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|What can individuals in
the New York metropolitan region do to slow down climate change?
Individual actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
can help to slow climate change. Many actions have synergistic,
or "win-win" effects. Choosing modes of transportation,
new appliances, and building materials that are energy
save money in addition to reducing emissions. Planting
shade trees can both reduce emissions and raise property
values. Engaging with decision-makers can enhance the impact
of individual actions.
Slowing Down Climate Change
The burning of fossil fuels to produce energy and power
automobiles, deforestation from the harvest of timber products,
and the conversion of naturally-vegetated land to urban,
suburban, and agricultural areas have increased the concentration
of greenhouses gases, and particularly carbon dioxide (CO2),
in the atmosphere. Individuals can slow down climate change
by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases associated with
their daily energy consumption in the home and on the road.
Because each molecule of CO2 remains in the atmosphere
for ~100 years, reducing emissions today will continue
to have an impact on concentrations of CO2 for long time
periods. These actions can help to slow climate
change over decadal and century-long scales. Three main
areas in which individuals can take action relate to transportation,
and home and neighborhood.
The transportation sector accounts for about half of all
emissions of greenhouse gases in the region. By choosing
to drive less, form carpools, or use public transportation,
individuals can reduce their contribution to the release
gases. Individuals can also choose to purchase cars with
greater fuel efficiency. Those who travel frequently by
airplane may also want to consider that air travel is one
of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation of non-local foods to local supermarkets,
and transportation of waste to landfills and/or incinerators,
are also substantial sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Purchasing local foods and attempting to reduce waste thus
also reduces an individual's contribution to emissions.
Home and Neighborhood
Many strategies for reducing home energy use can cut
greenhouse gas emissions and also save money when reduced
energy use translates into lower energy bills. Individuals
choose to purchase energy-efficient home appliances, electronics,
office equipment, and light bulbs. The EPA Energy Star
program maintains an extensive list of energy efficient
products. People can also improve the insulation in their
homes to reduce energy required for heating and cooling,
add skylights to improve natural lighting, or consider
solar panels, a reflective roof or a vegetated roof ("green
roof"). Finally, residents with open space around
their homes can plant deciduous shade trees in strategic
locations. City-dwellers without yards can help to start
or support neighborhood tree-planting programs. Shade trees
can help reduce cooling bills in the summer. In addition
to reducing energy needs, trees can also store carbon dioxide
and remove pollution from the atmosphere.
Engaging with Decision-Makers and Others
Those who are concerned about the impacts of climate change
on their communities can express their concerns at community
board meetings, by voting for politicians who share their
views, by contacting elected officials, and by investing
in companies that take a progressive stance on climate
change. Engaging decision-makers, as well as local businesses
and neighbors, is an important step to reducing a community's
contribution to climate change.
American Forests, How to Plant a Tree http://www.americanforests.org/resources/howtoplanttrees/
Energy Savers, A consumer guide to energy
efficiency and renewable energy. U.S. Department of Energy,
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
EPA Energy Star Program
EPA Global Warming Visitor Center http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/VisitorCenterConcernedCitizens.html
Natural Resources Conservation Service,
United States Department of Agriculture, Trees in the Home
Safe Climate, Actions for Individuals http://www.safeclimate.net/action/
Print version (factsheet pdf)
||File last modified: 29 March 2005
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