consumption also has a significant impact on the climate. On the one hand, greenhouse gases are created by the very slow decay of plastic. On the other hand, plastic destroys the vitality of the oceans and forests, which have the greatest capacity to absorb emissions and thus regulate the climate.
The per capita consumption of plastic in Germany rose by 29 percent between 2005 and 2015 – that’s a total of 37 kg of plastic per year, of which unfortunately only about half is recycled . Consumption is one of the most powerful weapons the individual can use to defend himself against current conditions.
Consumption is a weapon
Unfortunately, most people have no idea what they are actually doing with their consumption. What do I support when I buy meat? What do I support when I buy products with palm oil or soy? The simplest principles of the market economy reveal to us the power of demand. By reducing the demand, the supply adapts itself in a number of detours.
If the individual consumer continues to support corporations that make a significant contribution to the climate crisis, for example by clearing the rainforest and bringing pollutants into nature, then nothing will change on this level either, although it is that simple.
Buying behavior is an important weapon in shaping society.
Our standard of living is not sustainable
Another reason why it is up to the individual to change their behavior in favor of containing the climate crisis is as follows: We cannot continue our standard of living in the future in the way it has been up to now.
The reasons why we cannot do this are partly moral and partly purely pragmatic. The moral part is that our standard of living is essentially only possible because we exploit people, animals and nature. A fair distribution of goods does not take place because the industrialized countries claim far more for themselves than it would be fair.
Cheap labor in less rich countries, massive damage to nature and animal abuse currently make it possible for the average German man and woman to consider it their right to own a car, eat meat every day, buy exotic fruit and so on on and on.
In addition, the negative influence of our average standard of living or the standard of living in industrialized countries is not sustainable for one simple pragmatic reason: it is ultimately too expensive. The climate crisis is already causing such enormous damage, for example in agriculture or through natural disasters alone, that in the long term it is unthinkable to continue the current course any longer.
Even in Germany, the damage to forests, crops, soil, biodiversity and water has been known for a long time, caused by factors that also favor the climate crisis. If we don’t change our course, the consequences will only get worse over the next few years [7, 8].
Prof. Dr. Volker Quaschning , who as an expert in regenerative energy systems has been fighting for many years to get politicians and society in the right mood when it comes to climate change, emphatically emphasizes that in view of a political situation that has been paralyzed for years, it is no longer conceivable to face climate change without changing behavior . Technology alone can no longer be the solution:
Climate change also means: We need behavioral change. […] Up until a few years ago I also said: We have to turn people on the technology – No, so much time has passed now that we can’t do it without changing our behavior. [1, 01:13]
In the last 30 years, German politics has gone so wrong that it is no longer possible to make the necessary changes to climate protection without taking a radical stance. We are running out of time – each individual has to take responsibility.