Important information about greenhouse gasses and climate change
Today, the share of CO2 in the atmosphere is almost one-third higher than before the industrial revolution 200 years ago. The International Energy Agency anticipates a growth of CO2 emissions by 1.7 percent a year between 2004 and 2030. The cause is the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Through combustion, CO2 is released; it is no longer incorporated into the natural CO2 cycle, so the CO2 content of the atmosphere increases constantly. As CO2 levels rise, less solar heat is able to radiate back into the atmosphere and the warmer the climate becomes.
The effects of greenhouse gasses on the environment are widely recognized today, and numerous new studies confirm the growing consensus that the increased concentration of CO2 causes climate changes with undesired consequences including:
- Increase of the average temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans
- Decline of the glaciers, melting of the polar ice caps
- Increase in sea levels
- Increase of natural catastrophes such as droughts, floods, hurricanes
- Disappearance of species
According to current calculations, the increase of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has slowed a bit in recent years, but we are still far away from reducing emissions. The level of CO2 emissions will reach more than 40 billion tons in 2030 according to the IEA report. This corresponds to an increase of more than 14 billion tons as compared to 2004.
What can we do to help reduce CO2 and greenhouse gasses?
Renewable energy resources, including wind, solar and hydropower offer clean alternatives to fossil fuels. These are infinite resurces that produce little or no pollution or greenhouse gases. Sunlight, or solar energy, is our most abundant source of energy and can be used for water heating, lighting, heating, cooling and generating electricity for residential and commercial use. Think about it, almost all forms of renewable energy come either directly or indirectly from the sun. For example, heat from the sun causes the wind to blow, contributes to the growth of trees and other plants that are used for biomass energy, and plays an essential role in the cycle of evaporation and precipitation that makes hydropower possible.
Each of us can help reduce the demand for fossil fuels, which in turn reduces global warming, by using energy more wisely. Here are simple actions you can take to help:
Re-use, reduce and recycle:
Switch to reusable products instead of disposables. Buy products with minimal packaging. By reducing your household garbage by just 10 percent, you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Start a recycling plan at home. If you can recycle half of your household waste, you’ll save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
Use less heat and air conditioning:
Turn down the heat while you're sleeping at night or away during the day. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
Replace a light bulb:
Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb, last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat. If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.
Drive smarter and drive less:
Less driving equals fewer emissions. And when you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated improves your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Not only does this keep more green in your wallet, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Replace your water heater:
According to the US Department of Energy, the standard residential water heater is the highest energy consuming appliance in your home, behind heating and air conditioning. And a tank style water heater that is more than 8 years old uses more energy than the refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer combined. Newer energy star rated water heaters, as well as dishwashers, refrigerators, washers, dryers and electronics require less energy, lower your utility bills and usually offer better features.
Use less hot water:
If your water heater offers a temperature control, adjust the output temperature to 120 degrees to save energy. Install low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce hot water and save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. When shaving, brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. This will lower your water bill and help conserve resources.
Use the "off" switch:
Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room. Remember to also turn off your tv, dvd player, stereo, computer and printer when you’re not using them. Better yet, unplug appliances and fixtures that you don’t use regularly.
Plant a tree or two:
During photosynthesis, trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, making them an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth. Unfortunately there are too few plants and trees to fully reverse the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing and other human activities. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.
Get a report card from your utility company:
Many utility companies now provide free home energy audits to help you identify how to be more energy efficient at home.
Take advantage of tax credits and rebates:
Tax credits and utility company rebates are popular incentives designed to help pay for energy efficient ugrades in your home. Visit www.dsireusa.org to get specific rebate info for your state & region.