What can we do as individuals to reduce global warming?

(Please note: This document is somewhat rough and far from comprehensive. It’s designed simply to stimulate some ideas for action.)

Assembled by Myra Armstrong and Jon Nimitz

SOURCES OF INFORMATION

The Earth Holder community in our tradition has been formed to apply Thay’s deep teachings about falling in love with Mother Earth, mindful living, and compassionate action to the climate crisis in order to heal and transform individual, collective, and planetary suffering. Articles are available at earthholder.training including the Earth Peace Treaty Commitment Sheet, which lists many actions individuals can take to help the environment. The Earth Holder Community holds an online Sangha meeting the second Sunday of each month from 8:00-9:30 a.m. Pacific time. 

As you may know, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was started in 1988, to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options. It provides detailed reports on the current state of climate science, measurements, predictions, and policy recommendations. These reports are available at ipcc.ch/reports.

The bestselling 2017 book Drawdown by Paul Hawken reviews the 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming. It is available both in print and audio form from the Albuquerque Public Library. 

“World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” (Note: This may be one of the most important things you have ever read.) More than 11,000 scientists have signed this statement. They say: We suggest six critical and interrelated steps (in no particular order) that governments, businesses, and the rest of humanity can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change.” These six steps include 

  • quickly implementing massive energy efficiency and conservation practices and replacing fossil fuels with renewables
  • reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants including methane, soot, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). 
  • protecting and restoring earth’s ecosystems
  • eating mostly plant-based foods
  • limiting excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainability of the biosphere
  • stabilizing the world population

Statement at: academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806 

POPULATION CONTROL

The population of the planet must be stabilized to prevent further environmental destruction. Many family planning organizations are working on this. Several top-rated ones are listed here: charitywatch.org/top-rated-charities/reproductive-health-family-planning-abortion

THE FIVE R’S — REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, REPURPOSE, RECYCLE

Please think about this: 

“It’s just one plastic bottle,” said eight billion people.  If we can change our thinking, we will change our behavior. One recycled aluminum can saves enough electricity for three hours of TV. 

We can avoid buying unnecessary things. We can avoid taking disposable bags when not needed. We can buy higher-quality goods that last a long time and can be repaired rather than replaced. We can use reusable shopping bags, cups etc. 

HOME ENERGY CHECKUPS

PNM and other power companies offer home energy checkups, where they send someone to review home energy efficiency. The charge by PNM is very low, $15-$45 depending on the level of inspection. The cost includes replacing any incandescent light bulbs with high-quality LEDs, and one or two smart power strips ($30 value each) that can greatly reduce “leakage current” while electronics are turned off. To reduce water waste, it also includes two low flow showerheads, and replacement aerators for the kitchen faucet and two other faucets. 

The checkup can include an inspection of a refrigerated air conditioning unit to see if it is operating properly or needs a tune-up. Recommendations are also made regarding other appliances and hot water heaters. One checkup is offered during the lifetime of each account (an owner at an address). The energy savings easily run into hundreds of dollars and thousands of kilowatt-hours, with significant reduction in carbon emissions. 

Additional information and scheduling is available at pnm.com/checkup or phone (855) 775-6491.

FOODS

Moving toward a more plant-based diet can reduce our dependence on cattle, which produce methane and contribute to deforestation. More about vegetarianism and veganism here:  theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/04/climate-change-impact-vegetarian

Does diet make a difference to the planet? “According to a  recent study released by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), changes in American diets have contributed to a 9% reduction in an individual’s diet-based carbon footprint from 2004 to 2015.”    medium.com/the-mission/is-going-vegan-actually-helping-battle-climate-change-733d946b5226

The bottom line on food: In light of your own needs, do as much as you can do to move your diet in the direction of more fruits, vegetables, and grains, and less meat.

Most food waste is from foods thrown out after their “best by” date, not from leftovers. If a leftover is getting too old or showing signs of decay, for safety by all means “when in doubt, throw it out.” However, many other packaged foods are safe and can be used after their “best by” dates. 

TRANSPORTATION

“Transportation is the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases in the United States today and the bulk of those emissions come from driving in our cities and suburbs.” The New York Times interactive map in this article shows that theAlbuquerque metro area has had a 66% increase in emissions since 1990, and a per person 10% increase in emissions since 1990.                nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/10/climate/driving-emissions-map.html 

We can make greater use of walking, bicycles, public transportation, and carpools. We can use higher-mileage, more energy efficient vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles. We can reduce unnecessary travel, and combine errands for efficiency. 

