Given that global warming and catastrophic climate events now overshadow every part of our nation, and at an accelerating frequency and intensity, it is a relief to see we are finally being led to address this unfolding crisis. A few may be inclined to say “so what?” but I’m hopeful most of us care deeply about those currently suffering from the devastating effects of climate change, as well as leaving our children and grandchildren a world that’s not an environmental and economic disaster.
Four months ago, President Joe Biden provided us with a pragmatic and appropriately aggressive set of greenhouse gas reduction goals. Specifically, the goals are for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. While much of the changes needed to achieve these goals must be undertaken by various federal and state agencies, and many industries, the magnitude of the goals begs the question, how can I, or perhaps should I, have a role in achieving these goals. Fortunately, technologies and economic opportunities are readily available and require only a little flexibility and will.
To put the magnitude of our greenhouse gas emissions into context, in 2018, Ohio was ranked the 7th largest CO2 emitter state in the US. We emitted 209 million metric tons of CO2, or 18 metric tons per person. Roughly a third of that was the result of fossil fuel power generation.
Perhaps one the biggest opportunities to reduce the greenhouse gas emission is for households to install solar panels on the south facing portion of our roofs. Recently I discovered that, even here in one of the cloudiest parts of the country, a $13k investment in solar panels had a payback of 14 years. That’s equivalent to a guaranteed 8% return; far better than any CD rate. Also, if I traded-in a traditional car for an all-electric vehicle, the payback declines to roughly 4 years. Assuming I pay $100/month for home electricity and buy one tank of gas a week, the annual savings would be roughly $3,000/year.
If we do not have a southern facing roof on our home, or this is not a good time for us to trade-in a vehicle, there are many other smaller actions we can take to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. One is to change the air filter on our home furnace regularly. Changing that filter every 1-3 months for 1-2” thick filters, every 6-9 months for 3- to 4-inch thick filters, or every 9-12 months for 5-6” thick filters, can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 15%. If you’re spending $100 per month for AC that a big savings, and will keep your home temperature more even and reduce dust.
Another strategy we can employ to both curb climate change and reduce costs, is to reduce the amount of gasoline we consume. The average car in the US is driven 11,556 miles, gets 22.5 mpg, consumes 513 gallons per year, and emits 4.6 tons of CO2 per year. At $3 per gallon, that’s roughly $1,500 a year. We can significantly reduce both that cost and our greenhouse gas emissions, by switching to an electric or more fuel-efficient vehicle, making sure our tires are inflated to their rated pressure, making sure we change the air filter as often as recommended by the manufacturer, and driving less aggressively. Recently I found that by driving less aggressively I was able to reduce my fuel consumption by almost 20%. The reduction in stress and a $300 per year contribution to a nice weekend seems like a wise choice.
Having studied climate change for 50 years, and witnessed not only the climate disaster barreling towards us gaining momentum, but the development of economically viable solutions, I am compelled to urge all to take action. Most of us didn’t mean to contribute to global warming, but the fact is that we did, and each of us can take part in reining the worst of what is yet to come.
– George R Zadigian, Alliance