Individual or Systemic Change, What’s Best for the Climate?

Can you make a difference to climate change with your individual actions? Or are you much too small to make a difference?  Do we need systematic action to fundamentally change things on a big scale?

To put it into context, the average annual carbon footprint of a person is approximately 5 tonnes. That figure is a global average. The figure increases to approximately 15 tonnes for developed countries. In comparison, the world’s annual global footprint is 51 billion tonnes. So even if you make a big reduction in your carbon footprint, will you really make a difference to the world? Not really.

Systemic change is required to make a big difference. I mean change from the fundamental use of fossil fuels for everything from energy generation, transport systems, making things, cement, steel and glass production and so on.

So who do you think is pushing the idea that it is individual changes that are required? Well, no surprises when I say it is the fossil fuel companies themselves that are trying to push the focus onto individual action, as it is their best interest to continue fossil fuel use.

Do you know BP published a personal carbon footprint calculator in 2019 so you, the individual, could calculate your carbon footprint and see what damage you as an individual were doing to the planet?! Hang on BP, perhaps look closer to home?! This is classic climate deflectionism at its best! (Climate deflectionism = deflecting the blame away from the real guilty parties)

So systemic change is most certainly needed, but let us not overlook individual action. We as consumers are only a very small splash in the ocean. But if we all splash, then we make ripples, and if we keep doing this, the ripples turn into waves and tsunamis.

So, individually, we need to talk about climate change, engage people about it, influence people, and this will eventually influence the large corporations and political policy makers into the systemic change that is urgently needed.


By Dan Smith C.Eng. MEI.

Dan Smith is Head of Energy Services for ClearVUE Systems. Dan provides extensive specialist knowledge gained from over 30 years of energy engineering, energy services and energy management experience in many different sectors all over the world, from China to Zambia.