With the COP26 summit in Glasgow completed, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we as a society can do to step up our game and make serious headway in halting climate change. We need to fill the gap between the needs of our planet – keeping temperatures below the pivotal 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold – and the policy outcomes that were agreed upon at in Glasgow – combined national commitments that would allow the earth to warm 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100 (Climate Action Tracker). My thoughts coalesce on the following: 1) bold, disruptive change is needed now, and 2) all of us – individuals (myself included), companies, and governments – need to challenge ourselves to do more. I want to challenge and empower everyone to understand we each have the power to make significant change to help ensure our planet’s future. There are no excuses for inaction.
Luckily, climate solutions are abundant, and people have been working to commercialize them for decades. I’ve outlined four, straight-forward solutions below that are available right now.
If just 1 in 5 U.S. households were to convert their heating and cooling to all electric, supply the energy with solar, and utilize an electric vehicle, it would produce carbon savings of over 300 million tons per year and put the United States 17%* closer to meeting the ambitious reduction goal of 50-52% by 2030 . (*Based on carbon emissions from average U.S. household energy use and vehicle miles traveled per year.)
Too many governments are absolving themselves from making the necessary commitments to slow climate change. Too many people with the resources to invest in technologies are holding back. Additionally, companies are not investing enough in the environmental risk that threatens their business models. So, whether you are a government leader, an individual citizen or a leader of a company, I challenge you: what significant, bold change are you going to make?
Energy Efficiency – The equation is simple. Saving energy saves money. One of the most simple, cost-effective ways of saving energy is increasing home and business energy-efficiency. These tools range from upgrading light bulbs to insulating attics and sealing cracks around windows. For those with the means to do it, it’s really quite simple. Some can be done DIY-style, or there are many contractors ready and able to help out. Check out Energy Star for a complete guide to get started and there is also a plethora of incentives offered by utility companies to help offset the costs.
Heating and Cooling – My wife and I recently faced the decision of what to do with our 20+ year old furnace. After spending money each year to maintain it, we opted to invest in a new system instead and to realize both the operational monetary and energy savings that come from that.
A high-efficiency furnace unit often produces significant savings, but to take an even bolder step, we opted for an air-source heat pump. This means we will produce considerably less carbon emissions (more than 50% less according to Rocky Mountain Institute). Selecting an air-source heat pump also positions our home to go all-electric (and net zero), save money, and eliminate our dependence on natural gas if we supply electricity from solar panels. As an added benefit, reducing natural gas would also eliminates emissions from methane, a particularly nasty contributor to climate change.
Solar Panels – Adding solar energy to your home or business will allow you to support your electricity demand with renewable energy. Though still a significant investment, prices of solar panels have dropped more than 70% over the last decade and are now considered one of the cheapest sources of new energy generation. To make them even more feasible, financing is readily available, a significant federal tax credit of 26% still exists, and states and utility companies often incentivize installations. For those with the means, there’s really no reason a business or homeowner shouldn’t seriously consider solar panels and move toward decarbonizing. This is a tried and true technology, and we all should be asking ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors – even landlords – about making these changes.
Transportation – 2021 has presented consumers with more EV choices than ever before and
a variety of price points. And trust me, you won’t miss going to the gas station for fill ups. If you can’t stomach the cost of a new EV, there are plenty of used options on the market to choose from. Whether you are a business owner or homeowner, we can all challenge ourselves to make purchasing decisions that run on clean energy. One part of the market that doesn’t have products readily available yet is the truck market, which are heavily used by the trades. But I’m really excited about what’s on the horizon and how it may transform the market. Ford and Rivian have impressive products on the way that will serve this segment and manufacturers are also working on the larger medium-duty EV trucks. Hopefully we’ll see contractors using these trucks soon.
Even better than getting an EV, consider alternate modes of travel. Jump on your bike, scooter or bus to run that next errand.
As we start to live through the consequences of climate change, and with experts predicting even more frequent and intense weather events will occur, we have to ask ourselves why are we waiting to solve the problem? Proven solutions exist. We collectively need to implement them.