Vermont Interfaith Power and Light
A Religious Workshop in Response to Global Warming
“You must be the change you want to see in the world” - Mahatma Ghandi.
The present rapid rate of Global Warming is caused mainly by the increase in greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests. As a result, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years. The average air temperature of the earth has increased by 1.4° F since 1865 and the year 2005 was the warmest year on record. The Earth’s climate will continue to warm by an additional 2.5 to 10.4° F in this century, unless we make significant reductions of 60-80% of the 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Temperature increases of this magnitude will lead to catastrophic changes in: climate, ocean currents, storm frequency, destruction of the polar ice caps and rapid rise of sea levels. Climate change on this scale will also lead to the rapid extinction of plants and animal species and untold human suffering.
This extraordinary change in the earth’s environment constitutes not only the greatest environmental challenge in human history, but also probably the greatest social justice and moral issue of our time. The future well being, health and lives of our children and grandchildren are at stake. Global warming has the potential to reverse the direction of civilization. People of faith know that the time has come to take personal and communal responsibility for the well being of future generations.
Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (VTIPL) as part of the national Interfaith Power and Light movement is working to help congregations and individuals take the steps to save creation. These steps include personal, congregational, and communal responses. Follow with us the eight step program.
Step 1: Acknowledgement
We must begin by acknowledging that the problem is very serious and that we are part of the problem. In this country, carbon dioxide emissions are the result of millions of decisions made by individuals, institutions, businesses, and governments. We acknowledge that each of us individually and jointly have the ability to reverse the ever increasing release of carbon dioxide. As inhabitants of the richest nation on earth and the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, we have a special responsibility to lead.
Step 2: Education
We need to learn first that the means (technical and economic) are available to continue to live productive, safe and healthy lives while dramatically reducing our carbon dioxide emissions and the destruction of forests. We do not need to wait for hydrogen fuels or nuclear fusion. This can be done through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar power, wood and other biomass fuels and the recovery of waste materials, such as landfill gas and waste paper. Many of these renewable sources have near zero net carbon dioxide emissions and are therefore climate neutral. We also need to learn what is most cost efficient. Use the money you have to get the maximum reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Step 3: Building Energy Efficiency
Make your congregational buildings and your homes more energy efficient. Buildings use approximately 36 percent of the all the energy used in the US. First, conduct an energy audit of your church and home. VTIPL can help or use the Kairos Energy Workbook. Discover where the main heat losses are occurring. Improve weatherization to stop infiltration, increase insulation and install energy efficient fluorescent lighting and “Energy Star” appliances. In replacing lighting or appliances use energy star and target the highest use areas first. In older buildings, efficiency and CO2 improvements of 25 % to 50 % are practical. New buildings can be designed or old buildings retrofitted to include passive solar heat gain. In places of worship, programmed thermostats yield considerable savings if you can tolerate low temperatures when the spaces are not used. See Efficiency Vermont brochures for details and incentive programs.
Step 4: Renewable Energy for Buildings
Incorporate passive solar heating, wood heating, wood or biomass waste pellet heating. Also consider biodiesel blends to partly replace oil or gas for heating and hot water. In some cases photovoltaic panels may be practical, though expensive. Solar hot water heating is also possible. Buy green (renewable) power from your electric utility or buy Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) or Green Tags if your utility does not provide green power. Make sure that your green power or RECs are certified by one of the two certifications organizations- Green-E or Environmental Resources Trust (ERT). Expect to pay about 2 cents extra per Kwh for green power. State of the art renewable energy buildings can have near zero net carbon dioxide emissions, but it is certainly possible to get 50% to 70% carbon dioxide reductions in homes and places of worship.
Step 5: Transportation Fuel Efficiency
Transportation makes up about 25% of the total energy use in this country. Most of this is oil used in automobiles and airplanes. For most Vermonters, there are few choices other than automobiles but there are choices among automobiles. The biggest savings in carbon dioxide emissions and dollars come from choosing a high mileage vehicle. Hybrid electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid and the Honda Insight get from 45 to 70 mpg depending on model and driving conditions. Compared to the average US vehicle at 22 mpg that is a saving of 50% to almost 70% in emissions. When compared to a big SUV or a pickup at 12 mpg, a hybrid would save 73 % to 83% in carbon dioxide emissions. Another opportunity for major savings is from car pooling. Compared with one person occupancy, two reduces the emissions by 50% and four reduces emissions by 75%. Car pooling in hybrids is the way to go. There are several high mpg conventional cars such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Echo and Corolla and the Ford Focus, that will provide nearly as good mpg at lower initial cost. Diesel cars typically have higher mpg too, and some of them can be converted to run on biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel has low net carbon dioxide emissions because it is made from vegetable oils such as soybean oil.
Step 6: Reduce Consumption of High Energy Products
Avoid over packaged goods. Buy locally produced products. Eat less meat and more vegetables. Reduce paper use. Reuse and recycle.
Step 7: Offset Carbon Dioxide Emissions
However hard we try it is nearly impossible to get our carbon dioxide emission down to zero. Even achieving the 60% to 80% reductions estimated to be needed to avoid a catastrophic climate crisis would be very hard for the average person who must commute long distances or fly on business. But there are many opportunities for carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Operating wind plants, capturing landfill methane gas, operating farm manure digesters, planting trees to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are all practical on a large scale somewhere in the world. If we pay someone else to reduce emissions for us, then we are also contributing to the solution to the problem. These carbon dioxide emissions offsets are traded, and we can buy these offsets to reduce our congregational or individual impact. For more information, contact the nonprofit Carbonfund.org. For about $60 to $70 per year you could buy enough offsets to be a zero carbon dioxide household.
Step 8: Celebrate and Advocate
When your congregation, or you or your friends, make progress toward a goal of reducing your carbon dioxide emissions, celebrate your success. Recognize those who have made this possible. Buy from businesses that support this mission. Join the Vermont 10% Challenge. Join VTIPL. If you buy green power, tell your friends and speak out in favor of wind machines. Tell your government that avoiding carbon dioxide emissions is a moral act and a statement of your religious principles. Saving the planet from catastrophic climate change is an act of love for your family and your neighbors all over this earth. Celebrate that love.
Vermont Interfaith Power & Light
P.O. Box 209 Richmond, VT 05477
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.vtipl.org