National Geographic : 2009 Mar
• with our utility company for power from regional wind farms. We can purchase locally grown foods instead of winter raspberries from Chile and bottled water from Fiji. We can join a carbon-reduction club through a neighbor- hood church, Scout troop, Rotary Club, PTA, or environmental group. If we can t nd one, we could start one. "If you can get enough people to do things in enough communities, you can have a huge impact," said David Gershon, author of Low Carbon Diet: A 30-Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds. "When people are successful, they say, Wow, I want to go further. I m going to push for better public transportation, bike lanes, what- ever. Somebody called this the mice-on-the-ice strategy. You don t have to get any one element to work, but if you come at it from enough dif- ferent directions, eventually the ice cracks." WILL IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE? at s what we really wanted to know. Our low carbon diet had shown us that, with little or no hardship and no major cash outlays, we could cut day-to-day emissions of CO in half---mainly by wasting less energy at home and on the highway. Similar e orts in o ce buildings, shopping malls, and factories throughout the nation, combined with incentives and e ciency standards, could halt further increases in U.S. emissions. at won t be enough by itself, though. e world will still su er severe disruptions unless humanity reduces emissions sharply---and they ve risen 30 percent since 1990. As much as 80 percent of new energy demand in the next decade is projected to come from China, India, and other developing nations. China is building the equivalent of two midsize coal- red power plants a week, and by 2007 its CO output sur- passed that of the U.S. Putting the brakes on global emissions will be more difficult than curbing CO in the United States, because the economies of developing nations are growing faster. But it begins the same way: By focusing on better insulation in houses, more e cient lights in o ces, better gas mileage in cars, and smarter processes in industry. The potential exists, as McKinsey reported last year, to cut the growth of global emissions in half. Yet e ciency, in the end, can only take us so far. To get the deeper reductions we need, as Tim Flannery advised---80 percent by 2050 (or even 100 percent, as he now advocates)---we must replace fossil fuels faster with renewable energy from wind farms, solar plants, geo- thermal facilities, and biofuels. We must slow deforestation, which is an additional source of greenhouse gases. And we must develop tech- nologies to capture and bury carbon dioxide from existing power plants. E ciency can buy us time---perhaps as much as two decades--- to gure out how to remove carbon from the world s diet. The rest of the world isn t waiting for the United States to show the way. Sweden has pioneered carbon-neutral houses, Germany a ordable solar power, Japan fuel-e cient cars, the Netherlands prosperous cities lled with bicycles. Do Americans have the will to match such e orts? Maybe so, said R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, who sees a powerful, if unlikely, new alliance forming behind energy e ciency. "Some people are in favor of it because it s a way to make money, some because they re worried about terrorism or global warming, some because they think it s their religious duty," he said. "But it s all coming together, and politicians are starting to notice. I call it a growing coalition between the tree huggers, the do-gooders, the sodbusters, the cheap hawks, the evangelicals, the utility shareholders, the mom-and-pop drivers, and Willie Nelson." This movement starts at home with the changing of a lightbulb, the opening of a win- dow, a walk to the bus, or a bike ride to the post o ce. PJ and I did it for only a month, but I can see the low carbon diet becoming a habit. "What do we have to lose?" PJ said. j Blue signifies the cool air escaping as four- year-old Eva Turner dawdles at the fridge. That's not so bad: Today's models use a third less energy than those of 30 years ago.