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Actions we can take against global warming, climate change

It looks as if global warming has become a hot topic in Idaho. On behalf of my grandchildren Fiona and Max and on behalf of all the children and grandchildren of our planet, I hope this is true. Their future and the future of all of us younger than about 60 may well depend on what is done to counter climate change over the next decade. Fortunately, there are positive steps both large and small we can take.

We can replace incandescent light bulbs with long-lasting, energy-efficient compact fluorescents--saving 100 pounds of carbon dioxide per bulb. We can keep tires on our cars inflated properly and change the air filters when they are dirty--saving 1,050 pounds of carbon dioxide per car per year. We can run dishwashers only when they are full--saving 100 pounds of carbon dioxide. We can use post-consumer recycled paper--saving five pounds of carbon dioxide per ream.

We can turn thermostats down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer--saving 2,000 ponds of carbon dioxide annually. We can set hot water thermostats no higher than 120 degrees F, switch to a tankless water heater or add passive solar-assisted hot water. We can take shorter showers and install low-flow showerheads. We can buy locally grown produce and other products and purchase minimally packaged goods. If we need a new car, buy a hybrid or, better yet, carpool or bike when possible. We can plant a tree--or three--and use push mowers to cut our lawns. We can caulk and weather strip and insulate our homes and replace single- with double-pane windows. We can unplug electronics when not in use and replace old, inefficient appliances with Energy-Star rated newer ones. We can bring our own cloth bags when grocery shopping. We can reduce consumption, re-use what we purchase, recycle what we can no longer use. Most of these simple actions both reduce our carbon load and save money in the process.

But individual actions are not enough. We need to change public policies that will have major impact on the future we pass on to the next generation.

We can challenge elected officials at every level to support efforts to reduce the output of "greenhouse gases" and we can vote the rascals out if they persist in wrong-headed decisions. We can replace tax subsidies for dirty energy with support for solar, wind, geo-thermal and bio-mass energy generation. Using such clean, renewable sources, Idaho can generate five times the total electricity Idahoans currently consume without relying on a single coal-fired or nuclear power plant.

We can become better informed and share that information with our friends and neighbors, our faith groups and service clubs, with all the people we know.

Many groups and organizations are good sources of information and action about global warming. Stop Global Warming (www.stopglobalwarming.org) provides up-to-the-minute news coverage. Its "virtual march" has enlisted more than 596,000 supporters demanding solutions to global warming. Focus the Nation (www.focusthenation.org) is promoting a January 31, 2008, nation-wide, non-partisan discussion of global warming policy choices in more than 1,000 universities, colleges, high schools, businesses, faith and civic organizations.

The Alliance for Climate Protection (www.allianceforclimateprotection.org), an educational group launched by Al Gore, plans to spend millions of dollars to convince Americans that global warming is an urgent problem.

As the grandfather of Fiona and Max, I am convinced that preserving the planet that is our only home must be the great work of our generation. The children and grandchildren of planet Earth are depending on us.

Bill Whitaker coordinates the Boise State University graduate program in social work. He can be contacted at wwhitak@boisestate.edu.

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