Letter to the Editor
How Individuals Can Address Climate Change
Many Los Alamos residents feel an urgency to tackle climate change and many are already doing what they can in their own lives. Some are adding insulation, planting trees, using LED light bulbs, switching to electric cars, and so on.
When trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, most people think of electricity generation. Of course, this is an important source of emissions and our Los Alamos County utility is addressing this. Within 3 years we will no longer be part of the San Juan Generating Station, substantially decreasing our coal-sourced electricity. The utility is currently exploring a purchased power agreement for replacement with some solar and wind power. Meanwhile, installing rooftop solar is an effective means to reduce one’s carbon footprint now.
But other important contributors to climate change are buildings, transportation, industrial processes, and agriculture. We need to tackle climate change every way that we can.
Individuals can do little to impact industrial processes, but we are the change agents for our own homes and properties.
To solve the climate crisis, one thing we must do is stop burning gas in our buildings. Natural gas is methane, which is mostly carbon, and burning it generates carbon dioxide. Buildings, through heating and cooking, use almost a third of the natural gas consumed in the U.S.
Typically, four appliances in our homes run on natural gas: water heaters, furnaces, dryers and gas stoves. These are a big part of our personal carbon footprints. To address climate change, we need to electrify everything. This makes sense because as renewable energy displaces fossil fuels, the electric grid will get cleaner and cleaner. If we start converting our homes to electricity now, then as the electric grid gets greener our buildings will be contributing less and less to climate change.
Installing Energy Star electric appliances is a no-brainer. A new electric induction kitchen range is a far cry from the old-school electric stoves with coils that heat up. Electric induction cooking is faster than a gas flame and operates on a fraction of the energy.
Improved technology has made it possible to heat and cool our homes without burning fossil fuels. For instance, air source heat pumps run on electricity, but far more efficiently than those of an earlier generation. They can both heat and cool and they do a good job in cold climates.
For new construction, major remodels, and replacing or adding appliances, switch to electric and enjoy the benefits of lower pollution and lower fire hazard.
Climate change is causing catastrophes here in New Mexico and around the world with more severe storms, droughts, wildfires, reduced crop yields, loss of our native trees, heat stress, and more. We are warned by climate scientists that there is no time to lose if we are to avoid the most extreme effects.
The climate crisis will not wait for us. We must act now.