This letter is not directed to those who are confident that humans have no influence on climate change; rather it is directed towards those who do believe humans are a factor but are not yet active in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. According to the Yale climate opinion surveys (climatecommunication.yale.edu) the majority of American citizens believe human driven climate change is affecting the world’s populations yet only 40 percent believe it is impacting them personally. If all who acknowledge the scientific community’s assessments engaged in activities to address climate change we could make significant progress in reducing greenhouse gases and begin being part of the global solution by both converting to renewable energy sources and using energy more efficiently.
The World Bank (data.worldbank.org) tracks the per capita energy consumption of each country. Total energy use is converted into an equivalent weight in kilograms of oil. By this measure, the USA weighs in at 6,800 kg. Here’s a short list of other countries in comparison: Germany, 3,818 kg; France, 3,688 kg; Japan, 3,429 kg; United Kingdom, 2,764 kg; Italy, 2,482 kg; China, 2,237 kg; Mexico, 1,488 kg; and India, 637 kg. Compared to our European allies we are using 1.8-2.7 times as much energy. It is hard to make the case that our additional energy consumption is providing us a more comfortable or healthful life.
So each time you purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle, choose to recreate locally or buy food from local markets, lower your thermostat or heat a smaller portion of your home, abandon nighttime illumination, mark your voting ballet for measures or politicians that support greenhouse gas reduction and energy efficiency, consider it a gift to the planet and the life that depends on it — because it is. The recent record number and size of hurricanes and wildfires has caused many to pause and rethink. Now is the time to act.
DONALD J MILLER