But for homeowners who want to make a difference, the single most effective step they can take is cutting their home energy consumption.
The Natural Resources Defense Council found improving residential energy efficiency alone could cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by up to 550 million metric tons a year, equivalent to the electric power emissions of California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois and Virginia combined.
Stricter building codes would improve energy use in new construction but not in the millions of existing buildings, said Lauren Urbanek, senior energy policy advocate for the NRDC.
“You’re not going to get to some of these big carbon goals without addressing energy use in our buildings,” Urbanek said. “Addressing those is going to take a lot of individual action — addressing millions and millions of homes — from a motivational perspective and a financial perspective.”
Kirk Lund is using a green mortgage to finance solar panels, windows, insulation and a new boiler-water heater for his Lake Mills home, upgrades he expects to pay off through a lower interest rate and energy bill savings.
Though frustrated by the lack of political will to address climate change, Lund said it’s satisfying to know that there is something he can do.
“This is one concrete thing we can do in a situation where we sometimes feel powerless,” he said. “This is something that we can do now.”