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What Can You Do to Slow Global Warming?
After water vapor, the most prominent greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is Carbon Dioxide. Carbon Dioxide is often a popular area of focus when people look at global warming. For Carbon Dioxide, 74% of what we emit is directly related to fossil fuels. Where we burn and emit the most currently is electricity and transportation followed by industrial uses. Overall, if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions those are the biggest pieces of the pie.
Use Less of It
One of the low hanging fruits is to switch to high efficiency light bulbs such as Compact Fluorescent or LED bulbs or buying EnergyStar appliances. Another potential saver is using a ceiling fan or better insulating your home. These are just a few of the many options to save.
Think About Where Your Electricity Comes From
One of the most direct ways you can impact emissions from electricity is switching where you get it. If available. Switch to electricity options powered by solar, geothermal, nuclear, or wind energy to use sources that are low or net zero carbon emitters. Natural gas is also a cleaner alternative to coal.
Invest in Green Technology
There are various ways to invest in green technology to expand your impact. For example, installing solar panels on your roof is one option. Investing in bonds that fund the installation of solar infrastructure like those offered by Mosaic Inc. or Solar City are another way to contribute and make some money in the process. Also, you can invest in stocks for green technology companies such as Tesla.
Cut Back on Driving By Yourself
There are a few ways to do this. You can carpool with a friend, pitch in for ride sharing, or use public transportation like trains and buses. When you have have a short commute opting to walk or bike is great for the environment as well as your health.
Reduce the Impact of Driving
As your car reaches the end of its useful life, you can seek out cars with a good miles per gallon rating or to a hybrid/electric vehicle. However, in order to dramatically reduce your emissions you will need to get electricity from power sources other than coal factories and other high emitting fossil fuel plants.
Caution: Cars take a significant amount of energy to manufacture. Buying a new vehicle may actually cause more emissions than just continuing with something that gets a decent mph.
Reduce the Transportation of Goods
You can buy more local foods that are in season to reduce the carbon footprint of the food you eat. Shipping food from across the globe constantly adds up and places a significant role in emissions. Also, you can start a small garden to help as well to further reduce the footprint of taking food from the ground to the table. Also in order to raise cattle and sheep for meat a lot of carbon dioxide is emitted. Cutting down on meat consumption is another way to potentially cut back.
Cut Down Waste
There are various ways to reduce your waste. You can buy reusable water bottles and fill them instead of throwing away disposal bottles. Rather than have lawn trimmings and scraps shipped to landfills, you can make compost piles out of them. This also prevents them from decomposing anaerobically and producing Methane another greenhouse gas more potent then Carbon Dioxide. Overall, look for ways to reuse items you currently have or areas where you use disposable products that can be eliminated. Also, you can recycle plastic, paper, aluminum, and glass as alternatives to trashing them as well. Plus you tend to find that when you find ways to cut waste you also end up saving money.
Outreach and Civic Activity
Support legislation that targets stricter carbon dioxide emission standards. Furthermore, from an economics perspective; efforts that raise the cost of gasoline directly or subsidize the price of hybrid/electric car manufacturing tilt the demand and return on investment for greener technologies. Plus they further push the change in infrastructure which helps with the cost and usage long term.
For example, raising highway funds from increased gasoline taxes would to some extent narrow the gap between the two modes. Furthermore, it would also drive up costs for goods that are transportation intensive which would impact the cost and ultimately the demand.
Why It Matters
It can be a hard feat to make a big difference as an individual, but it all adds up and with awareness and advocacy your impact can be increased. Currently, we are trying to reduce atmospheric Carbon Dioxide to 350 ppm and scientist are recommending that we do not exceed 450 ppm. This is what is currently predicted to be the threshold for serious ramifications with rising water levels (some believe changes could put US east coast cities under water) and would cause more severe weather events. However I must note that this is largely uncharted territory so we don't fully know what is the true cut off point and the impact for sure. We are currently raising Carbon Dioxide levels at a rate of 2 ppm a year. This year was the first year where our annual emissions rate did not significantly increase. However, if annual emissions stay the same we will hit 450 ppm in 25 years or less assuming the oceans continue to absorb carbon dioxide at the same rate.