ELECTRICITY

LED bulbs provide high quality light and use about 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They are now available for most lighting needs. Simple ones cost under $2 each and can save $100 in electricity over their 15-year lifetimes. 

In summer, minimizing use of refrigerated air conditioning can save a lot of electricity. 

Renewable, non-CO2 generating solar and wind power are gaining market share. Perhaps it’s time to begin exploring your options for using solar and wind power?

CARBON SEQUESTRATION

There are ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For example, trapped CO2 can be injected into subsurface rock formations for long-term storage. Improved farming methods can retain more organic (carbon-containing) materials in the soil. 

Experiments have shown that fertilizing the oceans with modest amounts of iron can lead to great increases in phytoplankton, which absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and sinks to lower depths, removing it from the atmosphere for decades or longer. 

PLANTING MORE TREES

Protecting trees, preventing deforestation, and planting more trees are ways to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, and these are certainly worthwhile. It can be a part of the solution. However, calculations have shown that there’s not enough space on earth to plant enough trees to remove all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There’s an article at sciencealert.com/here-s-what-tree-planting-can-actually-do-for-the-climate-according-to-science 

USING EMISSION CREDITS TO REDUCE CARBON FOOTPRINT

The average person in the U.S. generates the equivalent of about 28 metric tons (61,000 pounds) of carbon dioxide per year.  At terrapass.com you can quickly calculate your total carbon footprint by entering your vehicles, approximate annual mileage, electric bills, natural gas bills, and airline travel. 

There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint. One of the easiest and cheapest is by buying offsetting emission credits. Emission credits are sold by organizations to fund projects to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. They are overseen by auditors and standards organizations that make sure the reductions are legitimate. You can read about these projects at terrapass.com. Examples are capturing and using methane emissions from coal mines and landfills.

At this site for $5 you can buy an emission credit to offset 1000 pounds of CO2 emitted. One or two of these can offset an airline trip. To have a completely zero carbon footprint a person with average greenhouse gas generation could buy 60 of these credits a year for $300, or equivalently subscribe to five a month at $25.

Is buying carbon offsets enough? No, it’s a temporary measure and we still need to do whatever we can in our lives to reduce carbon emissions. 

POLITICAL ACTION

David Suzuki, in TEN WAYS YOU CAN HELP FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE says that one of the most important things we can do to fight the climate crisis is to vote for people who understand and accept the science of of climate change. Vote for leaders at all levels of government who take climate change seriously. They should commit to setting science-based targets to reduce harmful carbon emissions, implementing clear plans to reach those targets, adapting to climate change and shifting to a clean-energy economy.” Carbon taxes or cap-and-trade limits are options being used in California as well as Canada and some European countries. davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/top-10-ways-can-stop-climate-change/

If you wish to make donations to any Democratic candidates of your choice across the country you can at actblue.com. There’s a similar site for Republican candidates at winred.com.

The most effective “bang for the buck” may be to find the closest races nationwide and donate to the candidates of your choice in those races, preferably after the primaries. The Senate may be more likely to change hands than the House of Representatives in the 2020 election. Current polls show that the closest Senate races are in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky (Mitch McConnell’s seat), North Carolina, and Maine. These days political donations are often also environmental donations. 

Along with voting for environmentally conscious candidates, one of the most important things that we can do is communicate! We can talk about the issues with our friends. And we can communicate our ideas and concerns with our elected officials. Contact information for government officials is listed below, as are many of the top-rated environmentally-oriented charities.

CONSUMER CULTURE MUST CHANGE

“Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is the Disease” “Transportation (cars, buses, trucks, and planes) leads in greenhouse gas emissions, while electricity (coal and natural-gas power plants) is a close second. Industrial goods and services are third; buildings, fourth; and agriculture, fifth…This way of measuring blame, however, misses something crucial: people. These industries are spouting carbon because customers demand their products: travel, electronics, entertainment, food, all sorts of stuff. 

 “C40 Cities, a network of 94 of the world’s biggest cities, released a report on Wednesday, stating that “Individual consumers cannot change the way the global economy operates on their own, but many of the interventions proposed in this report rely on individual action.” “It is ultimately up to individuals to decide what type of food to eat and how to manage their shopping to avoid household food waste. It is also largely up to individuals to decide how many new items of clothing to buy, whether they should own and drive a private car, and how many personal flights to take.”

