Last month, President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, sending the media and political pundits on both sides into a frenzy. Those on the left argued the United States had abdicated its status as a world leader, while those on the right maintained it was a sound fiscal decision. There probably is some truth to both contentions, and, notwithstanding our withdrawal from the Paris accord, the United States arguably remains the world leader in reducing carbon emissions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions in 2015 were approximately 12 percent below 2005 levels. The right argues the president’s decision was less about his reluctance to accept human activity is responsible—at least in part—for climate change than it was the economic impact on taxpayers and workers, and there is no question the United States was bearing more than its fair share of the costs, a position the left maintains is warranted by virtue of our relative wealth. Both the left and the right appear to be focused only on the politics, and neither side seems to be very much concerned with the science itself.
The politics-vs.-science arguments surrounding climate change certainly are not new. In August 2015 and October 2016, I touched on those issues in this blog. Personally, I accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity does contribute to climate change. What many of us can’t—or won’t—agree on is the amount of that contribution relative to the total effects. And regardless of whether we participate in international climate accords, I believe the United States will continue to pursue greenhouse-gas-reduction strategies at all (that includes federal, state, and local) government levels and throughout the private sector. With energy-consumption-reduction strategies widespread in enterprises of all types and sizes and a growing demand for green-building certifications of various degrees, the United States will no doubt meet its emission-reduction goals—which even under the terms of the Paris accord were strictly voluntary—whether we are part of an international compact or not.
For those of us actively engaged in sustainability activities, whether professionally or as volunteers, we need to support that effort on an individual basis. To do that, we need to have facts, not hyperbole. Rather than risk being misled by talking heads, we should do our own research, make our own decisions, and then take appropriate action. Regardless of our political beliefs, there is nothing controversial about wanting a healthier planet and saving money and natural resources by using less energy and water. Reducing energy consumption is not just an environmental issue, either; by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we make our nation more secure.
There are little things we all can do to conserve energy and water:
- Recycle and encourage others to do the same.
- Don’t idle our cars for long periods (here in South Florida, where air conditioning is required year-round, it’s a common practice).
- Set our thermostats a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer.
- Install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or, even better, LEDs when our older bulbs burn out.
- Unplug TVs and computers (and other devices with parasitic loads) when they’re not in use.
- Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible.
- Use a drying rack or clothesline instead of machine drying.
- Take shorter showers and install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
- Plant drought-tolerant native plants.
- Walk, bike, or carpool to work and ask about telecommuting.
- Use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water.
- Carry a reusable water bottle.
This list is obviously not all-inclusive, but it’s a good—and non-partisan—start!