This is an excerpt from Maggie Koerth-Baker’s new book, Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us. We’ve also got an interview with the author, in which she talks about finding common ground with climate deniers, the value of individual action in fixing a broken energy system, and the price of gas.
We could theoretically put climate change on pause right now — lock in atmospheric accumulation of carbon dioxide at its current level and stop the process from getting worse. Efficiency and conservation could do that. But you wouldn’t like the outcome very much, says Stephen Pacala, the director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University. To solve the problem that way, we’d have to adopt a very strict and meager rationing of greenhouse gas emissions — just one ton of emissions per year, per person.
A ton sounds like a lot, but in this case, it’s not. The resulting budget would look less like a prudent belt-tightening and more like the work of Ebenezer Scrooge, pre-Christmas. One ton of greenhouse gas emissions buys a year’s worth of heat for one average home in the United States, Pacala says. Th... Read more