You Can Fight Global Warming, Authors Urge

National Geographic News
April 22, 2003

It's Earth Day and time to focus on what you can do for our planet.

If only one-third of the U.S. population would simply tweak a few daily habits, according to the authors of a new book published today, enough carbon dioxide would be saved to achieve the United States' original emissions-reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol.

What is more, they say, each household that makes the effort could save as much as U.S. $2,000 a year.

You Can Prevent Global Warming (and Save Money): 51 Easy Ways, is written by Jeffrey Langholz, environmental policy expert at Monterey Institute of International Studies, California, and Kelly Turner, an environmental writer based in New York City.

"We wanted to empower concerned citizens—to show them easy things they can do locally to help tackle an important global issue," the authors write in the introduction. "We wanted to put money back in their wallets—an average of [U.S.] $2,000 per household…Finally, we wanted to show that economic growth and environmental protection can go hand in hand."

In March 2001, the United States formally withdrew support for the international global warming treaty called the Kyoto Protocol. One of the major concerns cited was that trying to reduce the nation's gas emissions could hurt the economy. "This book addresses that concern head on," say Langholz and Turner, "showing clearly how we can prevent global warming and improve individual households' economic outlook."

The goal set by the authors is that if enough people (35 percent of the U.S. population) can be persuaded to follow their suggestions, they can reduce U.S. emissions to the level the Kyoto Protocol targeted. "As governments worldwide continue debating how to deal with global warming, individuals can choose to forge ahead now, helping both the planet and themselves."

You Can Prevent Global Warming focuses entirely on conserving energy, reducing the demand for fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) by becoming more careful and efficient in everyday usage of electricity, home heating, and gasoline. "By telling you how to conserve 'energy,' we're telling you how to conserve fossil fuels," the authors say.

Reduced burning of fossil fuels will cut the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, especially in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). Greenhouse gases, which also include methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) and a variety of other gases, trap the sun's heat in the atmosphere and cause a gradual warming of the Earth.

While some scientists dispute that the worldwide trend towards higher temperatures over the past century has been caused by industrial emissions, there is a large body of evidence to indicate that the warming of the Earth is changing climate patterns. This in turn impacts ecosystems, agriculture, and the spread of disease.

Warming is also causing glaciers to retreat and the ice caps to fragment and melt. If the trend continues, sea level will rise, posing the threat of inundation to coastal cities and entire island countries.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Continued on Next Page >>


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