This talk by James Sweeney of Stanford University greatly clarified my thinking about solutions to global warming:
His research shows that energy-efficiency is THE BIGGEST heavy hitter solution – it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions three to four times more, historically, than substitution by cleaner fuels. And so going forward, it promises to have a powerful place in our arsenal.
Energy-efficiency is also a rapid solution to the emerging climate crisis, which is important because time is not our friend in this fight.
Yet because you and I achieve efficiency in dozens of small, money-saving ways, we tend to ignore energy efficiency: It is not sexy.
But it does have the lovely motivational virtue of putting cash back in our wallets, and not sending nearly as much of it to fossil fuel companies.
For example: Your next car should offer very high fuel economy… a Toyota Prius getting 54 MPG will cost you only half the gasoline of a vehicle getting a disappointing 27 MPG – for a savings of an incredible $15,000 to $20,000 over the life of the vehicle!
Learn to spot unexploited efficiencies… literally, learn a new way to see.
Sweeney is director of Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency in Palo Alto, California, as well as senior fellow of the Hoover Institution. He is the author of the 2016 book showing data and conclusions that support this video, “Energy Efficiency: Building a Clean, Secure Economy.”
(Full disclosure: As a Lean Manufacturing practitioner and career-long cost accountant, when I realized that efficiency, applied across entire societies, is such a powerful global warming solutions tool, well… my “brain-candy” knob is now permanently stuck in the on-position.)
You might also check out Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute for more research on the powerful role energy-efficiency is playing in global warming solutions.
Sweeney’s research and book helped me answer a key question bugging me: “How does civilization decide which Vital-Few solutions to work on, and avoid working on the Trivial-Many?”
One answer: Go deeply into making what you already do more efficient. Learn a new way to see.
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Not sure how to start saving the planet (civilization, really)… Start by remembering Al Gore’s saying: “Hope is a renewable resource.” Keep your morale up.
Then, our immediate practical first step becomes “Deeply know our personal Superpowers,” those skills over which we all have 100% control:
1) To save the planet, CHANGE OURSELVES FIRST;
2) To save the planet, INVEST OUR WORKING LIVES;
3) To save the planet, USE OUR VOICES and take advocacy seriously in all its many flavors: Never miss a vote and never stop influencing your government. Influence the vast business world by voting with your buying power… business listens when you speak its language. Set a solid example in your personal life. Tell friends what we must do. Finally, have a carefully-chosen annual donor program. All of these are ways you can use your voice.
No one can take your personal power away. Stay focussed on the list of substantive global warming solutions.
And at all times, cast aside the “learned-helplessness” that infects so much of modern life… the time is now for action.
Never give up.
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