What You Can Do
If you think stopping climate change is a massive challenge for the world, you're right. Even the Kyoto protocol, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in industrialized countries to 5% below 1990 levels by 2012, is just a start - and most countries can't - or won't - even go that far. In fact, GHG emissions are way up from 1990 levels.
Actually, many experts feel that GHG emissions will have to be 80% below 1990 levels to make any difference! And that will involve a massive change in the way people everywhere do almost everything.
That said, we have to start somewhere and the good news is that there are some countries that have actually met their Kyoto goals already. Germany has lowered emissions 9 percent since 1991 and is looking at another 40-percent reduction by 2020. The United Kingdom cut emissions by 8 percent since 1990 and hopes to reduce them 60 percent by 2050.
There are lots of things the average person can do, right away, to help lower GHG emissions. The good news is most of these options are not that hard to do and even save money. Here are a few to consider:
- Drive your car less, or not at all. Vehicles produce about half of all GHGs in Canada.
- Use active transportation, like walking or biking. It may take less time and effort than you think to commute on foot or by bicycle - perhaps less time than it takes to drive to a gym for a workout.
- Try car-pooling or take public transit.
- When purchasing a new car, aim at a 25 percent improvement in energy performance. For example, the Toyota Echo (the greenest conventional vehicle on the market) is relatively inexpensive, extremely reliable, an ultra low emissions vehicle, and gets up to 55 MPG on the highway. Hybrid vehicles are more expensive but they are even better for the environment. For one thing, they get better gas mileage - up to 85 MPG - in the city than on the highway.
- Residential energy use is the second biggest source of GHGs produced by individuals. One easy thing to do is to turn down your thermostat at night and use heavier blankets to keep warm.
- Improving the weather seal and insulation in your house can cut energy use dramatically. Look at getting a household energy audit to see where improvements can be made.
- Turn off lights when not in use and switch to compact florescent light bulbs, which provide the same level of lighting from one seventh of the power.
- When buying new appliances, choose EnergyStar-rated models that are the most energy efficient in their class. PST rebates are now available on many of these appliances.
- Cut hot water use in the shower by up to two thirds by replacing your showerhead with a low flow version. Use energy efficient clothes and dishwashers, which use less water and especially less hot water, and use cold water and cold water detergents for laundry.
- Buy less new stuff. Manufacturing most products uses energy. Whenever possible, avoid buying unnecessary things or buy used products.
Visit the federal Eco-Action site for more ideas on what to do about climate change.