number of “inconvenient truths” – because the science behind climate change does not only show case the damage that human activities are cause to our planet and to our health, but they have raised questions about whether our economy, infrastructure and technology can deliver a low carbon world which would ensure temperatures do not rise to dangerous levels.
Unfortunately, 85% of the current global energy system is based on fossil fuels. Less than 2% of today’s global energy demand is met by wind and solar¹. We also know – or estimate using the best available evidence – that by the end of this century, nearly all of the economically recoverable fossil fuels will be gone. From now until then this shortage will lead to an increase in price².
We also know that carbon dioxide, emitted among other things through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal natural gas and oil, accounts for a large chunk of our greenhouse gas emissions. In the US, carbon dioxide represents 81% of greenhouse gas emissions³.
So, what do we do in the face of all these facts? Shutting down all activities powered through or using fossil fuels is not a practical solution until other technologies have emerged to close the gap. But the pressures of climate change are such that we need to be decreasing emissions at a fast rate. One solution emerges: conserving fossil fuels. This would decrease carbon dioxide emissions but it would also mean less damage to the environment, for example by somewhat decreasing the pressure to extract fossil fuels⁴.
There are many large and smaller scale ways to conserve fossil fuels, the top five that you can introduce to your lifestyle are listed below:
Be energy efficient
Energy efficiency is key to minimising carbon dioxide but also to reducing costs for any household. It seems like a no-brainer. But very often, because energy efficient appliances use a lot less energy to perform the same task, we just end of using more of them which just leads to the same climate impacts. So be efficient about how you use your heating, electricity or how often you use your washing machine. Also, don’t forget that insulation multiplies the effects of energy efficiency. Better insulation means that less heat escapes from your home, which means it gets warmer faster and using less energy.
Many home owners are also investing in their own energy sources by installing solar panels to help heat their house. This helps bring energy costs down as well as conserving fossil fuels and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The good news is that it is not just solar that can have such positive impacts. The same could be said of small wind turbines placed appropriately as well as geothermal heat pumps.
Plastic is not that fantastic
Plastic is practically all around us but many of us realise that it is made out of fossil fuels. Not only that, but very often it is not recycled and plastic items end up simply aggravating our waste management system. What is more, a lot of plastic items are single-use items, e.g. plastic cutlery, plates, cups, bags or other packaging. So do not use plastic bags and avoid plastic packaging.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Refuse products
Making new products uses up fossil fuels; it is therefore important to reuse and recycle products to minimise the need for producing new ones. This is important for a lot of products used with materials derived from fossil fuels, e.g. think of the plastic parts and casing of your pc, or because most products require energy to be manufactured which is in turn mainly powered by fossil fuels. What would be even better – though a lot harder to implement – would be to refuse to buy products made from fossil fuels, particularly when other options exist. For example, why buy something in plastic packaging when it is available in paper packaging?
Opt for active travel options
Transport is a key contributor to emissions that contribute to climate change. If people reduced their use of their cars alone, we would see improvements both in terms of emissions reduction but also more widely air quality. It is therefore an idea to opt for active travel options such as cycling or to use public transport. If all this fails, you can always invest in a fully electric or hybrid car.