With the announcement yesterday of a new carbon tax proposal, Australia is set to become the world leader on addressing climate change. Right now, Australia leads the world in per-capita carbon pollution. The carbon tax, which has been described as “modest, riddled with exclusions, bribing voters and corporations“, is still the best national carbon plan in the world. It is expected to pass in both houses of parliament before the end of the year, but the Conservative opposition and the Australian coal industry seem determined to whip up public sentiment against the carbon tax (remember, Australia is where climate scientists have been receiving death threats and über-denier Monckton is invited back regularly ). Right now, polls indicate 60% of the population is opposed to carbon pricing, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government is the most unpopular in 40 years. A lot is riding on the government’s ability to convince voters that it’s time to tackle climate change.
Today’s guest blogger is Krista Peterson. Krista is a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida and an aspiring writer. She has a passion for the health and wellness of our communities and our environment, and hopes to spread awareness of healthy and green living. In her free time, Krista enjoys reading, writing, and doing yoga.
With the continued environmental destruction brought on by our current reliance on fossil fuels, it remains imperative for individuals to recognize practical changes they can make at home to reduce their personal contribution to this trend. One of these simple changes involves insulation. With as much as half of a home’s energy usage going towards heating and cooling, it remains important to make sure you implement as many responsible energy practices as possible, including the regular replacement of air filters, installing a programmable thermostat and sealing heating and cooling ducts.
However, one of the simplest ways to decrease the energy usage in a home is to improve its insulation, which can save individuals around 20% on their heating and cooling bills. Besides being good for the wallet, that 20% reduction in energy means a significant decrease in the usage of fuels or electricity in the home. Furthermore, new forms of insulation, most notably blown-in cellulose, present a natural alternative that is both sustainable and non-damaging to the community and environment. As much as 80% of this product is made from post-consumer recycled newspaper, meaning its production does not heavily tax the environment. Furthermore, this form of insulation is chemically treated to safely resist fire, mold and insects.
Another added benefit of replacing inefficient home insulation is the removal of potentially lethal materials, including asbestos-containing insulation like Zonolite. Besides the environmental benefits of replacing outdated insulation, you can ensure the continued safety of your family by having this dangerous material removed from your home. Insulation containing this material is dangerous because when asbestos enters the body, it leads to a cancer known as mesothelioma. Unfortunately, mesothelioma symptoms are very hard to recognize and typically appear decades after exposure, meaning homeowners might allow themselves to be exposed to the material for years, never realizing they were increasing their danger of developing this cancer all along.
Besides the delayed symptoms of mesothelioma which result from asbestos-tainted materials, another dangerous form of home insulation is urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, which can result in a host of health effects, including burning sensations in the eyes and throat, respiratory difficulties and even cancer. As this material degrades, it gives off a pungent gas which can trigger serious reactions in residents. Like asbestos, this material should be removed from a home and replaced with an environmentally-friendly product that takes into account both the environment and homeowners.
A home’s insulation represents just one of many examples of where our best interests and the planet’s are aligned. Besides making homes more comfortable, safe and economical, replacing outdated materials in a home with green insulators ensures the energy efficiency and sustainable construction we need to globally adopt if we hope to lower our fossil fuel emission levels. Just as a poor mesothelioma life expectancy accompanies those who let asbestos materials continue poisoning their homes, accepting current levels of fossil fuel emissions puts our planet in a precarious position where it is uncertain if it will remain inhabitable for future generations.