Friday, July 22, 2011

Climate Change Begins At Home

This summer I'm teaching Urban Environmental Policy at the University of Missouri - Kansas City.    Some of my students gave me permission to share book reviews they've produced.  I'm excited to offer you an easy-to-consume digest of some of the latest environmental books.  The first review is by Hishashi Kunimoto on David Reay's "Climate Change Begins at Home."


This book discusses what life will be like in 2050 if we don't start reducing carbon emissions and gives a lot of practical ways that each and every person can put into practice with small lifestyle changes to reduce the C02 emission by looking at the life of the fictional Carbone Family living in England.  The average family, like the Carbone family, puts an average of 39 tons of green house gas into the atmosphere per year. The Kyoto Protocol set a reduction of participating countries of 5.2 % but scientists recommend a 60% cut to prevent the disasters that are going to occur if we don't do something. 


The following are cuts that we, as individuals can make, and how much would be cut in emissions if we took these simple steps. Starting from the largest area to the smallest.

Transport (20.5 tons/yr)
          * Smaller engine (75% savings of 20.5 tons/yr)                               
          * Dual fuel car (20 - 30% savings)                                     
          * Hybrid car (20 -40% savings)                            
          * Biofuel cars (100 % savings)                           
          * Driving habits including driving 5 miles/hr slower, keep your tires at optimal inflation, drive with your windows open, take local holidays and walk or ride your bicycle if you have to go less than 2 miles.  (50% savings)                      

Household (13 tons/yr)
          * Eating habits (30% savings of 13 tons/yr)
          * Efficiency appliances  (10 - 20% savings)
          * Standby power    (5 - 10 % savings)
          * Efficient lighting   (5 - 10 % savings)
          * Better insulation  (40% savings)

Food   (4.5 Tons/yr)
          * Buy locally (90% savings of the 4.5 tons/yr)
          * Less meat and dairy  (30% savings)
          * Fewer shopping trips (5 -10 % savings)
          * Food delivery (5 - 10 % savings)
          * Home grown (100% savings)

Waste  (1 ton/yr)
          * Reduce  (70% savings of the 1 ton/yr)
          * Reuse    (30% savings)
          * Recycle  (30% savings)
          * Compost (50% savings)
          * Home grown (100% savings)

Office electricity (100 tons/yr) Specific savings are not given as each office varies in size, office equipment,etc.
          * Lights
          * Office equipment - stand by lights
          * Cooling, heating and ventilation


This is a very well written book with many practical ways to cut down on CO2 emissions.  It is written at the level that anyone could understand and I would recommend that it becomes required reading in High Schools.  It is not all doom and gloom.  But It is very matter of fact and comes to the point that if we don't reduce our CO2 emissions the earth will still be around but it gives many examples of what life will be like if we don't do these things in 2050.  In fact, my family and I have started putting many of his suggestions into practice.  We turned the temperature up 2 degrees in our house.  We are unplugging the standby lights when not needed, driving 5 miles/hr slower and are eating less beef as it is good for lowering cholesterol too.  My wife says she is buying foods with less energy costs attached and has started composting.

Where this book falls short is the fact that it is not out there on everyone's reader list.  This is the first time I have heard about it and yet I think it is one of the most comprehensive books on what people should be doing.  I think if it was out there more we really would be able to reach the 60% cut backs that scientists recommend.  Perhaps, if Reay had included in $ amounts how much money would be saved for each cut back made, this book would be as popular as say "Rich Dad, Poor Dad".  One example he mentioned was that we could actually use our tank of gas one week longer if we drove 5 miles per hour slower. He didn't say how much we could actually save in dollar amounts and my guess is that people would be more interested in how the reductions save money than how they reduce carbon emissions as people do not yet realize how carbon emissions hit them directly. Reay does try to deal with this issue but explains that people usually take their savings and buy more with it.  I don't think he gives people enough credit.  With the new awareness he is bringing to everyone I think that people would consider things more before they made more purchases.  FYI, my family has saved about $30 in our energy bill and about $5 in gas over 2 months. The $35 will go towards my daughter's college fund and maybe she will study the environment.


The discussion of the Carbone family sounds like a typical family whether in England or in the United States and really hits home with anyone who reads the book.

     "As the Carbone's worry about global warming has grown they have become increasingly keen to "do their bit" to prevent it.  They have separated their bottles, tins, and newspapers from the rest of their household trash.  They have replaced their light bulbs with energy efficiency ones, and are always on at the boys for leaving lights, TVs, and computers on. They feel they do what they can for the environment and would describe their lifestyle as 'really quite green'. "

So what help are the Carbone' s various actions in mitigating climate change? The blunt answer is: not much.  Their weekly car trips to the supermarket produce more green house gas than all that saved by their efforts to recycle and cut energy wastage."

Reay goes on to explain why they don't do more.  He explains that people are reluctant to make real change because it would require a real change of lifestyle like "getting rid of their gas guzzling SUV" and the current "apocalypses" are happening too far away from them.  Once things get closer to home, people will start to do something, but by then it will be too late.  Most people think that the government and or scientists will come up with something but we can't wait for them. "The buck stops with us".

Reay goes into really frightening things that have already started in motion and that will hit each and everyone of us where it hurts, right in our own back yards.  How many of us have already started complaining about the strange weather, bugs, illnesses, increase in asthma related issues?  It is already hitting us.  As in the information above in a bulleted outline of the book’s important points he goes over how many emissions we make in our daily lives and how much we can actually cut back with simple changes in our lifestyles.


Reay, Dave, "Climate Change Begins At Home," Macmillan, Houndmills, 2005, 2006

ScienceDaily, "Worst Offenders For Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Top 20 US Counties Identified",
 (Apr. 17, 2008)

The Cleveland Carbon Fund

1 comment:

  1. Shelli Netherton22 July, 2011 22:39

    Terrific work! You obviously put a good deal of thought into considering his points.