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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Climate Change: the Time to Act Locally has Come!


A report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it is now certain that emissions of greenhouse gases are increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather. 

The UN report came just a week after the International Energy Agency released a similar report, warning that the world has five years before it locks in irreversible climate change.

New NASA research suggests that much of the atmospheric warming observed in the Arctic since 1976 may be due to tiny airborne particles called aerosols. Black carbon—small, soot-like particles produced by the combustion of coal, diesel and biofuels—absorb incoming solar radiation and has a strong warming influence on the atmosphere.

On a more hopeful note, a new study released by the UN Environment Program says that cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 is technologically and economically possible if governments act right now.

The report, Bridging the Emissions Gap, states that, “The window for addressing climate change is rapidly closing but equally the options for cost effective action have never been more abundant.”

In other words it is not like we are in a car about to run off of a cliff, but the cliff is now definitely on the map and a change of course is necessary. We have the understanding, but can we make a conscious effort to change course?

We can address climate change without reducing our standard of living if we just apply the technology already in place. 

Though we can convert to clean renewable energy sources, the cheapest and easiest way to reduce emissions is to use energy more efficiently right here in the Lehigh Valley.

Since 40 percent of our energy is used by buildings, reducing this energy use is of vital importance, especially in the Lehigh Valley where most of our buildings are old—often with leaky windows and little or no insulation. Reducing energy use in these buildings is also the fastest and most inexpensive way to reduce CO2 emmisions.

Adding insulation and eliminating air leakage have less than a three-year return on investment, plus they are some of the easiest energy improvements to do. One of the most effective tools to save energy is a caulking gun to reduce air leakage. The place where the wood framing meets the foundation is a good place to start. That area usually has no insulation at all, and even on new houses it is one of the leakiest areas. Caulking any cracks and adding insulation will make the home warmer in winter. 

Locally, the Sustainable Energy Fund offers financing for businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Residential loans are offered by AFC First Financial Corporation through their Keystone HELP® loan program. Often the loan payments can be structured so that the savings in energy use pay for the loan.

There are many incentives offered by PPL Electric Utilities through their e-Power program. Small businesses can get up to 75 percent of the costs of lighting improvements paid for through the Direct Connect program. Often the payback in energy savings for the customer is less than a year.

For those concerned about climate change, one of the best things to do is act locally and have an energy audit done on their home or business. By following the recommendations of the audit, folks can save energy and do their part to reduce emissions. 

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “When the people lead the leaders will follow.” 

Bruce Wilson is a green builder, energy auditor, and Direct Discount Service Provider who helps homeowners and businesses reduce their energy use. Contact him at 610-282-0822.