Stars in the Fight Against Climate Change

As global warming and climate change continues to be an important issue and an increasingly prevalent part of the American conversation, here’s a look at some of its main activists.

 

 

In Hollywood

 

In HollywoodWhile there are too many Hollywood stars to name that are devoted to this issue, one stands above the rest because of his recent Oscar win as best actor. Leonardo Di Caprio has been acting for decades and finally won the grand prize this year. But he devoted almost all of his acceptance speech (broadcasted to the masses) to a message about climate change: “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” Watch the whole speech in the clip below.

 

 

In Washington, DC

 

In Washington DCSen. Bernie Sanders shares Leonardo’s view. Of the 2016 presidential candidates, he is by far the most dedicated to this issue, calling climate change “the single greatest threat facing our planet.” His solution? To invest in clean energy and create millions of jobs. In contrast, Donald Trump tweeted in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Here’s a recent NBC News story that gives an overview about how all of the presidential candidates feel about global warming and climate change.

 

 

Around the World

 

Around the WorldOne of the leading organizations that’s fighting climate change is 350.org, with an emphasis on uniting activists from around the world and implementing grass roots initiatives. One of its biggest fights in the U.S. was against the Keystone XL pipeline. According to Moyers & Company, 350.org was named for “what climate scientists say is the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — 350 parts per million (ppm). (We’ve now passed 400 ppm.)”

 

If you want to join the fight, here are some simple things you can do from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

   

3 Great Energy Conservation Websites for Kids

If you’re passionate about conserving energy and protecting our planet, one way you can help is by teaching the younger generation about energy conservation. These fun, interactive websites were created especially for kids and are filled with information about energy conservation. Pass on these links to the kids in your life.

 

 

energystar.gov/kids

 

energystar.gov.kidsFrom “The Quickest Ever Slideshow on Global Warming” to fun facts, this colorful site is filled with engaging activities and information. To show kids how they can save energy every day, it features a typical kid’s bedroom with interactive stars on items (click on “You Can Make Big Changes”). When you click on different stars, a window opens up to show how you can save energy with that particular item. Another neat feature is a section for parents and teachers (click on any internal page to see the gray “Parents & Teachers” tab on the bottom of the right side of the page) where you can download games and activities.

 

 

eia.gov/kids

 

eia.gov.kidsThis website from the U.S. Energy Information Administration also acts as a resource for teachers, providing a whole range of energy lessons across all subjects and grade levels. In addition to giving all the basic information on energy, it offers a wealth of games and activities, including riddles, puzzles, and quizzes. Kids can learn about the latest adventures of “Energy Ant,” who travels all over the country on different energy field trips.

 

 

epa.gov/climatechange/kids

 

epa.gov.climatechange.kidsThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers “A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change” on this informative website. Kids are invited to go on climate change expeditions around the world where they watch videos to learn about different issues and complete challenges. They’re also invited to calculate their own emissions with an interactive calculator. These are just two of the exciting experiences that help kids learn about climate change, its effects, and ways they can save energy to help stop it.

   

A Growing Energy Source: Renewable Natural Gas

Referred to as “the largest livestock manure-to-energy project of its kind,” Roeslein Alternative Energy will begin producing Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) this summer from nine Smithfield Foods’ hog farms in Missouri. When the project is completed, each year it will turn 850,000 tons of methane (which would otherwise go into the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming) into 2.2 billion cubic feet of RNG. That’s equal to 17 million gallons of diesel fuel!

 

 

A Whole New Level of Sustainability

 

A Whole New Level of SustainabilityBoth economically and environmentally, the technology makes sense and can be replicated worldwide. Blake Boxley, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Smithfield Hog Production, explains, “This project will show how farmers can do more than produce food. We can make energy, we can reduce waste, and we can be good stewards for our most important resources – land and water.”

 

 

“Manure Lagoons”

 

Manure LagoonsYes, there is such a thing. Eighty-eight of them, in fact, at Smithfield Foods’ hog farms. Phase one of the $120 million project began back in 2014 by creating covers for these manure lagoons. The covers keep methane gas from escaping into the atmosphere, keep the rain out, and as you can imagine, greatly improve the way the air smells! Phase two is underway which involves technology that purifies the methane gas and then connects it to the natural gas pipeline. The project is on schedule to be completed this summer.