And this individual action must occur collectively. Put more bluntly, [to protect the planet for future generations] it will require personal sacrifice from our entire society. We will have to fly less, drive less, Uber less. We will have to eat less red meat, drink less dairy, waste less food, and generally buy less [stuff] that we don’t need.”        newrepublic.com/article/154147/climate-change-symptom-consumer-culture-disease

Thay has said “If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth, we will have enough love, strength, and awakening to look after ourselves and the Earth so that we both can  thrive.”

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

President Donald Trump, White House: Comments: 202-456-1111. Switchboard: 202-456-1414

U.S. Department of Justice: 202-353-1555

U.S. Senators’ Washington DC phone numbers and websites (with e-mail options)   senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state

U.S. Representatives’ DC phones: house.gov/representatives/find/

Office of the Mayor of Albuquerque, Tim Keller: Phone: (505) 768-3000,                                             E-Mail:  cabq.gov/mayor/contact-us/email-the-mayor

Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Phone: 505-476-2200 or toll free  (833) 520-0020. E-mail:  governor.state.nm.us/contact-the-governor/

U.S. Congressman for NM Ben Ray Lujan ,  3200 Civic Center NE Suite 330, Rio Rancho,  Phone: (505) 994-0499. Other offices at bottom of web page: lujan.house.gov/

U.S. Congresswoman for NM, Deb Haaland: 400 Gold Avenue SW, Suite 680, Albuquerque, Phone: (505) 346-6781.

U.S. Senator for NM Tom Udall, Local: 400 Gold Avenue SW, Suite 300, Albuquerque, Phone: (505) 346-6791.

U.S. Senator for NM Martin Heinrich, Local: 400 Gold Avenue SW, Suite 1080, Albuquerque, Phone: (505) 346-6601

TOP-RATED ENVIRONMENTALLY FOCUSED CHARITIES

How to go about finding non-profit organizations to donate to or work with? 

Charity Navigator can help you to find the charities that meet your needs. charitynavigator.org Similarly, Charity Watch also ranks charities at charitywatch.org

You will find the top-rated environmental action charities from these two rating organizations here and here.

Here are some relevant Four Star Charities, with a brief mission statement for each: 

350.org, “building a global grassroots climate movement that can hold our leaders accountable to the realities of science and the principles of justice…”  350.org 

American Rivers, “protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature…” americanrivers.org 

Center for Biological Diversity, “work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive…”  biologicaldiversity.org   

Conservation Fund, “Working with public, private, and nonprofit partners, protects America’s legacy of land & water resources through land acquisition, sustainable community & economic development, and leadership training, emphasizing the integration of economic & environmental goals.” conservationfund.org

Earthjustice, “preserve magnificent places and wildlife, protect people’s health, advance clean energy, and combat climate change”  Earth Justice defends the Earth in Court earthjustice.org  

EarthWorks,“protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions.” earthworks.org 

Environmental Defense Fund, “work to solve the most critical environmental problems facing the planet,..Since these topics are intertwined, our solutions take a multidisciplinary approach…work in concert with other organizations-as well as with business, government and communities.” edf.org  

Friends of the Earth, “to create a more healthy, just world. Our current campaigns focus on clean energy and solutions to global warming, protecting people from toxic and new, potentially harmful technologies, and promoting smarter, low-pollution transportation alternatives.” foe.org 

Green America, “to harness economic power – the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace – to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” greenamerica.org 

Greenpeace Fund, “to halt environmental destruction” greenpeacefund.org 

National Forest Foundation, “solely dedicated to improving these public lands [U.S. National Forests] for today’s and future generations.” Donations can go directly to tree planting programs. nationalforests.org   

Natural Resources Defense Council , “safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends..” “NRDC combines the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 500 lawyers, scientists, and policy advocates to secure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.” NRDC defends the Earth in Court. nrdc.org 

Pathfinder, International, “belief in the right of women and families to have access to contraception and to quality reproductive health care. Pathfinder works in remote locations, under the most difficult conditions, serving the most vulnerable people. We collaborate with governments, NGOs, and community- and faith-based organizations to make contraception available and provide the quality care needed to ensure safe childbirth and healthy families.” pathfinder.org 

Planned Parenthood Foundation of America, “America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care. For more than 100 years, Planned Parenthood has promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning. PPFA works to provide trusted community healthcare; inform and educated the community; lead the reproductive health and rights movement; and advance global health.” There is also International Planned Parenthood. plannedparenthood.org

Sierra Club Foundaton, “promotes climate solutions, conservation, and movement building…fiscal sponsor of the charitable programs of the Sierra Club” sierraclubfoundation.org   

Union of Concerned Scientists, “puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our  planet’s most pressing problems.” ucsusa.org 

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