Bolstered by a sea change in public opinion about global warming, and victories like the recent Supreme Court Ruling, California's landmark carbon reduction laws, and New Hampshire's Town Meeting Resolutions, the conservation movement has never been healthier, the cause so commonly embraced.
Vogue has defined being green so hip it's "the new black," and last fall, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman declared green to be "the new red white and blue." Even Sports Illustrated put Global Warming on the cover earlier this year. And recent Gallup Polling shows support for tougher action by government and business to reduce pollution and increase renewable energy rising into the 80-90% range. Meanwhile support for nuclear power and drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has fallen." And as Academy Award Winner Al Gore stated again during his recent triumphant return to Capitol Hill, global warming is not only the greatest environmental challenge of our generation, but of generations to come.
We've all seen the news reports about the melting glaciers, suffering polar bears, and the other effects of global warming that we're starting to experience. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted with the very serious consequences awaiting us and future generations outlined in numerous reports. Fortunately, we have the technology to tackle global warming; now it's merely a matter of everyone stepping up and doing their part.
Obviously the recent Supreme Court decision on global warming is already having a momentum-building effect in Washington. But there have been other developments outside the beltway as well. In a recent move that should have reverberations across the country, a power company in Kansas City entered into a binding contract with the Sierra Club to entirely offset carbon dioxide emissions (a major source of global warming pollution) from a new coal-fired power plant. The company also committed to unprecedented investments in renewables, like wind power, and efficiency, and to work to change utility regulations in Kansas and Missouri to ensure that by 2020, Kansas City Power and Light reduces its emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 percent. The agreement represents a new standard for utilities, and it sends a strong signal that the coal rush is beginning to slow down. This agreement is a win for the environment, for the company and for the residents of the area. It is just the latest sign that smart energy solutions such as wind power and energy efficiency are gathering momentum and popularity -- and make economic sense.
The good news is, we can prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming if we reduce our carbon emissions by 2% each year, from now through 2050-this is achievable when individuals, governments and businesses work together.
And the news gets even better, because creating technology and new industries to tackle this challenge will create more jobs and boost the economy. Solving global warming will certainly require action at the federal level; however, there are many ways we all can be part of the "2% Solution." More and more cities and states across the country are also moving quickly to be part of the solution. Several Western states, and a large group of Northeastern states have all agreed to implement mandatory reductions in carbon emissions. At the local level, over 400 mayors are taking the lead in fighting global warming by signing the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. They are greening their city fleets with hybrids and other highly-efficient vehicles-cutting both carbon emissions and fuel bills. They are also working hard to make sure green power from sources like wind and solar is available and that government buildings are designed (or upgraded) to use energy as efficiently as possible. In the last several weeks in New Hampshire, over 150 town have voted to pass resolutions calling on the Federal government to take immediate action to curb global warming while also setting up a local energy task force to find ways for their town to use cleaner energy and become more energy efficient.
Being part of the "2% Solution" can start right at home. It may sound like a cliche to some, but simply replacing your old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with modern energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs can make a big difference. Not only do they last much longer, but their highly-efficient design means you'll spend less on energy every month. If every family America changed just five of their light bulbs, it would be like taking 8 million cars off the road. Making sure you buy the most energy-efficient appliances-everything from TVs to dishwashers to air conditioners will also shrink your carbon footprint right along with your energy bills. And while upgrading your cars, appliances, and things like the windows in your house are certainly not as easy as changing a lightbulb, federal, state, and local governments offer thousands in tax incentives to help offset the initial cost of many such investments.
Finally, you can help fight global warming at home by making sure the power you do use comes from clean, renewable sources like wind and solar. Most utilities offer green power alternatives. By purchasing green power, you'll be reducing your carbon footprint and helping to jumpstart the development of renewable energy resources.
Earth Day, April 22, is not too far away. By working together to be a part of the "2 percent solution," we can make sure that the next generation will have as beautiful a day in 2050.
Carl Pope is Executive Director of Sierra Club. His regularly blogs at Taking the Initiative. The Sierra Club has 1.3 million members, making it the largest oldest and arguably the most influential grassroots environmental organization.
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