By: Karen Dante
Every Friday, like clockwork, my family gathers around the dinner table and we all share a new fact we learned that week. When it’s my turn, my parents say, “Here goes our biologist, Ms. Environment.”
I’ve been passionate about environmental issues since I studied plant botany in college, but I have to admit that my weekly enviro facts sometimes elicit a lukewarm “That’s nice, Karen…” response from my parents. They care about the environment, but my facts about the climate’s impact on plants seem pretty far removed from their daily lives. Lately, though, with record heat waves, and the Derecho that knocked our power out for 2 days, my parents have been asking me about climate change. Here’s what I’ve told them:
Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 °F over the past century, and these rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall – resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain – and more frequent and severe heat waves.
As weather events are caused by a combination of forces, no single event can be definitively attributed to climate change. However, the unusual events we’ve recently seen are consistent with what scientists expect to see with climate change.
There are many actions we can take to protect ourselves from the risks of climate change. In the United States, the largest human source of greenhouse gas emissions is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, and the largest users of electricity are our homes and businesses. Using more efficient products and appliances not only reduces carbon pollution, it can also save consumers money.
For example, half of your energy bill accounts for heating and cooling, roughly $1000 per year. By selecting ENERGY STAR products when replacing your cooling or heating equipment, you can cut your annual bill by more than $200.
Smaller investments can also reap big savings. The average home has approximately 30 light fixtures, and 12 percent of a typical home’s annual utility bill goes towards lighting costs. By replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures, or the bulbs in them, with ENERGY STAR certified lighting, you can save $75 each year.
Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, prevented 210 million metric tons of carbon pollution in 2011— equivalent to annual emissions from 41 million vehicles—and reduced their utility bills by $23 billion. While this alone won’t solve the problem of climate change, it is a step in the right direction.
My parents love the fact that since I started as a fellow at EPA, my enviro facts are coupled with practical advice on how to help the environment and save money too. With ENERGY STAR, you’ll save money while helping to keep yourself, and our planet, cool!
Author the Author: Karen Dante is an ORISE Fellow supporting the communications team in the Climate Change Division within the Office of Air and Radiation. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in biology and psychology from Queen’s University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy at John’s Hopkins University.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.