Climatologists predict that the earth’s average surface temperature will rise between two to six degrees Fahrenheit globally in the next century if emissions of heat-trapping waste gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are not reduced. We all produce these gases by burning fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas. During the past century, the overall annual global climate has warmed by nearly one degree Fahrenheit. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the warmest year of the past century was 1998. In fact, the ten warmest years have all occurred since 1981, and the warmest five years since 1990, according to NOAA.

In Vermont, warmer winters could be economically devastating to the ski industry; a warmer climate would create more stress for cold-tolerant species and allow for the invasion of other plant and animal species from the south; and we would likely have to deal with more severe heat waves, droughts, floods, and forest fires.

Each of us can help slow global climate change through our everyday activities.

Consider these one dozen ways you can reduce the volume of pollutants you add to the atmosphere (and note the estimated reductions for some of these suggestions):

  1. The typical Vermont driver puts 17,000 miles on his or her car annually. This produces 13,600 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year —plus 935 pounds of carbon monoxide, 114 pounds of hydrocarbons, and 68 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants not directly related to global warming. That means each vehicle emits 7.5 tons of pollutants, contributing to lung tissue damage and respiratory disease, particularly among children and seniors. The most effective way to reduce emissions from motor vehicles is to use them less. Seek out alternative transportation by car pooling, van pooling, taking a bus or train, riding a bike, or walking. (For the typical commuter, leaving your car at home two days a week, will result in a reduction of about 1,590 pounds per year.)
  2. When you’re on the road, travel at steady, moderate speeds.
  3. Proper maintenance of motor vehicles is critical to pollution prevention. Perform routine maintenance according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Following maintenance guidelines can reduce vehicle emissions and enhance vehicle performance, reliability, and longevity. Replace oil and filters at recommended times, using an energy-saving grade of motor oil (labeled EC II or Energy Conserving II). Also, keep your tires properly inflated to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent, and check to make sure your gas cap fits tightly after filling your tank.
  4. Replace your home’s refrigerator with a high-efficiency model. (CO2 reduction = 220 lbs./ year.)
  5. Pay attention to your vehicle’s “check engine” light. On model 1996 and newer vehicles, this light means only one thing: there's a problem with the engine that’s causing increased air pollution and reduced fuel economy. If your vehicle’s check engine light comes on, take it to a qualified technician as soon as possible to curb your emissions and avoid expensive repairs.
  6. Watch for signs at the tailpipe. Black smoke means there’s too much gas in the air/fuel mixture, so the fuel delivery system needs to be checked. Blue smoke indicates that your engine is burning oil and sending a lot of hydrocarbons into the air.
  7. Be careful about how long you let your car idle. Instead of using drive-up windows, park your car and walk inside. Idling your engine for longer than a minute is worse for air quality than starting up the car again.
  8. Insulate your home, tune up your furnace, and install energy-and water-conserving devices. (CO2 reduction = 2,480 lbs./year.)
  9. Use a push mower to cut your lawn instead of a power mower. (CO2 reduction = 80 lbs./year.)
  10. Replace your current washing machine with a low-energy, low-water-use machine. And hang your clothes out to dry whenever practical. (CO2 reduction = 440 lbs./year.)
  11. Install a solar thermal system to help provide your domestic hot water. (CO2 reduction = 720 lbs./year.)
  12. Purchase a fuel-efficient car (rated at 32 miles per gallon or better) to replace your most frequently used automobile. (CO2 reduction = 6,000 lbs./year.)