Global Warming

I wonder how much more I could do to help reduce global warming.

As it is, during the colder months we burn wood for heat in a high-efficiency fireplace.  There seem to be some arguments as to this being a good thing.  We’ll go through 5 face cords of wood this year (about $400 total), and not pay more than roughly $100 for natural gas during any month.  During the day we keep the thermostat around 63° and wear sweaters.  We don’t heat the house at night.

We do not use air conditioning.  We have compact fluorescent bulbs throughout our home.  My wife composts everything she can compost, and hangs laundry outdoors to dry on a line.  We reuse shopping bags (paper and plastic), and drive fuel-efficient vehicles.  We recycle everything that we can.  Rather than driving, on nice days I’ll bicycle to the local stores for odds and ends.  I even sided my entire house with an extra layer of R-4 re-siding and Tyvek to get the insulation value of the walls up to R-13 or so.  To no avail I have even tried to convince my wife that sharing body heat more often would reduce our overall dependency on external heating sources.

Here’s the thing.  Just because I heat my house with wood rather than natural gas doesn’t mean I’m reducing my carbon footprint.  On the contrary, I would hazard a guess that per BTU, wood burning probably releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than natural gas or oil (along with soot, sulfur dioxide and other haze-producing chemicals).  And the human body is also not that efficient.  To make up for the energy lost while bicycling to the store, I have to consume more calories than my car would probably have burned in gasoline had I chosen to drive instead.  In the end, many of these feel-good habits are probably not doing a damn bit of good to reduce global warming.

Then how can I do more than I’m already doing?  Certainly the best way for me to reduce my carbon consumption is to die.  The second-best way is probably not to have children (too late for that – I’ve already propagated carbon burning into the next generation).  Another possibility is to move to a warmer climate while sticking to the “no air conditioning” rule.  This may happen someday, but not soon.

I’m at a loss here.  Short of fertilizer-less subsistence farming I am not sure I can do much more to help keep the oceans from rising two meters by the end of the century. 

How can I help make the personal reduction of one’s carbon footprint more glamorous to the people around me, and convince them to join in the fun?


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