« Back to Electricity Articles
Climate Change and What You Can Do To Help with the Problem in New York
The Industrial Revolution has brought humanity countless gifts. The internal combustion engine powers the tractors that till our farmland. The jet engine makes it possible for us to reach just about any place in the world. Humans have even managed to send probes to help us unlock the secrets of outer space. Unfortunately, all of these wonders have something in common. These and other modern necessities run on fossil fuels. The unceasing march of progress has contributed to an equally daunting challenge: Climate Change.
While some people disagree that humans are at least partially responsible for global warming, few dispute that the average surface temperature around the world has risen by at least 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since humans began burning fossil fuels on a large scale. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas that is released when organic and other kinds of matter are burned. Ordinarily, this carbon dioxide would be consumed by plants during photosynthesis. When fossil fuels are burned and forests are cut down, however, the planet's leafy greens aren't able to maintain the balance. Carbon dioxide levels have risen, trapping reflected sunlight in the Earth's atmosphere, causing a greenhouse effect.
What happens if the temperature rise predicted in global climate models really occurs? The anticipated results are pretty severe. The polar ice caps and other snow and ice deposits have been melting at a severe rate in the past couple decades, and the rate of melting seems to be increasing. (Those famous snows of Kilimanjaro probably won't be around for long.) This causes a rise in sea levels across the world. Coastal areas, typically the most densely inhabited across the world, may lose significant land mass, causing mass migrations that will place a lot of strain on inland areas. Agriculture could also suffer greatly. The optimal climate for crops that typically grow at lower latitudes will steadily head north. Those Florida orange groves could soon end up in Georgia, and so on. As nations struggle to adjust, the food supply could be interrupted, resulting in famine and increased international conflict over resources.
What You Can Do to Help
Sure, these consequences are pretty scary. There are some ways to reduce your personal impact on Climate Change. Best of all, these methods also help you keep some green in your pocket.
- Most electricity in the United States is generated by coal-fueled plants, so reduce the amount of juice you use. Everyone knows to turn out the lights when you leave a room, and that certainly helps. Did you know that many appliances use energy, even when they're not turned on? Your flat-screen TV, your cell phone battery charger, your laser printer; all of these can be plugged into power strips that can be shut off when these devices aren't in use.
- Drive smart. Yes, it feels great to gun the ignition and shoot your way up to the speed limit. This reduces your car's fuel efficiency, as more gasoline is used during a swift acceleration. When you are at cruising speed, snap on the cruise control. This smoothes out your rate of fuel use, decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide your car's engine releases into the atmosphere. This tip will also help you be a safer, more defensive driver!
- Thanks to deregulation in the energy industry, some states allow you to choose your provider, as well as the source of your electricity. Choose to receive energy generated by greener methods, including solar, nuclear and hydroelectric, wherever available.
- Get the word out to others. Dozens of mayors across the country have signed on to make a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their cities. In some places, government offices have even switched to a four-day work week. Find an environmental group in your area and join in on the activities that appeal to you. (Not everyone is cut out to march on Washington, but most people would feel comfortable replacing half a dozen conventional light bulbs in their home with more efficient ones.)
Put your green thumb to use. More plants means more carbon dioxide scrubbed from the air. Add some trees to your yard and the increased shade could reduce your summer cooling bills. Grow some veggies in your backyard and you'll also be able to enjoy your conservation efforts after you harvest them. Use a mulching lawn mower on your grass and use the clippings to fertilize the rest of your landscaping.
It can be discouraging at times to think about how little of an impact one person's effort can have. If all 300 million Americans joined in, however, those small contributions add up and can go a long way toward mitigating the effects of global Climate Change.