How to Stop a Climate Crisis
If you want to help stop global warming here’s what you need to do as soon as possible: stop buying gas. That’s it.
When you buy gas (both gasoline and natural gas) you end up burning it. This is bad for the planet, your wallet, and your health.
Technology has finally hit the point where it is not only possible to stop using these fuels, but economical too.
You’ll have two less bills to pay (gasoline and natural gas), be able to breathe easier (less air pollution), and have a clear conscience (you’ve done your part to prevent climate change).
Here’s how you do it…
Just Say No (To Fossil Fuels)
In the United States, our collective burning of coal, oil, and natural gas (i.e. fossil fuels) is the primary driver of climate change — about 75% in 2018.
These fuels are used in four main ways to:
- Generate electricity (coal and natural gas)
- Run our appliances (natural gas)
- Fuel our cars (oil)
- Heat our homes (natural gas and oil)
We must stop using fossil fuels in these areas to prevent a climate crisis. This means we have to…
Only Use Electricity
The fastest way to reduce your use of fossil fuels is to replace the natural gas and gasoline you use everyday with electricity. Unlike changing your lifestyle (eating less meat, driving less, taking shorter showers, etc.), replacing the root cause of the problem once will payoff for years — and you don’t need to have the willpower of a monk to keep doing it.
Perhaps the most exciting part about only using electricity is that you’ll also benefit from the latest tech that makes all this electric powered “stuff” possible. In nearly every instance, switching to the newer electric models of old fossil fuel powered machines, will lead to a healthier, higher quality of life that will save you money.
It makes you wonder why anything is still powered by gas, as humorously shown in this Nissan Leaf commercial:
Start With Renewable Energy
The first (and easiest!) thing you can do to help stop global warming is to start buying renewable energy. This is electricity primarily generated from wind and solar.
Most electricity in the United States is still generated from coal and natural gas. However, most people don’t realize this yet, but it is now cheaper to build new wind and solar than it is to build and run fossil fuel power plants. Solar used to be the most expensive form of energy 10 years ago, but now it is the cheapest, having dropped in cost by 90%. Wind similarly fell by 71% in the last decade. Things have changed.
While the exact energy mix varies from city to city, and the share of renewables has certainly increased in recent years, there’s still a ways to go. To help speed up this transition, you can start using 100% renewable electricity to power your life.
If you can afford to go solar, you could do it with a company like Tesla. They offer both traditional solar panels or a completely solar roof. While it can be expensive to buy a complete system up front, they offer financing with the ability to “rent” the panels at a much more affordable monthly price.
But there’s an even easier, faster way to access clean energy. Simply connect your utility account to the hassle free, nationwide energy supplier Arcadia (referral link). It takes less than two minutes to get started, and even works if you’re a renter.
As a renter myself, I’ve been using Arcadia since 2018. Not only do know I’m doing my part to stop a climate crisis, but I actually feel good when I pay my electric bill because I know it’s supporting the development of renewable energy!
The general idea is that by buying your electricity through Arcadia, you’re helping America get more renewable energy online. Even if you don’t live by one of their wind or solar farms, you’re still increasing the overall demand for renewable energy, so more will be brought online to meet the demand.
If you’re like most people, it’ll only add about the cost of a cup of coffee to your monthly electric bill. And with their built-in price alerts, you can even save money on your electric bill every month.
Upgrade Your Appliances
In order to ditch natural gas and get some fun new gadgets to play with, you’ll want your appliances to be all electric. While the electric models may be slightly more expensive up front, their increased efficiency will save you money within only a year to two.
Furthermore, if you’re building a new home, going all-electric from the start will most likely be cheaper than connecting to the natural gas grid.
When the time comes to replace your old appliances, replace them with electric models. If you already have an electric model you’re not super happy with, then you’re in luck because the newest electric models are much better than those in the past — particularly the stove and water heater.
Which brings us to the appliances you should be looking for (in priority order):
Electric Heat Pump Water Heater
A familiar technology used in a new way. They use electricity to move heat to where it’s needed (i.e. the water) instead of generating heat. This makes them incredibly efficient. Think of it like a refrigerator, but in reverse.
Electric Induction Cooking Stove
Induction stoves should not be confused with the resistance heating coils of conventional electric ranges. Induction uses magnetic fields to rapidly heat, and has seen widespread use in Europe for many years.
The kitchen stove is probably the most (emotionally) difficult appliance to replace. There is something primal about cooking over an open flame — and the aggressive marketing by the gas industry for decades has solidified this belief. In fact, the catchphrase “now you’re cooking with gas!” was popularized by Bob Hope and others in the 1930’s and 1940’s on behalf of marketers from the natural gas industry.
Often ignored are the negative health effects of cooking with internal combustion in our homes with natural gas. You wouldn’t leave your car running in the garage because it can harm you and your family, but that’s essentially what you’re doing in your kitchen when you cook with natural gas.
