The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s climate-change body released a report this week that warns we only have 12 years to save ourselves from utter devastation from climate change. It says if we do nothing about it now the earth’s resources will be ravaged and humankind and the rest of the living things on this planet will be fighting for survival.

The report was built from more than 6,000 scientific references from 91 authors across 40 countries and outlines the impact of global warming exacerbated by human activity. The report calls for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

According to the report, if we can contain warming at 1.5 degrees, the damage will less severe and survivable. However, to reach that goal, man-made global net carbon-dioxide emissions would need to fall by about 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach “net zero” by mid-century. Any additional emissions would require removing carbon dioxide from the air.

The summary concluded the only way to reach that objective would be for renewable energy to supply 70% to 85% of electricity by 2050 to stay within a 1.5-degree limit, compared with about 25% now. So, although not leaving the lights on when you aren’t in the room, recycling paper,  carpooling etc. are certainly positive things we can do, even if every single American started following these habits today, that wouldn’t put much of a dent in the problem we are all facing right now.

Does this mean you should feel guilty for using too much energy over the years? No, you shouldn’t. That would be a useless waste of your time. Guilt won’t do anything to protect our earth for future generations.

The problem is not that we humans consume too much, the problem is with what we consume. And we have been supplied mainly with dirty energy. The truth is that if your house ran on renewable energy, you could leave the lights on all the time and there would be zero impact on our environment. So, if anyone should feel guilty, it is the leaders of the fossil fuel industry. According to the IPCC report just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These companies rely on our elected officials to make sure environmental regulations are loose and that the renewable energy industry doesn’t grow as quickly as it could. They hate the competition.

Fortunately, there are enough dedicated people in the renewable energy industry and in environmental groups who are fighting for green energy and the economic stability it can provide. And more Americans are switching to clean energy every day. Right now, more than a third of U.S. GHG emissions result from the burning of fossil fuels for electricity usage in buildings and homes. But the good news is according to the SEIA, “Both Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic (PV) technologies produce clean, emissions-free electricity and can feed this electricity directly into the U.S. grid. Solar Heating and Cooling (SHC) technologies can also be used to displace the need for electricity. Through the first half of 2018, the U.S. now has more than 58,000 megawatts (MW) of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 11 million average American homes and offset 74 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.”

So, although the news from the UN on climate change isn’t very good, it is not too late to mitigate climate change, so the earth will still be habitable for future generations.  The obvious answer is to move away from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy like solar and wind.

Today there are plenty of ways for ordinary citizens to switch to renewable energy without paying any upfront costs and they can save on their energy costs once they do.  With Solar PPAs for example, consumers can literally pay nothing for solar panels and installation to lock in a lower electricity rate. People who live in homes that don’t qualify for solar because they are shaded or don’t have enough roof space, can still participate in community solar programs or buy their home energy from clean energy brokers. There really is no logical reason to keep paying higher prices for dirty energy anymore.

For people who believe tomorrow matters, there has never been a better time to make a change.

Written by Laureen Peck