As we learn of President Obama’s and the new Prime Minister of Canada’s new, expanded commitments to pursue even more ambitious climate changes goals around methane gas emissions and the most recent projections about Antarctica’s ice cap melting, let’s pause and consider what we, as travelers, can do to mitigate against its effects.
Climate Change: The Causes
Our climates around the world are changing as a result of both natural phenomena as well as man-made activities. Both are contributing to “greenhouse effects”. When sunlight reaches Earth, some of it is absorbed and then released back into the atmosphere as heat (also called infrared radiation). Greenhouse gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide (74%; both use of fossil fuels and deforestation, decay of biomass) and methane (17%) absorb energy, slowing or preventing the loss of heat to space and making Earth warmer than it would otherwise be.
The sources of greenhouse emissions are many. Globally, 25 percent are from the nation’s energy supply, 21% from industrial production, 24% from agriculture and forestry and 14% from the transportation industry:
What You Can to Reduce Greenhouse Gases
Many of us might feel relatively powerless to stop something as pervasive and widespread as climate change. But there are many actions we can take as individuals to combat climate change.
As the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) says “Driving a car, using electricity to light and heat your home, and throwing away garbage all lead to greenhouse gas emissions. You can reduce emissions through simple actions like changing a light bulb, powering down electronics, using less water, and recycling”.
Here are some concrete steps you can take to help mitigate against the continued threat of carbon emissions:
- Use the EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to estimate your household greenhouse gas emissions resulting from energy use, transportation, and waste disposal.
- Reduce your carbon footprint
- Avoid air travel for business in favor of video conferencing. A round-trip coach ticket from New York to San Francisco accounts for 2 metric tons of carbon dioxide—compare that with the average American, whose annual carbon footprint is roughly 19 metric tons.
- Avoid using your car except when necessary and consider owning a hybrid.
- Buy carbon offsets when you do decide to travel by air.
- Consider installing some solar panels. If you live in a state with a Net Metering law, you could eliminate your electricity bill or even earn money by selling electricity back to the grid.
- Use Energy Star® products which generate less heat (and save you on electrical bills!) and buy Green Power (renewable energy sources) to power your home.
- You can find the Energy Star label on more than 60 kinds of products, including appliances, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, electronics, and office equipment.
- Eat local. It’s been estimated that 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. So eat local produce and meats and avoid dairy and beef which come from destinations where rainforests are destroyed to create farmland.
- Insulating to reduce air/heating leaks, changing air filters regularly, using a programmable thermostat and having your heating and cooling equipment maintained annually will all help reduce atmospheric heat emissions.
- Fixing leaky toilets, pipes and faucets, broken irrigation valves and conserving water reduces the need to use the energy required to pump our water supplies.
- Recycle/Reuse. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal. Composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions by reducing landfill deposits.
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