You wouldn’t leave your car running in the garage because it can harm you and your family, but that’s essentially what you’re doing in your kitchen when you cook with natural gas.
Besides the health dangers of cooking with natural gas, there are other key reasons to use induction cooking technology:
- It’s faster. Water can boil up to 2x faster.
- It won’t burn you. When there is no pan on it, the surface doesn’t get hot.
- It has finer control. It responds much faster when you lower the temperature. Useful for when you realize your pasta is bubbling over.
If you’re still unsure about the advantages of induction cooking, try it out for yourself. Portable induction hot plates are an affordable alternative to a full induction cooking stove or range. They’ll let you get a feel for induction cooking without going all in. Just make sure you’re able to stick a magnet to the bottom of the cookware you plan on using so the induction can work properly. Nearly all common stainless steel, cast-iron, and Dutch oven cookware will work.
If your lifestyle (or homeowners association) doesn’t let you line dry your clothes, opt for an electric dryer. Compared to gas, they’re cheaper to buy (about $100), cheaper to repair (less complicated), and safer (no carbon monoxide or gas leaks). Remember, the goal is to stop buying natural gas, and an electric dryer or air drying are the only alternatives at this time.
While it sounds impossible, the most realistic electric fireplaces use water vapor to make flames. This has the added benefit of optionally turning the heat off so you can add that cozy ambiance to your room without getting cooked. Plus, without the need for a chimney, electric fireplaces can be wall mounted nearly anywhere.
While we usually associate grilling with an open fire, outdoor electric BBQ grills do exist (and can even be used indoors). Not only that, but they match the quality of cooked veggies and meat from a conventional grill too — though skill still plays an important part!
With an electric grill, there’s no unexpected flare ups that burn your food, they’re easy to clean, and they heat up quickly. You won’t find yourself running out to the store halfway through your cookout because you ran out of propane or charcoal (we’ve all been there).
Electric Landscape Tools
There’s nothing more aggravating that being woken up at 7 am on a Saturday morning because someone decided that’s the best time to blow leaves (onto your driveway). Don’t be that person. Instead, use the latest generation of quiet, clean, and powerful battery powered landscape tools. Your neighbors will thank you.
While not an appliance per se, your home’s electrical panel (also known as a breaker panel, load center, service panel, or breaker box) is the hub of your home electricity and houses the circuit breakers.
As part of upgrading your appliances, you may need more electrical capacity for your home. If that’s the case, it’s worth upgrading your electric panel to at least 200 amps. It may also be worthwhile to add a 100 amp panel to your garage for charging electric cars in the future. Which brings us to…
Upgrade Your Car
Electrify your ride — or better yet, ditch the car altogether. Telecommuting, ride-sharing, and delivery services have made living car free a realistic option in recent years. Especially if you live in a city.
I’ve been living car-free since 2018 and I’ve come to appreciate not having to deal with registration, maintenance, gas stations, and everything else that comes with owning or leasing a car. But I understand that not everyone can have (or wants) a car-free lifestyle, so if you still need (or want) a car, go electric.
The number of electric car options has grown dramatically in recent years. Every major car manufacturer in America has an electric model now, and most are priced at, or below, gas cars. GM plans to make 30 new electric models by 2025, and there are now over 1 million all-electric vehicles on the road right now.
If you do decide to join the rapidly growing electric car movement, not only will you help prevent climate change, you’ll experience better performance, cut maintenance costs in half, and never have to visit a gas station again — which, let’s be honest, who actually enjoys doing that?
Perhaps the hardest thing to believe about electric cars is that you’ll actually save thousands of dollars by owning one instead of a gas car (and that’s before tax incentives and rebates). This is mainly due to the dramatically lower cost of fuel and maintenance. Some estimates have calculated the total ownership savings to be $6,000 to $10,000 when compared their gasoline counterparts. For luxury cars, the savings are even higher, coming in at over $17,000. Not bad for saving the planet, huh?
Upgrade Your Heating
If you’re like most people, this will likely be the most expensive and difficult step in electrifying your home (which is why it’s last on the list). Unfortunately, this also means that you likely won’t see massive energy savings over time, even as renewables become cheaper. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there are plenty of benefits to electrifying your heating: you’ll have a more comfortable, quieter, healthy, and more durable home. Plus, you won’t be directly contributing to climate change when you turn up the thermostat.
In short, you’re going to want an electric heat pump. These units have been rapidly adopted in frigid Northern Europe — if they can work there, they can work anywhere!
Heat pumps are inexpensive to run and don’t require a lot of maintenance. They are also incredibly efficient because all they do is move heat to where it’s needed (as opposed to generating heat directly). It’s like a refrigerator, but in reverse. Some heat pumps can even double as air conditioners, so consider one when it comes time to replace your A/C.
Heat pumps have been used for decades right under our noses: in our refrigerators. The technology works by moving heat from one place to another. In the case of a heater, it’s essentially a refrigerator in reverse.
