Is it Up to the Individual or the Government to Solve the Climate Crisis?

As the climate crisis remains one of the largest issues, people have taken strides to combat it on a local, regional, and national level. Whether it’s by switching to public transit instead of driving or holding nation-wide protests, there is no doubt that social awareness is gradually spreading. However, the question that is still up for debate is whether or not individual actions will add up to the degree needed to actually reverse climate change.

While 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, individuals can still do their part regardless of the size of the impact, a way to ensure that everyone is responsible and conscious of the situation at hand. For instance, efforts as simple as turning off all appliances when not in use or opting to bike, carpool, or take public transport could be useful in the long run, both economically and environmentally speaking. If enough people make individual changes, that can really add up: For example, public transportation “is estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by 37 million metric tons annually” and “saves the U.S. the equivalent of 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline.”

“It’s the consumers that actually burn and demand the fossil fuels that these companies provide,” says Richard Heede, the co-founder and co-director of the Climate Accountability Institute, in a Vox interview.

However, according to an article by The Guardian, there is proof that the average individual’s sustainability choices will have minimal results. Placing the emphasis on individual action ignores the root cause of climate change: corporate exploitation. After years of complacency, many would argue it’s the government’s responsibility to reverse climate change.

As said by Anders Levermann, Head of Complexity Science at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany, “This is a challenge for politics, not the individual.”

Denmark, who has been dubbed the most climate-friendly country, has empirically lowered their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over the past years through political action such as replacing coal with wind and biofuels.

Although it is certain that everyone plays a significant role in solving the climate crisis, what matters is that people should reconsider where to direct the responsibility, ensuring that substantial effort is being contributed.