Can one person in seven billion make a difference? Despite the furor over government reports and international conferences, climate change is a problem of personal consumption. Swiss scientists say humanity could limit the effects if each person used just 2,000 watts of power a year. The average American consumes 12,000. A Bangladeshi uses 300. The challenge is conscientious reduction in the West, writes Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything. Lifestyle choices, such as traveling less plus better regulation and technologies will help the numbers drop.

Picture of Jay Shafer with his tiny house

Tiny House Footprint

Since 1973 the average U.S. home has ballooned by 60 percent to 2,657 square feet. A warmer world may favor a reverse trend. Jay Shafer (at left in photo), the California pioneer of living in tiny houses, built a lifestyle in 96 square feet (layout provided)—and helped others build pint-size homes. Developers in New York City and San Francisco have created the urban equivalent: micro-apartments.

Illustration of tiny house floor plan

Efficient Living

Shrinking your space doesn’t mean shrinking your life. Downsizing, experts say, can bring both psychological and financial benefits. Start by getting rid of clutter. End with lower utility bills, less space to clean, and more time outdoors.

Illustration of energy- and water- efficient house

A future home's best attribute may be its smartness, which helps appliances conserve water and energy.

Illustration of small houses

Micro-living spaces tend to work best in urban environments, with their existing utility hookups.

Illustration of cost savings

Efficiency brings reduced living costs. But unusual home designs can make securing land and permits hard.

Picture of man on a bike


If you want to use the cleanest mode of transportation, nothing beats walking or biking, which create zero greenhouse gases beyond those produced making the bike and the food you eat. From there, it’s far more complicated. According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, transit buses use more energy per passenger-mile than cars. For long distances, you’re better off flying—carpooling in the sky—or, for the ultraprudent, taking a train.

Calculations will change as the world’s fleet shifts from fossil fuels to electric. “By 2035 there will be very few conventional gasoline or diesel cars being sold,” says Dan Sperling, director of UC Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Global trends toward mass urbanization make infrastructure planning easier. They also raise the likelihood that more people will take trains, bikes, or their own feet to get from A to B.

Graphs of statistics on electric cars

"If we want to cut carbon pollution fast, moving beyond oil for transportation is an obvious strategy."

Michael Brune

executive director, Sierra Club

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Next: Part 2

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Today, many businesses recognize that climate change is a problem. Smart companies are using environmental strategies to build competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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