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Sustainable Cleveland Year of Energy Efficiency points to urgent need for action

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/01/11 @ 2:23pm

The Sustainable Cleveland 2011 Year of Energy Efficiency shines a light on an important issue: If we hope to stabilize the planet and human civilization, time is of the essence to reduce consumption and build renewable sources of energy to power our homes and work. The SC2019 "Year of" is a fine organizing principle, but it will measure success in how many ways it inspires action. With time and resources limited, lists like this one (right) from Environment Magazine are important for finding that sweet spot to the most cost effective and highest impact energy efficiency actions we can take.

You'll notice that the top nine are intentionally actions that cost little and, so, are considered easy to do today. The long-term, higher-cost actions-such as insulating your attic and walls and replacing windows ? probably require help from an energy services company (but their impact is much higher).

The great environmental thinker Lester Brown says that "Saving civilization is not a spectator sport." Brown and many others are convinced by climate science that we must act to reduce fossil fuel energy use by 80% by 2020 (not 2050). He notes that America's mobilization in one year, 1942, to build thousands of war planes and tanks proves that we have it in us to mobilize around an admittedly difficult collective action like energy efficiency and renewable energy.

If you follow the nine actions on the above list, you can expect to reduce your impact by 27%. Brown and others have good ideas on how we can further reduce the carbon footprint from our buildings. It will require a comprehensive energy plan (like the one that President Obama introduced this week) that emphasizes renewable energy, and a way to pay for the cost to produce and clean up the damage from non-renewable sources of energy.

Last night, WVIZ aired "Plan B: Mobilizing To Save Civilization" a special on solutions to our climate crisis inspired by Brown's book "Plan B". One stand-out moment comes near the end as Former Clinton Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt talks about going back to his small town of 50,000 in Arizona where the citizens and politicians are debating what to do about climate change. His point is, all over the country, in cities and counties-the grassroots are mobilizing to figure out what to do. Local solutions like the Greater Cleveland Energy Alliance-which had its genesis from the 2019 Green Building group and is modeling itself on energy alliances in Cincinnati and Boston-offer amazing promise.

The energy alliance and city of Cleveland officials will discuss plans to fund and support home energy retrofits for a large population of older homes in the region tonight at the 2011 Year of Energy Efficiency forum, 4 p.m. at CSU Levin College of Urban Affairs.

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