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The New York Times, July 12, 2012

Amid Chatter on Climate and Energy Views, a Look at Deeds

By Andrew C. Revkin

There is endless cogitation, here and elsewhere, over views on human-driven global warming and America’s energy menu. Much of this, I’m afraid, is about as useful as watching “water sloshing in a shallow pan.” Lots of motion, no depth.

Here’s a quick look beyond climate and energy beliefs and words to climate and energy deeds, provided in the latest report on American’s actions related to energy conservation and greenhouse gases from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.

The full report (and survey methodology) is here: Americans’ Actions to Conserve Energy, Reduce Waste, and Limit Global Warming in March 2012. Here are highlights from the summary distributed today by Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale group:

In the past year, more than half of Americans (56 percent) say they have attempted to reduce their family’s energy consumption.

However, fewer than half (43 percent) of Americans report they often or always set the thermostat to 68 degrees or cooler in the winter, a 5-point decline since November 2011.

21 percent of Americans say they sometimes, often or always use public transportation or carpool, and 30 percent say they walk or bike instead of driving, an 11- and 5-point decline, respectively, since November 2011.

One in three (33 percent) Americans say that in the past year they rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products.

Over the next 12 months, 52 percent of Americans intend to reward or punish companies for their global warming-related behaviors by either buying or boycotting their products.

15 percent of Americans say they have volunteered or donated money to an organization working to reduce global warming. One in ten Americans (11 percent) has written a letter, email, or phoned a government official about global warming. Of these, 77 percent urged officials to take action, while 19 percent urged them not to take action to reduce global warming.

In the past year, more Americans report that they increased vs. decreased their attention to global warming stories in the news (28 percent more vs. 19 percent less).

By contrast, fewer Americans say that in the past year they talked about global warming with people they know (18 percent more vs. 27 percent less), searched for global warming information on the internet (11percent more vs. 35 percent less), or shared global warming information on social networks sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or other social network programs) (6 percent more vs. 41 percent less).

A new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranks the United States ninth in energy efficiency among the dozen major economies assessed and finds “limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level.”

With that in mind, I agree with comment contributors on recent pieces discussing the fracking fight who say any push to sustain or expand fossil fuel choices should be part of a broader commitment to use energy more carefully and efficiently. This came up in 2010 with President Obama’s push for more oil development, but bundled with broader commitments to develop new fuel options and transportation technologies.

In transportation, at least, there are signs of progress, as shown in data analyzed by the University of Michigan’s initiative on Sustainable Worldwide Transportation. The research group maintains an “Eco-Driving Index” that tracks American vehicle driving and buying habits and vehicle emissions trends. Have a look at the latest findings, which show how a mix of tightening mileage standards and behavior changes led, as of April, to a 19 percent reduction in emissions per driver of newly purchased vehicles compared to October 2007.

On that front, too, it’s worth listening to former Secretary of State George Shultz. In an interview taped by staff at Stanford University, he makes the non-partisan case for climate-smart energy action while showing off his solar-charged Nissan Leaf. Here’s my Twitter summary of one nugget:

GOP elder statesman George Shultz on his solar-charged Leaf: "I'm driving on sunshine. Take that, Ahmadinejad!" shar.es/t50de (video)

And here's the video:

 

One thing to note, of course, is that it remains far easier to “walk the talk” if you have the resources to afford such technologies. I’d still like to scrap the oil tank in our basement and move to a geothermal system for heat and cooling (right now it’s ceiling and box fans for us for cooling). But I see no affordable path at the moment.

Copyright © 2012 The New York Times Corporation.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton