"WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING?"
Global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) which releases carbon dioxide into the air, which thickens the heat-trapping blanket of greenhouse gases that surrounds our planet, which then traps more heat in the atmosphere than is desirable. In order to curb global warming, we need to burn less fossil fuels.
If you are wondering whether global warming is for real or whether it is going to be a problem, please scroll down and read the text under the heading "research on global warming".
If you are already concerned about global warming, but think you can't do anything about it, I have good news for you. There is a lot you can do. In fact, there are so many things you can do, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the list below. Don't worry, you don't have to do everything.
If you already are making efforts to save energy, keep your carbon emissions low, and reduce global warming, you might find additional ideas below.
Save energy in your home and office
use heaters and airconditioners only if absolutely necessary. When the outside temperature is between 15 deg C (60 deg F) and 25 deg C (77 deg F), you probably don't need them. Switch the airconditioner off if you leave for more than an hour. Lower the thermostat of your heating system when you are on vacation.
when you do use heaters and airconditioners, don't crank them up more than necessary. You can save a lot of energy by heating your home to no more than 22 deg C (72 deg F) (the less, the better) during the day and no more than 68 deg F at night. If you're cold, wear a sweater. In the summer, do not cool it down below 22 deg C (72 deg F) (if you are somewhere where you can wear a tank top or T-shirt, 75 deg F should be fine).
in the winter, let sunshine through the windows, but in the summer, keep it out.
don't set your refridgerator's temperature lower than necessary, don't keep its door open longer than necessary and make sure it's not near a heater or in the sunlight. Clean the condenser coil and turn on the "energy saver" switch near the thermostat.
switch your TV, computer, and other appliances off when you are not using them (do not use sleep mode / standby)
run your washing machine and your dish washer only when you have a full load.
dry your clothes the old-fashioned way, on the clothesline. If you do use the dryer, clean the lint filter every time and don't run the dryer longer than necessary.
use energy-efficient appliances. When purchasing new appliances, look for the Energy Star label or visit the Energy Star website.
replace incandescent (conventional) light bulbs with compact fluorescent (energy-saving) bulbs, especially those bulbs that burn the longest each day. Compact fluorescent bulbs produce the same amount of light as normal bulbs, but use 75% less energy and last ten times as long.
turn off unnecessary lights. Always turn off the lights when you leave.
don't waste paper. The production of paper costs a lot of energy. Use cloth rags instead of paper towels. Use both sides of paper whenever possible. Put used paper in recycling bins. Stop unwanted junk mail.
telecommute from home. For more info, visit the Telework Coalition
use weatherstripping to seal drafts from your doorways and windows. Remove airconditioners during the winter or cover them.
turn your water heater down to 120 deg F to save as much as 50% energy.
insulate your water heater, especially if it's located in an unheated part of the house.
install low-flow showerheads and faucets to use only half the water without decreasing performance.
give your used paper, glass, metal, and plastic materials to recycling.
wash clothes in warm or cold water, not hot.
unplug your chargers (for cell phones, toothbrushes etc) when you are not using them.
When I mention to people that they should fly less, they often tell me that that wouldn't make a difference, since the airplane is flying anyway. This is wrong. Flying less is one of the most important things you can do. First of all, every passenger, every suitcase adds to the total weight of the airplane and makes it burn more kerosene. But more importantly, when people buy fewer tickets, less airplanes are flying. In the months after September 11, 2001, it was clearly shown how quickly flights get cancelled when the demand isn't there. The more people decide to take the train instead of the airplane from New York to Boston one year, the fewer flights from New York to Boston will be flying the following year.
Think about which flights you can do without.
Instead of flying from New York to Boston, Philadelphia, or D.C., take the train or the bus.
Do you really need to have your wedding in a place far away? Do you really need to have that bachelor party in Las Vegas? When planning such an event, do it in a location that's close to where the majority of your guests live.
My biggest peeve are people who take a flight for the sole purpose of getting or keeping elite status for an airline. I can understand if poor people in Brazil burn down the rainforest to feed their children; but contributing to climate change in order to keep elite status for an airline?????
Instead of meeting colleagues from other cities in person, do a video conference.
Do you really need to fly home on christmas AND thanksgiving? Come on, they are only a month apart!
Use less gasoline
The less you use your car, the better.
get your engine tuned up and keep the tires of your car properly inflated.
if you have two cars, chose the one with better gas mileage whenever possible.
when buying or renting a car, chose the one with the best gas mileage or chose a hybrid car or electric car.
combine errands into one trip.
use subways or buses instead of your car or a cab.
for short trips, use a bicycle or walk. It's much better for your health, too.
avoid unnessary trips.
use the car's airconditioner sparingly. According to the EPA, your gas consumption increases by 20% whenever your airconditioner is running.
observe speed limits
if you can't take public transport to work, telecommute as often as you can. See Telework Coalition.
Shop consciously and don't waste things
buy fewer things. Every thing you buy needed energy to be produced and used energy to be transported to you.
choose durable items over disposable ones and if something does break, try to repair it rather than throwing it away.
give things that you don't want anymore to someone who can use them. For example, give it to a goodwill store or offer it on Freecycle.
buy energy-efficient appliances (see above).
buy local produce.
eat less meat to reduce methane emmisions (methane is one of the greenhouse gases).
prefer companies that make efforts to reduce their emissions. See www.responsibleshopper.org
pre-cycle. For more information, see Environmental Defense Fund.
Get informed. The more you know about what global warming is, what problems it causes, and what we can do to slow it down, the more you will be able to convince others to make their contribution.
Talk to others about global warming and what they can do to curb it.
If it is still playing at a theater near you, watch the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth". Ask others to see it.
Set a good example with your actions.
Make your voice heard
vote for the candidate who is more likely to implement measures for the protection of our environment
support an environmental group, for example the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund.
write to your political leaders to urge them to raise fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon. Taking this step would save nearly 4 million barrels of oil a day.
write to your representatives to support measures that accelerate the use of clean, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind
Donate and invest your money
purchase carbon offsets to neutralize your emissions.
support the preservation of forests around the world. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
donate money to an environmental organization (see above).
invest your money into alternative energy. See New Alternatives Fund.
If you have a house or want to buy or build one
generate your own electricity by using solar panels. Creating energy with solar panels creates no carbon dioxide.
if you can't or don't want to have solar panels on your roof, switch to an energy provider that generates at least half of its power from wind, solar energy, or other clean sources. Even if you can't chose your energy provider, you may still be able to support green power through an option on your electricity bill.
plant shade trees around your house -- they will absorb carbon dioxide and reduce the usage of your airconditioners in the summer.
make sure your house is insulated well.
install new windows that meet or exceed the EnergyStar specifications. Look for a U-factor of 0.35 or lower and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of 0.35 or lower.
If you own a business
check out GreenBiz to learn what your company can do to protect the climate and why it should do that.
Websites about global warming (a small selection)
Natural Resources Defense Council
Environmental Defense Fund
Union of Concerned Scientists
EPA's global warming website for students
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change