 

 

Transforming America’s Heartland

 

Transforming America’s HeartlandTurning manure into energy isn’t the only transformation Roeslein Alternate Energy has in store for the Midwest. Future plans involve restoring prairie grasslands to produce prairie grass biomass that will also be converted into energy along with the manure. The prairie grass addition will double the project’s energy production and fund the transformation of marginal land into stretches of beautiful prairies filled with native wildlife.

   

UN Climate Change Conference Report

The latest United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris in November resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which was touted by President Obama as “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.” The agreement was made by no less than 195 nations – quite a feat when you think that if just one nation objected, no agreement would be made under UN rules. According to BBC News, the goal is to “cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature to a rise “well below” 2C (3.6F) compared to pre-industrial levels – a level of warming deemed to be the point when dangerous climate change could threaten life on Earth.”

 

 

The Rising Tide of Change

 

The Rising Tide of ChangeExperts say that to achieve this, fossil fuels will need to be eliminated in the later half of the 21st century. Otherwise massive droughts and flooding are just a few of the disastrous weather conditions future generations will have in store. To illustrate the point, ClimateCentral.org put together some alarming visuals of what some of the most iconic cities in the world will look like due to rising sea levels.

 

Another frightening look at rising sea levels is taken in this New Yorker article, “The Siege of Miami,” where the high-water mark has been steadily rising year by year – almost an inch each year. The article includes projections on rising sea levels by 2100: three feet (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), five feet (United States Army Corps of Engineers), and six and a half feet (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), respectively.

 

 

A Historic Turning Point, But…

 

A Historic Turning PointWhile the Paris Agreement is generally recognized as a defining moment in the climate crisis, it lacks certain key elements, such as how it will be enforced. At any rate, the next step is to get it ratified. This entails a few caveats. Each country must approve it within their own country. No less than 55 countries must approve it. And those 55 countries must be responsible for 55 percent of global CO2 emissions. That means it will most certainly need approval by China and the U.S. They are the largest polluters according to Statista, with China being the largest CO2 emitter at 28.03 percent of global emissions and the U.S. at 15.9 percent. Other top emitters are India at 5.81 percent; Russia at 4.79 percent; and Japan at 3.84 percent.

 

 

To learn more about the Paris Agreement, visit the UN’s Information Hub for the conference.

   

“The Heat Is On”

The Heat Is On - In-Text ImageToday we feature Pennsylvania’s current Secretary of Planning and Policy, John Hanger. Secretary Hanger is a graduate from Duke University and the University Of Pennsylvania Law School and was formerly the Secretary of Environmental Protection of Pennsylvania from September 2008 through January 2011. He has an immense amount of passion and experience in environmental, energy, and green economy issues.

 

 

Q: When did your passion for protecting the environment begin?

 

The Heat Is On - Quote 1A: Like many children, I liked animals. I was born in Kenya and so the natural environment and wildlife were very vivid. As I grew older, I realized the importance of clean air and water, both of which are vital to public health and a good quality of life. As the huge amounts of heat trapping gas goes into the atmosphere and changes the world’s climate, my concern for environmental issues continues to grow. Indeed, the last five years have been the warmest five-year period since modern temperature records started; 2014 was the warmest year; and now 2015 will smash the warmest year record again. The heat is on and increasing.

 

 

Q: How did you become involved in energy conservation and what advice do you have for people wanting to enter this industry?

 

A: After law school, I began developing a deeper interest in the environment and energy in my first law job in the Energy Project at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. I got a lot of responsibility early, and it was sink or swim time. I worked hard to master information. Preparation is a key to success in any activity. Prepare well by improving writing skills and learning basic statistics. Meet people and show that you are passionate and well prepared.

 

 

Q: What environmental protection and energy conservation topics are most frequently brought up in government discussion?

 

A: Reducing air and water pollution as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency are among the most frequent topics. Addressing climate change is the most important environmental topic.

 

 

Q: What’s new in the energy conservation industry that’s exciting to you?

 

A: Better lighting technology, declining costs of energy storage, creation of better batteries. Better batteries and energy storage will allow renewable energy to provide power all day and all night. It will allow families and businesses to leave the electrical grid. Better batteries will also make electric vehicles more practical for transportation.

 

 

Q: If you could tell the world about only one way to conserve energy, what would it be?

 

A: Use the most fuel efficient means of transportation possible, whether it be walking, biking, public transit, or a high fuel efficiency private vehicle.

 

 

Q: How do you envision our world in 50 years?

 

A: If we address, and control, climate change, the temperatures will still go up about three to four degrees. If we don’t address climate change, the temperatures will be higher and produce devastating changes. The heat is on and increasing. We must all act now or our children and grandchildren will be far from happy with us.

