What’s Really Scary?

What’s scarier than the 2016 Presidential debates? The bad news that worldwide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – at more than 400 parts per million (ppm) – are at record levels, without much chance of dropping below the designated “safe” level of 350 ppm anytime soon. The good news is that enough nations have now ratified the United Nations’ Paris Agreement, so that it will enter into force on November 4, 2016. Last week we promised, as a Halloween treat, to spend the month of October giving you concrete proposals for reducing your own carbon footprint. Here’s the second set:
  1. Shop smart. Buy products with less packaging, over similar products with more packaging. Not only will you save money; you’ll also help the environment. Choose recycled products when possible, and recycle as much of your household waste as you can. You can reduce CO2 emissions by 1,200 pounds if you reduce your garbage by 10 percent. Recycling half of your household waste can save up to 2,400 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
  1. Live smart. Little changes in habits can contribute in a big way to carbon footprint reduction. Replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescents, washing laundry in cold water, using low-flow toilets and shower heads, and keeping your thermostats two degrees higher in summer and two degrees lower in winter are all steps that add up to dramatic reductions in your household carbon dioxide emissions.
  1. Invest smart. Speak to the managers of your pension funds, your insurance companies, your charitable foundations and your universities to let them know you want them to take environmental and social issues into account when they invest: For example, a move away from fossil fuel investment and toward other, more environmentally-friendly holdings in the energy sector like solar and wind. Shifting capital into these types of investments does not have to limit returns. Often, given the increasing popularity of so-called “impact” investing, values-aligned investments produce positive, measurable results.
How widespread is public support in the United States for utilizing alternative renewable energy sources like solar to address cost and environmental concerns? According to a new Pew Research Center survey, it is quite strong. Eighty-nine percent of American adults favor expanding use of solar panel farms, while only nine percent oppose it. Among people who have installed solar power in their own homes, the main reasons were both practical and altruistic: Ninety percent wanted to save money on utility bills, while 87% wanted to help the environment. Only 60% cited the solar investment tax credit as a deciding factor, even though the federal tax credit for solar projects scheduled to expire at the end of 2016 has been extended for five years.

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