Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 17, 2017

Earth Concerns News

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Chapter 4 by Janet Derby, CSJ Associate

Each month, a member of the Home/Land Committee is presenting information from a chapter of Lester R. Brown’s book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. Chapter 4, “Stabilizing Climate: an Energy Efficient Revolution,” is summarized here by Associate Janet Derby.

“The world is in the early stages of two energy revolutions,” a shift to new types of energy-efficient technologies in every sector, and a shift from an economy fueled by oil, coal and natural gas to one fueled by wind, solar and geothermal energy.
Climatic scientists recommend keeping atmospheric CO2 levels under 400 parts per million (ppm) in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. In order to reach this goal, we need to cut current net carbon-dioxide emissions by 80 percent within the next ten years (2020).
In what areas are we currently doing well and in what areas do we need to improve?
Since the advent of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), consumers are using 75 percent less electricity. CFLs not only use less energy but on the average, last ten times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Retailers need to discontinue the sales of incandescent bulbs. Everyone can learn to turn off lights when they are not in use and/or use dimmers and sensors to reduce light intensity when it is not needed.
Europeans use about half as much electricity as their American counterparts use. Electricity used by appliances in stand-by mode is about ten percent of the total, world-wide consumption. This is a case for unplugging appliances when they are not in use. Flat-screen, plasma televisions use two-four times as much electricity as the cathode-ray tube of yesteryear. (Great Britain may ban these new televisions.)
This industry uses 40 percent of all materials worldwide! There are programs which require all new buildings to install renewable energy systems and to retrofit existing buildings with more energy-efficient material. For example, there are plans to retrofit the 80-year-old Empire State building, thereby reducing its energy use by 40 percent. The costs associated with this project will be recouped within only three years after the project has been completed.
Urban Transport
This area needs complete redesigning in order to reduce carbon emissions. Electricity is expected to replace gasoline for cars and trains. The United States could cut gasoline consumption in half by requiring hybrid vehicles. Japan, Europe and China are far ahead of the United States in developing train systems between major cities that are powered by renewable electricity, mainly wind energy. Investment in the United States must shift from roads and highways to railways for both passengers and freight.
Industry consumes 30 percent of the world's energy. There are huge savings to be gained from recycling. For instance, steel made from recycled scrap takes only 26 percent as much energy as that made from iron ore; recycled plastic takes only about 20 percent as much energy; recycled paper, only 64 percent as much energy, and all of the above use far less chemicals in the process. Approximately 29 percent of all garbage is recycled in the United States. About seven percent is burned, and another 64 percent goes into landfills. San Francisco has the highest recycling rate for a city in the U.S. at 70 percent, compared with 34 percent for New York City. Measures such as levying a landfill tax may reduce the flow of materials to landfills. Deconstructing instead of demolishing buildings helps to reduce energy use and carbon emissions along with the recycling of materials. Nearly all of the materials in a building may be recycled. Other types of materials that may be recycled include textiles, diesel engines and airplanes.
There are many ways to reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere, and there are many ways to reduce energy consumption. Each of us can play a role. However, the United States does not seem to be a leader in this area, even though we have the technology. Europe, Japan and China have taken the lead. Can we not at least pick up the pace and follow?