September 7, 2008

How to Take Effective Action to Curb Climate Change

The September 2008 edition of Environment Magazine contains an article entitled "The Short List: The Most Effective Actions U.S. Households Can Take to Curb Climate Change".  The article is a collaboration between two scientists who specialize in the psychological aspects of climate change; the reasons why individual citizens do not take actions that would reduce their personal energy consumption, even when such changes can be achieved at no cost or allow money to be saved.

Paul C. Stern is director of the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Climate Change at the US National Research Council.  Gerald T. Gardner is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.  Together they conclude that:

Households lack accurate, accessible, and actionable information on how best to achieve potential savings through their own steps.

I urge you to read their report in full. Do it now. More than once. If you need more convincing, here is why I say that.  They open by saying that:

The U.S. Congress, presidential candidates, lobbyists, and political commentators have focused much of their attention lately on the need for policies to limit the United States’ contribution to climate change….. The debates presume that these policies will reverberate through the entire economy, and their advocates seem willing to wait, in some cases for decades, for that to happen.

These policy discussions have been strangely silent about a huge reservoir of potential for reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change that can be tapped much more quickly and directly. U.S. households account for about 38 percent of national carbon emissions through their direct actions, a level of emissions greater than that of any entire country except China and larger than the entire U.S. industrial sector. By changing their selection and use of household and motor vehicle technologies, without waiting for new technologies to appear, making major economic sacrifices, or losing a sense of well-being, households can reduce energy consumption by almost 30 percent—about 11 percent of total U.S. consumption.

There. Now go read the article in full!

Still here and need more convincing? Stern and Gardner conclude that lack of enough accurate information is the main stumbling block:

From a householder’s perspective, a desire to reduce carbon emissions, even combined with knowledge that doing so has net financial and environmental benefits, is insufficient to yield effective action unless that person knows which actions will produce the benefits. Available evidence indicates that although many householders are motivated, they lack the necessary knowledge to act.

There are lots of facts and figures in there, but we are going to concentrate here on what the report concludes is the single most effective action an individual United States citizen can take to reduce their personal energy consumption. Change how you use transportation.

Immediate low or no cost actions can potentially save 17.6 % of your household energy consumption.  Longer term, higher cost, actions can save another 15.0%. You can save, on average, 4.2% by carpooling to work with one other person. The additional immediate 13.4% saving is achieved by improving how you drive and maintain your own automobile. Having read Stern and Gardner's report do something else straight away. Find out more about the econnexus Econometer™. At very low cost it will allow you to master the skills of EcoDriving™ quickly and easily. Once you are an EcoDriver™ it will then also alert you if your automobile's fuel consumption increases unexpectedly, meaning some form of maintenance is required in the very near future.

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