[Just For Fun] If they asked you, could you save the planet?

If “they” asked you for advice, all of the world’s problems would be solved already – right? We like to think that we know a lot and that our knowledge and good intentions would prevent a lot of bad things from happening.

Well, Climate Central and CNN.com/2degrees have created a quiz that asks you what you would do to combat climate change and computes your results in terms of estimated degrees of warming the Earth will likely see by 2100 in response to your actions. Can you get to under 2 degrees Celsius (which is the temperature increase it is recommended we stay beneath)?

I took the quiz and successfully stayed below 2 degrees Celsius — hooray! (Although, let’s be honest — knowing the right thing to do and actually doing that thing are two very different things entirely. I’m not naive enough to think that world leaders will miraculously decide to convert to 100% clean energy overnight.)

Quiz Results

But, I also observed while taking the quiz that some actions make a much larger impact on expected temperature rise than others. There are 8 questions (which represent key policy decisions) in the quiz. They center around:

  • Amount of electricity used per person
  • Fuel source used to produce electricity
  • Amount of driving and flying done by individuals
  • Integration of advanced biofuels into vehicles
  • Types of vehicles use for travel (e.g. electric vehicles, bikes, trains, gas cars, etc.)
  • Types of vehicles used for freight (trucks vs. trains)
  • Amount of energy used to heat buildings and run factories
  • Fuel type used to heat buildings and run factories

Can you guess which ones make the largest difference in anticipated global temperature increase?

Electricity (amount per person and fuel source) and heating buildings and running factories (amount of energy per person and fuel source) are the biggest influences of temperature rise. I went through and iteration of the quiz where I left the other 4 issues alone (keeping them at the status quo) and was able to get expected warming to below 2 degrees Celsius by cutting electricity and heating use in half and switching to 75% clean fuels. Those are both still ambitious goals – although they are certainly achievable in the 2050 timeline examined in the study if we dedicate sufficient resources to the task.

I think this information is particularly useful because it can help us prioritize our efforts. We are fortunate that so many people are coming up with ideas and technologies to help us combat climate change — and that is wonderful! But, it’s far too easy to get decision fatigue and choose not to take action when we have that many choices. I like that this quiz highlights the most important areas for us to take action — we need to focus on using less energy and on transitioning from fossil fuels to clean fuels for producing that energy. We shouldn’t ignore all other areas of action, of course. But, it would benefit us to invest in these actions first and more heavily if we have limited funds.

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