The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new assessment on the state of the climate earlier this month, the sixth such report since 1988. Its message is clear: to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption, which means keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, our economy needs to make an unprecedented transformation by 2030.
A challenge of that scale will require action by all sectors of the economy, not just the energy industry or big polluters. The most trusted institutions in every community, schools, hospitals, and leading businesses, must also be part of the solution. Fortunately, the financial and branding benefits of doing the right thing for the climate have continued to grow. There’s also a role for individuals, though it goes beyond the traditional advice about “100 Quick & Easy Ways to Save the Earth.”
Going solar is one thing that businesses and organizations can do to help the climate that really matters. Secure Futures customers from Richmond Public Schools to Carilion New River Valley Medical Center to cold-storage warehouse provider InterChange Group decided they wanted to do something above and beyond the usual. They also saw that solar could help them save money and enhance their reputation among important audiences.
The IPCC report has reminded us of the urgency of action. For some ideas on how to make a bigger difference, we offer the excellent video below, “How We Fix the Climate.” After summing up the current state of the climate, the film offers serious things that both individuals and organizations can do to help save the climate.
Much confusion has been spread by well-intentioned advice that may be off the mark. Businesses are told to buy carbon offsets or green energy programs from their electric utility. But such programs may not create any new clean energy or cut much if any pollution.
Meanwhile, consumers are told they can save the Earth from home through small everyday actions such as recycling or taking shorter showers. Unfortunately, even if millions of households made such lifestyle changes, it wouldn’t add up to much and it wouldn’t cut enough pollution to safeguard the climate.
By contrast, “How We Fix the Climate” outlines areas of action that will make a difference and yet are still practical:
1. Education, Advocacy and Possibly Even Lobbying
To tackle the scale of the problem, it’s not enough for climate solutions to start at home. Cutting greenhouse pollution really needs to start at your statehouse or in the House — the U.S. House of Representatives, that is. Individual action cannot solve the climate crisis. Government action will be necessary. And for government to take serious action over the objections of dirty energy interests who stand to lose profits, citizens have to demand it through the political process.
This means that one of the most useful things that anybody can do to help the climate is to become a citizen advocate. Businesses and organizations can advocate for clean energy and meaningful climate solutions as well.
The first step is to educate yourself. Read more about the pressing issues and programs from environmental groups like Sierra Club and Greenpeace or on the Science and Data page from the U.N. Environment Program.
When you learn about the major proposals for climate programs discussed today you’ll see that they fall into two basic categories, which break roughly along conservative and liberal lines. That’s good news, because it means that you can advocate for climate solutions while still remaining true to your own political orientation.
Conservatives have traditionally supported market-based solutions such as a Carbon Tax or Cap-and-Trade. If constructed properly, such big programs can transform the whole economy relatively quickly to achieve large reductions in pollution.
Meanwhile, liberals have put forth programs under the umbrella of SEJ (Standards, Enforcement and Justice). Since Democrats have traditionally taken the lead on climate, government action to cut greenhouse pollution has been focused on SEJs, which are many small efforts that hopefully add up to significant carbon reduction.
As the video says, to cut the most pollution most quickly, we will need both approaches. So, the top thing you can do for the climate is to learn about the main proposals for climate action, and then advocate for the programs that you can support.
2. Lifestyle Changes and Switching to the All-Electric Home or Workplace
Here’s one where individuals can take the lead. Just because government is more powerful than consumers, it doesn’t mean that all action at the household level is worthless to help the climate. Turning off lights or turning down the thermostat is fine, but you should probably do those things primarily to save money, since they have little impact on the climate. This is as true at home as it is in a school or office.
Bigger actions to cut fossil fuels at home or the office will make more difference, such as deciding against using natural gas and instead, setting up your building to run on 100% electricity. Fortunately, electric heating is now competitive on cost with gas heating. And in to the kitchen, electric ranges have gotten more responsive and nimble just as the public has gotten more concerned about the health risks of breathing in fumes put off by natural gas stoves.
On the topic of homes, consider living in a smaller home (bonus: you won’t have such high energy bills) and working remotely or living closer to work. Consider riding a bike to work or the grocery store, or maybe even taking public transportation.
3. Adopting Electric Vehicles or Electric School Buses
Anybody can get an electric car, but adopting electric vehicles is especially interesting for leaders in organizations and businesses. Do you run a hospital, and does it have ambulances? Does your business provide company cars to its employees? Does your university have its own transportation system around campus or across town? Does your K-12 school operate a fleet of yellow buses to bring students to and from class or after school programs?
If so, then start advocating for electric vehicles or buses. As with many clean technologies, EVs are getting better and more affordable every year. In some parts of the economy, people are starting to expect operators of big fleets to make haste to transition to electricity.
For example, parents want schools to switch from diesel to electric buses for health reasons alone, as diesel fumes can cause in the air inside a bus to be 12 times more polluted than the air outside. In a recent article, we talk about how some states have already initiated programs to transition their transportation system from diesel to electric over the coming decades, including mandates for K-12 schools to operate a certain percentage of electric buses within the next ten years.
With transportation being the largest contributor of climate pollution, the United States must switch 90% of its vehicles to run on electricity by the middle of the century to meet goals to save the climate. To make a difference on transportation, when thinking about upgrading your vehicle, consider investing in an electric vehicle, and consider getting one used. Check out these new and used EV markets.
4. Installing Rooftop Solar
Both homeowners and organizations have been installing rooftop solar at increasing rates over the last few years.
That’s because solar is now more affordable than ever before. The cost of solar panels has dropped nearly 80% in the last decade. And modern financing methods like power purchase agreements allow schools, hospitals and businesses in many areas to go solar with no upfront capital cost.
Still, there’s a lot more need for clean energy across the economy and a lot more potential for solar. In 2020, nearly 60% of America’s electricity generation came from fossil fuels, and only around 20% came from renewable sources. From that, a growing but still small 2.3% of all energy was generated by solar power.
Our customers can testify that solar has allowed them to take leadership in their industries on helping America win the clean energy revolution and save the climate. Such leadership has generated valuable goodwill in their communities. And every one of our projects is designed to help our customers save money on energy, so they don’t have to choose between doing well and doing good.