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Josef Winkler: We are doing great harm to our planet by using fossil fuels, change is needed, and quickly

The days of plausible deniability are over. We (humans) are doing great harm to our one and only planet by the use of fossil fuels. We need to make major changes, and we need to do it quickly.

If you are still a non-believer or do not believe that humans are responsible, I urge you to spend just one hour reading a few recent reports. Type “USGCRP 4th report” into your favorite search engine and read the summary findings. If you are skeptical of your own governments reporting, try this one from a UN panel prepared by 91 authors from 40 countries over 3 years and including 6,000 scientific references “IPCC 2018 report”.

These reports are very alarming and should be of great concern to all of us, especially those with children and/or grandchildren. Every day of our inaction will increase the hardship for future generations.

Climate change is a global problem and would be best addressed by the highest levels of government. Both state governments and the federal government should be incentivizing renewable energy sources while eliminating the billions of dollars of taxpayer money handed out to the fossil fuel industries every year. Even those with just one eye open can recognize both our state (Kentucky) and federal governments are failing to address this growing crisis.

As a result of the failure of governments to act, the responsibility at least in the short term falls to individuals. While this is not the ideal way to deal with such a large crisis, this is the current reality. We are not powerless to affect change and need to act urgently. There are many actions that we can take as individuals, below are just a few possible actions individuals can take to make large reductions in the amount of fossil fuels they consume:

• First and foremost, get informed and vote. Vote for candidates that support renewable energy policies, refuse to vote for climate change deniers. Get your information from multiple sources, beware of bias, and make up your own mind.

• Go solar, make some, or all, of your own renewable energy, it works and is less expensive than you might think. There are several companies in the tri-state area that would be happy to give you a proposal.

• The only place for an incandescent light bulb is in your oven, replace all the rest with LED bulbs, start with the ones that are used most often. 60-watt equivalent LED bulbs are available for as little as $1.24/bulb.

• Buy an electric, or a hybrid vehicle. If these do not meet your needs at least select a vehicle that gets good gas mileage.

• Heat your house with wood. If you have access to a renewable supply of wood this can be an inexpensive way to make a huge cut in your carbon footprint. EPA-certified wood stoves produce almost no smoke, minimal ash, and are very efficient.

• In the summer grill and cook outside as much as possible, your oven and range add an enormous amount of heat to the place you are trying to cool.

• In the winter set thermostat no higher than 68 degrees, summer no less than 75.

• Get a programmable thermostat, program it to further reduce the heat in winter and reduce the cooling in the summer at times when the home is unoccupied.

• When replacing appliances buy Energy Star certified appliances.

• Eat less meat, especially beef. Yes, I know I don’t like it either, however beef production is responsible for a large amount of carbon emissions.

The above suggestions represent just a small number of possible actions that can be taken by individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. It is easy to track utility usage (electric, natural gas, water, etc.). Set a goal for reduction in 2019, double it in 2020. Find a way to make a difference.

Sometime, in the not too distant future your children or grandchildren may be asking you, “You knew what you were doing to the planet, you knew the hardship that future generations would face because of your inaction, why didn’t you do something about it?”

I hope that we can react quickly, and none of us will need to answer for our actions. If not, I want to be able to give an answer I am not ashamed of. What will your answer be?

Josef Winkler is from Owensboro

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