Behavioral Changes: Reducing the Effects of Global Climate Change
What is Global Warming?
The world’s climate has been changing since the late 19th century and it has been changing dramatically for the past fifty years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting around the world, the ice cap in the Arctic is melting, ocean temperatures are slowly rising, sea levels are rising around the world, and there are dramatic changes being witnessed in the way the world’s plants and animals are responding to the rise in temperatures.
The EPA explains that the greenhouse effect is at the heart of the global warming issue. It is perfectly natural for the sun to heat the earth, and a good share of that heat is then trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by clouds (water vapor and carbon dioxide). However the activities of humans have added greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in heavy amounts, which has been one of the main drivers of global warming, the EPA continues. The burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas contribute mightily to excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Those gases are trapped in the atmosphere and result in the fact that the earth’s temperature has risen by 1.3(F over the last 100 years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organizations founded by the United Nations that includes over 100 scientists from all parts of the world, presents frequent updated empirical data on the issue. The data from the IPCC that shows that the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a “pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm (parts per million) to 379 ppm in 2005 (IPCC). The bottom line is — notwithstanding some media commentators and a few elected officials that have either been influenced by the right wing propaganda that denies global warming or are simply out of touch — global warming is very real. Global climate change has been proven through rigorous empirical research conducted by thousands of scientists worldwide, and global warming indeed poses an enormous threat to the planet.
Things That Can Be Done Around the Home to Reduce Greenhouse Gases
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has published an exhaustive list of suggestions ordinary citizens can do to reduce their impact on climate change. First of all, consumers can reduce their utility bills and reduce electrical use by using CFLs instead of incandescent lighting. Using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), as replacements for the energy-hogging incandescent bulbs saves electrical usage and money for the homeowner. The compact fluorescent bulb is not without its drawbacks — it contains a small amount of mercury (about 0.4 milligrams in every bulb), and it is a bit more expensive than the incandescent bulbs — but it uses 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs (Energy Star, 2009).
Also, the DOE has the following energy-saving / electricity-saving recommendations that can add up to reduce greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere: a) turn things off, like lights off when not in the room, computers, televisions and technologies; b) install a programmable thermostat to better manage economic heating and cooling; c) lower the water heater thermostat to 120(F; d) take shorter showers and use “low-flow showerheads” to save energy; e) hang clothes out to dry in the air and the sun when possible rather than using energy-gobbling clothes dryers; f) keep doors and windows closed when heating or cooling the house.
Sealing air leaks around the house saves energy usage and reduces the release of greenhouse gases. Doors that have gaps need to have weather stripping done. How does a person tell if there are leaks around windows and doors? The DOE suggests the following test be done on a windy day: a) hold a lighted incense stick or a smoke pen next to doors, windows, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, hatches in the attic; b) if the smoke from the incense stick moves horizontally, there it a strong chance air is leaking into the house. Caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping will be the appropriate fix for those leaks. Other measures that make sense include keeping the fireplace damper “tightly closed” when it is not being used, and be sure to check to see if the insulation in the house is adequate and protects against air leaks.
Outside the home there are ideas that can reduce electrical usage in the house. A “green” or “cool” roof is a good way to lower the temperature of the roof, and hence the house. Materials used in cool roofs “absorb less heat” and “reflects more sunlight” hence, the house is cooler in the summer months (DOE). Carefully positioned trees and shrubs can save “â€¦up to 25% of the energy a typical household uses” (DOE). Installing windows with the ENERGY STAR ( label means that window (with two panes of glass) will keep heat out in the summer and keep cold out in the winter.
Reducing Greenhouse Gases While Driving Vehicles
Green driving is another smart way to lessen one’s contribution to the greenhouse gases that are causing the planet to heat up. There are a number of Web sites that offer tips on what cars to buy, which ones get the best mileage, why electric cars are a good choice — but if a person does not have the resources to purchase a hybrid or electric car, there are strategies that can help even those owning gas-guzzling cars to reduce the carbon footprint. In the first place, stepping hard on the accelerator not only wastes gas and money, it leads to “drastically higher pollution rates,” according to greenercars.org.