Because the flow of heat can be reversed, many electric heat pumps used for heating can also be used for cooling. This means that when it comes time to replace your air conditioning, consider getting a reversible heat pump instead.
Finding the right heat pump for your specific situation can be tricky, particularly in older homes. It may also require adding insulation and more effectively sealing your home from drafts. If you’re in a warmer climate, you’ll likely have an easier time of it, but it is still a substantial project.
Depending on your situation, a good option could be a mini-split heat pump. They are easy to install into an existing home, and are great for heating a specific room. But if you don’t upgrade your insulation, you’ll likely still have to use your existing heater. Mini-split systems are a good supplement though without an entire home renovation.
Before committing to upgrading your home’s heating, one home electrification expert suggests you should ask yourself these questions:
- Are parts of your house uncomfortable or sticky during summer? Is your upstairs warmer than your downstairs? Is any room noticeably warmer than the rest of the house? Is it sometimes hard to fall asleep because you’re too hot?
- Are parts of your house uncomfortable or dry during winter? Is one room colder than the rest of the house? Do you stop using it altogether in the winter? Do you need a blanket when watching TV? Do you use a lot of lotion because your skin dries out?
- Does anyone in your family have health issues such as allergies or asthma? Is anyone sensitive to pollen, mold, dust, or wildfire smoke? Outdoor allergies shouldn’t persist once you’re inside your home.
- Does your home have durability or moisture issues? This includes mold or mildew in the attic, basement, or crawlspace; overflowing gutters; standing water against the foundation; rotted wood; pests like termites, ants, stink bugs, and mice, etc.
If you answered one or more of these questions, your home may be a good candidate for a full efficiency and performance renovation.
The reality is that replacing your existing heating system the right way (so you can properly address the issues above) is complex. It’s not hard, but it needs to be done by a professional — you can’t just swap out your furnace with an electric heat pump and expect to see good results.
The best thing to do is to talk to a local sustainability or electrification specialist. Here are a few to get you started:
- Modernize (nationwide). Directory of home contractors near you who focus on making things energy efficient.
- Rise (nationwide). Sustainable home improvement specialists directory with plenty of inspiration and educational resources for home owners.
- Energy Smart Ohio (Ohio). Run by Nate Adams and his team. Nate’s mission is to make U.S. homes better places to live while electrifying everything.
- Electrify Now (Oregon). Non-profit that provides a list of trusted contractors and discounts on heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, solar panels, and more.
Many conventional HVAC contractors are not familiar with the latest developments in home electrification and may even try to talk you out of it — don’t let them!
But What About…?
Don’t worry about the things you buy or the food you eat. Unless your cell phone runs on coal, or your tomato tastes like gasoline, you’re not the one responsible for burning the fossil fuels used to produce them. If you focus on what you can control, you can let the businesses who manufacture and distribute the things you buy worry about the things they sell. That’s not to say you shouldn’t choose more climate friendly products when you can to exert consumer pressure on those businesses, but don’t get too stressed about it.
If you focus on what you use directly (the natural gas that you use in your appliances and the gasoline that runs your car), and let the businesses focus on eliminating their own fossil fuel use, eventually there won’t be any fossil fuels used to make the stuff you buy.
(Don’t) Change Your Lifestyle
If you want to think about how every action impacts the climate 24/7, go for it, but chances are you have better things to do with your time. Stop sweating the small stuff.
If all you do to help address climate change is to stop directly buying fossil fuels, then you’re already part of the solution. You shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving the lights on, taking a long shower, or going on a long road trip (if they’re all powered by 100% renewable electricity). Those activities in and of themselves are not inherently “bad”, it’s the source of energy they consume that is the problem (fossil fuels).
Change your energy source to clean electricity so you don’t have to change your life.
Take Action (If You Want)
Taking to the streets is usually the first personal action that comes to mind when it comes to stopping climate change. While this is very affordable and can be fun, the reality is, most people aren’t activists. And that’s okay. It takes a lot of time and effort for, until recently, little in return.
If you are a climate activist, keep up the (much needed) work! After all, it was vocal activists like Bill McKibben who initially increased my own awareness about climate change when he visited my university.
There is, however, one very impactful action you can take that provides massive returns: divest from fossil fuels. The recent fossil fuel divestment movement has dramatically moved the needle: $14+ trillion in global assets have moved away from fossil fuels since 2011. That’s over 10% of the global economy in 10 years — no small feat.
If you’re not able to (or don’t want to) divest or spend your time donating, marching, or writing letters to your politicians, then don’t sweat it.
If all you do is stop buying fossil fuels you’re part of the solution.
Climate change is the existential threat of our time. But there is an alternative to the usual “doom and gloom” and “change your entire life” advice when it comes to climate change action.
- Use 100% renewable electricity
- Electrify your appliances
- Electrify your car (or live car-free)
- Electrify your home heating
By taking these one-time, specific, lasting actions, and encouraging others to do the same, we’ll be well on our way to stopping a climate crisis.
Let’s get to work.