 

 

Q: Any final thoughts on energy conservation?

 

A: Everyone can make a difference by using energy wisely and supporting renewable energy sources. And everyone should vote. Please also educate yourself about the positions of candidates on climate change and the environment.

   

10 Ways to Save Energy in Five Minutes or Less

Now that it’s getting colder and the holiday madness is approaching, here are some super simple ways to save energy that you can fit into your busy schedule. They’re quick, painless, and require no knowledge of anything remotely mechanical. If you’re handy with a caulk gun, go ahead and seal up those nooks and crannies around the windows. If you know your way around air filters and heating units, knock yourself out. But for the rest of us clueless souls, read on…

 

 

#1- Turn down your heat thermostat

#1: Turn down your heat thermostat before you leave for work.

 

Then, turn it back up when you return home. If you have a programmable thermostat, it does this for you, requiring even less effort! You should lower it by 10 to 15 degrees.

 

 

#2- Turn down your hot water thermostat

#2: Turn down your hot water thermostat.

 

The optimal temperature here is in the range of 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

 

#3- Shut doors and close vents in unused rooms

#3: Shut doors and close vents in unused rooms.

 

 

 

#4- Use your curtains on windows facing south and west

#4: Use your curtains on windows facing south and west.

 

Open them up on sunny days and close at night for extra insulation.

 

 

#5- Wash your clothes in cold water

#5: Wash your clothes in cold water.

 

The bulk of the energy used by a washing machine is to heat the water. Clothes don’t require warm or hot water to be cleaned – in fact, cold water actually preserves color. To learn more, read this article by Real Simple: Does Washing Clothes in Cold Water Really Get Them Clean?

 

 

#6- Decorate your Christmas tree with LED lights

#6: Decorate your Christmas tree with LED lights.

 

(This technically still takes only five minutes if you order them online and have them shipped to your door.)

 

 

#7- Increase your inside temperature with your ceiling fan

#7: Increase your inside temperature with your ceiling fan.

 

Reverse the motor on your ceiling fan so it turns clockwise. (This is as simple as flipping a switch or it may even be a button on a remote control). Keep the fan on a low setting and it will push down the warmer air near the ceiling.

 

 

#8- Check your TV’s brightness setting

#8: Check your TV’s brightness setting.

 

Try a lower setting and use less energy. Considering the average American watches five hours of TV per day, this could actually add up to quite a bit of energy savings.

 

 

#9- Unplug electronics you don’t use on a daily basis

#9: Unplug electronics you don’t use on a daily basis.

 

Learn more about slaying vampire power here.

 

 

#10- Make an appointment to get an energy audit

#10: Make an appointment to get an energy audit.

 

Most local power companies offer these for free and you’ll have completed the very first step to bigger and better energy savings.

 

So there you have it. Even taking just five minutes out of your day can make a difference. If you need more encouragement, here’s some of the latest news on global warming and climate change.

   

Save Energy and Enjoy the Tiny House Lifestyle

There’s a whole “tiny house” movement in the U.S. that’s appealing for a number of reasons, one of the most compelling being that tiny houses significantly lower your carbon footprint. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 80 percent of a house’s greenhouse gas emissions over its lifespan are due to fuel consumption and electricity. Since most tiny houses are only 400 square feet at their largest – as opposed to the average American’s house of 2,600 square feet – they obviously have less space to heat and cool and use much less fuel and electricity.

A Stepping Stone to Financial Freedom

A Stepping Stone to Financial FreedomWhile conserving energy is top of mind these days as a way to protect our natural environment and stop global warming, there are other very real benefits to downsizing. According to a survey conducted by the Demand Institute, 40 million Americans are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing payments, property taxes, and other home expenses. Another survey by Bankrate.com revealed that 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. The tiny house movement says that you don’t need to live your life saddled with a mortgage payment. Instead you can use that money to travel or enjoy other adventures. Speaking of traveling, that’s another benefit of a tiny house – you can literally put it on wheels and take it with you.

Choosing Experiences Over Stuff

Choosing Experiences Over StuffCornerstone to the tiny house movement is the idea that when you clear the clutter from your life, you can focus on what makes you happy. Financial freedom means you have more time to do what you want, and when in a tiny house, it goes without saying that you’ll spend a whole lot less time doing chores around the house. To learn more, check out this video where tiny house owners talk about what living in a tiny house means to them.