Driving at lower speeds saves gas, and driving during slower traffic periods saves those stop-and-go and slow-and-go speeds that are the rule of thumb during rush hour. Greenercars.org recommends making several short trips in one combined trip. Why? Warmed-up engines generate less air pollution than starting a car up cold. Don’t carry heavy equipment or other weighty items in the car; according to greenercars.org, carrying around 100 extra pounds reduced the fuel economy by “about 1%” — and over time, that makes a difference. Before turning on the air conditioner — which operates on gasoline from your car’s tank — open windows and vents to cool the car’s interior off first. The fluids that are used in air conditioners are “environmentally damaging” and so using the air conditioner less is a savings in more than one aspect of the travel experience.
Tires should be kept at proper inflation levels; the information on what the proper amount of inflation should be is printed in the owner’s manual. When the tires are under-inflated, fuel economy suffers, greenercars.org explains. When buying new tires, it is recommended that drivers purchase “low-rolling-resistance (LRR) replacement tires; fuel economy can be lowered by up to 4% with LRR tires. Getting a tune-up can help increase fuel economy; that means replacing spark plugs, checking the alignment on wheels, and replacing the air filter when needed.
Some government agencies have recently been recommending that automobile drivers change their oil less frequently, in the sense that using less oil in this economy is a good thing. However, the rule of thumb is to change oil (unless it is synthetic oil) every 3,000 miles; the car or truck will last longer and replacing oil and oil filter “regularly will also help fuel economy” (greenercars.org).
Another very obvious alternative to driving a car to work is choosing to take the bus or the light rail to work. There are carpool programs set up in most big cities, which makes sense when 4 people are in one car vs. one person alone in four cars. Using alternative fuels like ethanol (providing you have the right vehicle) can save fuel, money, and produce less pollution.
The hybrid cars on the market represent an opportunity for the driver to save gas and money and pollution. But the best green cars — electric cars — are going to be the most practical and offer the most savings as far as the burning of fossil fuels. The DOE has a section called fueleconomy.gov that presents facts about electric cars. No tailpipe pollutants are spewed into the atmosphere by electric cars albeit the electricity that charges the batteries up certainly comes from a power plant that in many cases (fossil fuel-powered) produces greenhouse gases. The newest entry on the market is the Chevrolet VOLT, which uses a battery that gets approximately 35 miles on one charge; however, there is an onboard gas generator that actually produces electricity “so you can go up to a total of 375 miles on a full tank of gas” (Chevrolet). The mileage from a tank of gas combined with the batter boost is up to 95 MPH.
Spreading the Word About Global Warming
An article in TIME Magazine references polls that show only 30% of conservatives and Republicans believe the effects of global warming are “â€¦already being felt”; but 70% of liberals and Democrats acknowledge that global warming is being felt today. Why the huge disparity in viewpoints when the science has been empirically established for twenty years or more? Journalist Bryan Walsh references sociologists from Michigan State and Oklahoma State Universities (Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright, respectively), who say there has been a “well-financed effort on the part of conservative groups and corporations to distort global-warming science” (Walsh, 2011). In the book written by Dunlap and McCright (the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society) they assert that global climate change science has been “assaulted” by fossil-fuel corporations, conservative think tanks” for over twenty years.
Hence, in conclusion, one way to spread the word to consumers and citizens is to battle back against the propaganda that seeks to deny the truth about climate change. In addition, very simple changes in lifestyles (using CFLs, taking the bus, hanging clothes out to dry, keeping the car tuned up, and sealing up leaks and cracks around windows and doors) should be taught beginning in grammar school and in high school. If students’ parents are listening to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, and getting propaganda that denies climate change, that shouldn’t stop young people from following the easy strategies that can save energy and limit the release of greenhouse gases.
Chevrolet. (2012). Somebody Has to Be First. Chevrolet VOLT. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/.
Environmental Protection Agency. (2011). Frequently Asked Questions About Global Warming
And Climate Change: Back to Basics. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.epa.gov/climatechange.
Greenercars.org. (2010). Green Driving Tips. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.greenercars.org/drivingtips.htm.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2011). Human and Natural Drivers of Climate
Change. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/spmsspm-human-and.html.
U.S. Department of Energy. (2009). Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home /
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.doe.gov.
U.S. Department of Energy. (2010). Electric Vehicles. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.fueleconomy.gov.
Walsh, Bryan. (2011). Who’s Bankrolling the Climate-Change Deniers? Time Magazine.
Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.time.com.
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