The last 30 years have seen the warmest surface temperatures in recorded history, and the past several years have been among the warmest on record.
Scientists have concluded that human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, is the major driving factor in global warming. Read: how global warming has developed.
Global warming can be slowed, and stopped, with practical actions that yield a cleaner, healthier atmosphere. The question is: will we act soon enough?
Ultimately it is up to each of us, as individuals and families, to take action to slow down and eventually reverse global warming through everyday awareness of our energy use, and attention to ways we can conserve electricity and minimize fossil fuel usage.
What we can do
The goal is to bring global warming under control by curtailing the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases into the atmosphere.
We can contribute to this global cause with personal actions. Our individual efforts are especially significant in countries like the US and Canada, where individuals release over 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person every year.
“Many people don’t realize that we are committed right now to a significant amount of global warming and sea level rise…the longer we wait to do something about it, the more change we will have.”
Gerald Meehl, The National Center for Atmospheric Research
We can help immediately by becoming more energy efficient. Reducing our use of oil, gasoline and coal also sets an example for others to follow.
Reduce electricity usage around the home
The largest source of greenhouse gases is electric power generation. The average home actually contributes more to global warming than the average car. This is because much of the energy we use in our homes comes from power plants which burn fossil fuel to power our electric products.
To reduce the amount of electricity used in our homes:
- Switch to energy-efficient lighting
Replace the familiar incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. For each CFL bulb replacement, you’ll lower your energy bill and keep nearly 700 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air over the bulb’s lifetime. CFL bulbs last much longer and use only a quarter of the energy consumed by conventional bulbs. LED bulbs are also energy-saving, but have a narrower range of application. Advances in LED bulb technology, however, are leading to more applications for these bulbs in the home. LEDs are more efficient than CFLs and do not have issues surrounding disposal, as do the CFLs. More info.
- Improve the efficiency of home appliances
Home appliances vary greatly in terms of energy-efficiency and operating costs. The more energy-efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run. You can lower your utility bill and help protect the environment. Here’s how.
- Buy energy-efficient appliances when shopping for a new appliance
Do this especially when shopping for a major appliance such as a refrigerator, dishwasher, or air-conditioner – select the one with the highest energy efficiency rating. By opting for a refrigerator with the Energy Star label — indicating it uses at least 15 percent less energy than the federal requirement — you can reduce carbon dioxide pollution by nearly a ton in total. More info.
- Reduce energy needed for heating
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling systems in the U.S. emit over a half billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Much of the energy used for heating our homes is wasted, and yet the prevention is, in many cases, simple and inexpensive. Here’s how.
- Reduce energy needed for cooling
Air conditioners alone use up to 1/6th of the electricity in the U.S. and, on hot summer days, consume 43% of the U.S. peak power load. You can reduce much of the need for air conditioning, and enjoy a cost savings benefit, by using ‘passive’ techniques to help cool your home. Here’s how.
Improve vehicle fuel-efficiency
The second largest source of greenhouse gases is transportation. Motor vehicles are responsible for about a third of all carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. and Canada.
- Practice fuel-efficient driving
Every gallon of gasoline burned puts 26 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. You can boost the overall fuel-efficiency of your car as much as 30% by simple vehicle maintenance and attention to your style of driving. Read these tips for fuel-efficient driving.
- Buy a fuel-efficient car
Even more important is the choice of car or truck you buy. If you buy a new car that gets 10 more miles per gallon than your old car, the amount of carbon dioxide reduction realized in one year will be about 2,500 pounds. The new hybrid cars, using efficient gas-electric engines, can cut global warming pollution by 30% or more. Learn more about hybrid cars.
- Recycle air conditioner coolant
If your car has an air conditioner, make sure you recycle its coolant whenever you have it serviced. You can save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide each year by doing this.
- Drive less
You’ll save energy by taking the bus, riding a bike, or walking. Try consolidating trips to the mall or longer routine drives. Encourage car-pooling.
Conserve energy in the home and yard
Yard maintenance contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions. Per hour of operation, a power lawn mower emits 10-12 times as much hydrocarbon as a typical auto. A weedeater emits 21 times more and a leaf blower 34 times more.
- Reduce lawn size
Lawn size can be reduced by adding shrubs, beds, ground covers and mulched areas. Try creating a lawn area small enough to be mowed using an efficient reel (push) mower. Lawn edging can be set low enough to mow over, reducing or eliminating the need for a weed-eater. More info.
- Recycle whenever possible
Aluminum cans, newspapers, magazines, cardboard, glass – anything recycled reduces the energy needed to create new products. To find the recycling center nearest you, call: 1 800-CLEANUP. For ideas on home recycling, click here for more info.
- Eat locally produced food
Today, the food choices available in supermarkets come from all over the world. All of this ‘traffic’ in food requires staggering amounts of fuel – generally by refrigerated airplanes or transport trucks. Food transportation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. More info.
- Eat vegetarian meals
Vegetarian food requires much less energy to produce. Enjoying vegetarian meals once or twice a week results in significant CO2 savings. More info.
- Paint your home a light color if you live in a warm climate, or a dark color in a cold climate.
This can contribute saving up to 5000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
- Choose clean energy options
If you can choose your electricity supplier, pick a company that generates at least half its power from wind, solar energy and other renewable sources.
- Buy clean energy certificates and carbon offsets
Help spur the renewable energy market and cut global warming pollution with “wind certificates” or “green tags,” which represent clean power you can add to the nation’s energy grid in place of electricity from fossil fuels. More info. A “carbon offset” is an emission reduction credit which can be purchased by individuals, businesses and governments to reduce their net greenhouse gas emissions. More info.
Making energy conservation a part of our daily awareness is essential to the goal of reducing global warming.
While it may be difficult to adopt some of these suggestions, any amount of energy saved is significant. Even small changes are worthwhile, as they spark our awareness. As we become more aware of the importance of saving energy, we find ways of saving where possible.