We must act locally now on global climate change
In our interconnected world what happens across oceans and plains affects us personally here in the valley.
Intensified storm action, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification carry consequences that will affect not only our quality of life but our livelihoods.
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC) the time to heed, and earnestly act on, these observations is now, not sometime in the distant future.
The IPCC is a United Nations group of foremost scientists that provides periodic assessments of global warming impacts.
Its most recent report was the leading front page story in the New York Times on March 31.
The gist of the report is: “Disruptions are nonetheless likely to be profound. That will be especially so if emissions are allowed to continue at a runaway pace.”
Which begs the questions, “Why should I care?”, “Can one person make a difference?”, and “What can I do about it?”
Let’s look at these questions one a time.
Why should I care? On the Western Slope a heightened risk of global warming is reduced snowpack, the result being disruptions in food and water supplies, amplified tensions over water rights, greater fire threats, and potentially significant economic, geographic and recreational shifts.
Many governments and businesses are making extensive plans to adapt to climate volatility. In Carbondale, 23 percent of the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals have been reached through adoption of building codes, numerous solar power installations on public buildings, and other energy efficiency measures in schools.
That leaves 67 percent of local 2020 energy goals for the rest of us to meet, leading us to the second and third questions.
“Can one person make a difference?” Everything we do has an impact, positive and reinforcing, or negative and disabling. Incremental steps made by you can, and do, create change for the better, particularly in the aggregate.
“What can I do about it?” As it turns out, a lot.
The most positively impactful thing you can do is drive less and walk, bike or bus more. Replace, and/or combine, car trips one to two times a week and you will make a measurable difference.
Next is to make modifications in your home.
Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your carbon output:
1. Purchase a programmable thermostat to keep your cooling and heating systems from turning on unnecessarily.
2. Caulk, weather strip or insulate any window, outlet, vent, heat register, light fixture, plumbing, door or heating/cooling duct that allows leaks in and out of your home.
3. Insulate your attic, walls and floors in accordance with contractor recommendations.
4. Install a water blanket around your water heater and insulate the first 5 feet of hot and cold water pipes.
5. Mount ceiling, attic and/or whole house fans to reduce or replace the need for air conditioning.
6. Use interior and/or exterior window treatments to avoid excess solar heat from getting into your home.
7. Substitute your bathroom and kitchen 3.0 gallon per minute (gpm) aerators with 1.0 and 1.5 gpm aerators; your 4.0 gpm showerhead with a 2.2 one; and your 3.5 gallon per flush toilet with an ultra low-flush toilet that uses 1.6 gallons.
8. Plant shading trees near your home to help naturally cool the air surrounding your home.
9. Use the temperature sensors on your clothes washer to match the hot water needs of a particular load; in general, wash clothes in cold water and air dry whenever possible; use full loads to increase efficiency.
10. Properly maintain your heating-ventilation-air-conditioning (HVAC) systems annually.
11. Prop the door of your dishwasher open after the final rinse to dry dishes if it does not have an air-dry option.
12. Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs, particularly in fixtures that you use more frequently and in those harder to reach places like ceiling fans.
13. Consider installing, or leasing, a photovoltaic (PV) module or array to create your own electricity from the sun;
14. Think about replacing your 10 year-old appliance with an Energy Star unit; this is particularly apt for refrigerators as they run 24/7.
15. Go to http://www.energystar.org and click on the Home Assessment Tools link that allows homeowners to evaluate energy use and improve efficiencies in the home.
Pin these suggestions to your refrigerator and check off what you can do to help.
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