Students can take up the slack

Global warming can make you feel powerless. In the face of growing deserts and rising seas, can people really do anything to save the planet? Luckily, the answer is yes. What’s more, the way we tackle the problem could save money and create new jobs. Here are some of the ways we can all push for a future containing hope, prosperity and polar bears.
1) Learn about climate change
With so much confusion surrounding climate change, it’s important to know the facts. The subject is bewildering at times, but there are some excellent sources available that present it in an understandable way. Although it is a few years old, Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth is still a good place to start. For a more detailed discussion of the science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has a great FAQ article covering topics like how human activities contribute to climate change and how they compare with natural influences.
2) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The first step you can take to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions is to calculate your carbon footprint. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a useful carbon calculator on its website, which is simple to use and takes only a few minutes to complete. After getting your results, the site then suggests ways of cutting emissions. Some of these suggestions are really easy to follow, like turning off computers instead of leaving them on standby, or taking showers instead of baths.
Another effective way to cut greenhouse gases is to eat less meat, as livestock production makes up nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the Meat Free Monday campaign encourages people to have one meat-free day a week. Students can also sign up to the 10:10 campaign, which is encouraging people, businesses and schools to cut their carbon emissions by 10% over 2010. Visit their website to sign up and get more information about how to cut down on the carbon.
3) Contact your politicians
It is vital that we give our politicians a clear message that we want strong policies on climate change. One place to start is to send an e-mail to your local TDs telling them that this is an urgent issue and asking what they and their party plan to do to help Ireland cut its carbon emissions. If many students did this, it could at least send a strong message to our political parties that we are very concerned.  
Government action on climate change also necessarily includes investment in renewable energy, including wind, wave and tidal power. This may prove to be a powerful source of growth in the Irish economy over the coming decade, creating thousands of new jobs.
4) Raise awareness about climate change
Many events were held last year to raise public awareness about climate change in the run up to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. For example, 500 people took part in the Blue Wave march through the streets of Dublin on December 5th. Stop Climate Chaos, who organised the march, has many more events planned for 2010. Visit the campaign’s website to join their mailing list or Facebook group.
Students can also get involved in Trinity College Green Week, which is running from February 22nd to 28th. Green Week is held every year to draw attention to some of the more topical environmental issues and this year’s theme is the 10:10 campaign.
Finally, tell a friend about some of the above points. By spreading information we can begin to curb Ireland’s impact on the environment and develop new technologies to meet a low carbon future. And with the internet, this is easier than ever. Even the recent success of the UK campaign to get Rage Against the Machine to Christmas number 1 highlights the power of websites like Facebook to rally public action. Many scientists believe we have the means to completely solve the climate crisis right now. Our ability to do so depends not just on governments around the world, but on the actions of ordinary people.