Homo sapiens use about 18 terawatt hours of energy each year, or enough to keep 18 billion phones charged all year (if that helps); on average, we waste more than half of that. Leaky houses, inefficient transport, wasteful industry – the world is essentially keeping the radiator on next to an open window.
This is not such a depressing picture as may first appear, however, because improving these leaks in our energy system is among the cheapest and easiest ways to act on climate. And small changes can make a huge difference:
- Keeping the tires on your car inflated could save 75 million gallons of fuel in the US alone
- Switching from paper manuals to tablets on planes will save one airline 326 000 gallons of jet fuel – the equivalent of taking 743 cars off the road for an entire year
- Switching to a grid connected by high-voltage DC cables could reduce CO2 emissions by 80%, compared to 1990 levels
There are also jobs to be had in this process – lots of jobs, not the paltry handful that get created by new oil pipelines. Rebuilding our outdated electricity grids (which will have to be replaced at some point anyway), upgrading buildings to be more efficient: these changes aren’t sexy, but damnit they work well.
It’s also worth noting that the technology to do all this is already with us. We’re not waiting for a tech billionaire to step up, nor for a wonder fuel to be developed, we just need governments to make them a priority. It’s low-hanging fruit, waiting to be plucked.
After this glorious harvest, we’re going to talk about why we trust some people in white lab coats and not others.