What we do today about climate change has consequences that will last a century or more. The part of that change that is due to greenhouse gas emissions is not reversible in the foreseeable future. The heat trapping gases we send into the atmosphere in 2008 will stay there until 2108 and beyond. We are therefore making choices today that will affect our own lives, but even more so the lives of our children and grandchildren. This makes climate change different and more difficult than other policy challenges.
Climate change is the defining human development issue of our generation. All development is ultimately about expanding human potential and enlarging human freedom. It is about people developing the capabilities that empower them to make choices and to lead lives that they value. Climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choice. It calls into question the Enlightenment principle that human progress will make the future look better than the past.
Climate change is different from other problems facing humanity—and it challenges us to think differently at many levels. Above all, it challenges us to think about what it means to live as part of an ecologically interdependent human community. Ecological interdependence is not an abstract concept. We live today in a world that is divided at many levels. People are separated by vast gulfs in wealth and opportunity. In many regions, rival nationalisms are a source of conflict. All too often, religious, cultural and ethnic identity are treated as a source of division and difference from others. In the face of all these differences, climate change provides a potent reminder of the one thing that we share in common. It is called planet Earth. All nations and all people share the same atmosphere. And we only have one. Global warming is evidence that we are overloading the carrying capacity of the Earth’s atmosphere. Stocks of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere are accumulating at an unprecedented rate. Current concentrations have reached 380 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) exceeding the natural range of the last 650,000 years. In the course of the 21st Century, average global temperatures could increase by more than 5°C
To put that figure in context, it is equivalent to the change in temperature since the last ice age—an era in which much of Europe and North America was under more than one kilometre of ice. The threshold for dangerous climate change is an increase of around 2°C. This threshold broadly defines the point at which rapid reversals in human development and a drift towards irreversible ecological damage would become very difficult to avoid.
Behind the numbers and the measurement is a simple overwhelming fact. We are recklessly mismanaging our ecological interdependence. In effect, our generation is running up an unsustainable ecological debt that future generations will inherit. We are drawing down the stock of environmental capital of our children. Dangerous climate change will represent the adjustment to an unsustainable level of greenhouse gas emissions. Future generations are not the only constituency that will have to cope with a problem they did not create. The world’s poor will suffer the earliest and most damaging impacts. Rich nations and their citizens account for the overwhelming bulk of the greenhouse gases locked in the Earth’s atmosphere. But, poor countries and their citizens will pay the highest price for climate change.
As a generation who life in this era, we must participate to make this earth better, start with a simple thing that you can do at home.
Making a few small changes in your home and yard can lead to big reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Explore our list of nine simple steps you can take around the house and yard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
- Change 5 lights
Change a light, and you help change the world. Replace the conventional bulbs in your 5 most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR and you will help the environment while saving money on energy bills. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars.
- Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products
When buying new products, such as appliances for your home, get the features and performance you want AND help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products in more than 50 product categories, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances.
- Heat and cool smartly
Simple steps like cleaning air filters regularly and having your heating and cooling equipment tuned annually by a licensed contractor can save energy and increase comfort at home, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When it's time to replace your old equipment, choose a high efficiency model, and make sure it is properly sized and installed.
- Seal and insulate your home
Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home is a great do-it-yourself project. The biggest leaks are usually found in the attic and basement. If you are planning to replace windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified windows for better performance. Forced air ducts that run through unconditioned spaces are often big energy wasters. Seal and insulate any ducts in attics and crawlspaces to improve the efficiency of your home. Not sure where to begin? A home energy auditor can also help you find air leaks, areas with poor insulation, and evaluate the over-all energy efficiency of your home. By taking these steps, you can eliminate drafts, keep your home more comfortable year round, save energy that would otherwise be wasted, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Use green power
Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. There are two ways to use green power: you can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. Buying green power is easy, it offers a number of environmental and economic benefits over conventional electricity, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, and it helps increase clean energy supply. If you are interested, there are a number of steps you can take to create a greener home , including installing solar panels and researching incentives for renewable energy in your state .
- Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
If there is a recycling program in your community, recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. In addition, support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materials. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.
- Be green in your yard
Use a push mower, which, unlike a gas or electric mower, consumes no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. If you do use a power mower, make sure it is a mulching mower to reduce grass clippings. Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Smart Landscaping can save energy, save you money and reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Use water efficiently
Saving water around the home is simple. Municipal water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households, and saving water, especially hot water, can lower greenhouse gas emissions. There are also simple actions you can take to save water: Be smart when irrigating your lawn or landscape; only water when needed and do it during the coolest part of the day, early morning is best. Turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth. Do not use your toilet as a waste basket - water is wasted with each flush. And did you know a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day? Repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away.
- Spread the Word
Tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and good for the environment because it lowers greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Tell 5 people and together we can help our homes help us all.