Staff Voice: Small steps, conversations pave way to greener future
Read Jarad’s recent post about the UN’s IPCC report and the impact of local change.
As part of an energy counselor-auditor team, I conduct home visits to help residents reach their energy efficiency goals.
After talking with the homeowner and taking a tour of the home, we check insulation levels, perform airtightness tests (using blower door and infrared technology), and conduct combustion safety tests on their HVAC appliances. We stay focused on the positive and provide any key next steps, and we keep talking.
We talk about what’s going well for the home and what can be improved. We talk about potential and return on investment. We provide a report about cost-effective ways to improve the comfort, energy savings, and health of each home. And our teams perform thousands of home visits across Minnesota every year — providing insight and analysis to each homeowner.
Optimism and enthusiasm (not just scaring the living daylights out of people) can be the difference between the start of a fruitful project, like air sealing and insulating their attic, and one that never gets off the ground.
So how can optimism help us address the recent United Nations IPCC report, Fourth National Climate Assessment, or similar research-based reporting?
There are many behaviors we can adopt to further reduce our GHG emissions. Whether it’s sealing and insulating our homes, updating to energy-efficient appliances, changing our diets and the products we buy, taking fewer flights, riding a bike or carpooling to work, or simply showing up to talk about climate change with friends, family and local leaders — there are many important actions we must take (alongside widespread policy changes) to lower harmful emissions and increase energy savings.
An example of large-scale optimism: Last September, the first-ever Global Climate Action Summit brought together state and local leaders as well as students, scientists, investors, businesses and nonprofits to celebrate extraordinary climate action achievements. Among those attending was Jonathan Pershing, former special envoy for climate change at the U.S. Department of State and a lead negotiator of the 2015 Paris agreement. Pershing had this to say to the Guardian:
“The story here is optimistic. The question here is does the optimism translate, and can this message get out globally. There is a good, broad cross-section of people from around the world, but it’s just a few thousand people, and it’s a problem that’s going to require engagement by millions.”
There are many reasons to be optimistic locally as well (in fact, too many to mention in this post). For example, Minneapolis and Saint Paul were recently named winners of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge, a two-year acceleration program providing cities “powerful new resources and access to cutting-edge support to help meet or beat their near-term carbon reduction goals.”
CEE Residential Programs
Global Warming of 1.5C, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Oct 2018)
Fourth National Climate Assessment (Nov 2018)
With such important models for progress at the local level — including countless opportunities for climate action and the celebration of climate action achievements — I have no doubt that optimism is both warranted and actionable. We can acknowledge the current reality, however bleak, while remaining optimistic. By accentuating the positive, we can focus on key areas where we have the power and reach to make a real difference.