By now you have most likely heard that our planet is undergoing a major climate change and natural resource crisis. The world is already experiencing higher temperatures and more frequent severe storm events, floods and droughts. Our lives are linked to weather and climate, and to energy use.
The good news is that we can avoid these most severe outcomes by implementing available clean energy and efficiency solutions. Many of these solutions provide immediate additional benefits including consumer savings on energy costs, cleaner air and water, and new jobs. We must begin implementing these available solutions today to prevent the worst effects of climate change and avoid the need for steeper and costlier emission reductions. We must act now to protect the health and economic well-being of our children and grandchildren.
Power plants and motor vehicles are the biggest sources of emissions in world. In order to tackle the problem, however, we must also reduce emissions from industry, businesses, and homes as well as other locally important sources such as landfills. In addition, improvements in forestry practices and agricultural soil management offer the potential for reducing emissions and storing carbon, a process that can be thought of as “negative emissions.”
To increase opportunities for storing carbon in trees and forest soils, there is need to plant more trees and discourage deforestation. It is a fact that planting trees results in net savings of annual heating and cooling. Maintaining and increasing urban tree cover not only stores carbon, but also reduces the urban heat effect by reducing solar radiation and air temperature.
Reducing emissions from cars and trucks, which account for 25 percent of the total emissions, requires: (1) better fuel economy; (2) burning fuel with lower carbon content; and (3) reducing vehicle miles traveled through smarter development policies and improved public transportation.
Solar energy could help to meet electricity demand during heavy use periods and is readily available for deployment in homes and businesses. Energy efficiency in homes and businesses both new and old has large potential to reduce emissions as well as energy costs.
Because global warming is already upon us and some amount of additional warming is inevitable, adapting to higher temperatures is now an essential strategy along with efforts to reduce emissions. Delay in reducing emissions increases the costs and limits the feasibility of adaptation, while taking aggressive steps to reduce emissions improves the likelihood that ecosystems and societies will be able to find effective ways to adapt.
Global warming represents an enormous challenge, but we can meet this challenge if we act swiftly. Countries have the opportunity to play a key role in curbing the threat of climate change. Citizens and companies worldwide must take immediate action to cut their own climatic change emissions and insist that local and national elected leaders implement responsible policy solutions. By acting now, we can protect the rich natural heritage, vibrant economy, and well-being of people and communities in the world. The emissions choices we make today in world will shape the climate that our children and grandchildren inherit.
The time to act is now.