Scientists have now predicted we've reached the tipping point: a rise of 2 degrees Celsius is impossible to avoid. In one hundred years, Florida and New York will definitely be underwater. Economies will collapse again.
I've outlined some things that we can do now to help mitigate this problem while staying cost-neutral:
1 - Switch incandescent, halogen, and CFL bulbs to LEDs
LEDs use 7x less electricity than their incandescent counterparts, and people really do prefer the color light they give out. LEDs are made for just about every socket type and size you can imagine: standard bases, candelabra bases, even night-lights and 4' flourescent tubes all have LED replacements readily available. I studied the cost savings compared to electricity prices, and these bulbs pay for themselves within one year.
2 - Switch to gaming laptops or mobile PCs: replace old TVs with new LEDs
Electronics frequently improve TDP, or the amount of power necessary to run. What used to require a massive amount of power to process can now be handled by mobile batteries. Intel's 8th generation processors have increased the cores: the i5 8600T only uses 35 watts of power when running full blast (less than a very dim incandescent light bulb), but runs 6 cores at 3.3 Ghz. NVIDIA's GTX 1050 ti uses just 75 watts, but has enough power to run demanding games in full HD at 60f. Because of these newer processes, it has become possible to put the power of a gaming desktop into laptops. While gaming laptops are heftier and don't have as much battery life, they use far less electricity than their desktop counterparts. And if you're not gaming, why are you sticking with those bulky laptops? Mobile PCs use a fraction of the energy to yeild the same, or even better power.
Older HDTVs using plasma or flourescent backlighting use at least twice as much electricity as newer ones. If you're someone who keeps electronics running all day, see how you can reduce your energy usage.
3 - Seal doors and windows
This one is a bit trickier: I have sliding glass doors that cannot be properly sealed without replacing the entire door and frame. But you can buy better weather stripping and stopgaps to fit over existing doors and frames to better seal entry doors. This insulation will keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And for troubling cases, you can always buy external products to provide an extra seal where stopgaps may not be enough.
4 - Use convection ovens, toaster ovens, microwaves: change cooking habits and alter your diet
As a rule of thumb, convection ovens can use your same recipes and baking times, but set the temperature down 50 degrees F. The addition of circulating hot air makes the heat transfer much more effectively. Old knowledge says fridges with the freezer on top save on energy, but some (rather expensive) french door bottom freezers and built-in fridges are actually more efficient. As usual, old appliances use more electricity.
Large appliances use more electricity, too. If you're baking something on a small scale, why not bake in a convection toaster oven? The heat distribution should be even, and you should be able to get excellent results, just on a smaller scale. While people may not like the taste, microwaves are the most efficient kitchen appliances in the world. Electric grills get results very similar to propane barbecues, especially if you start off with very hot, intense heat. Unfortunately, to get the full flavor, traditional smokers, brick ovens, and barbecues (wood-burning) are the only way. But some of that flavor can come back using butane torches on the top at the end, to add some charring and improve the maillard reaction.
Some foods can be cooked quickly without requiring as much heat: shrimp, salmon, and smaller cuts of ground beef come to mind. Our meat diet is rather hefty: eat more fruits and veggies to replace the meat. It's not only cheaper, but can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling diet as well. Kale is basically nutrient-rich lettuce, and doesn't cost as much as meat. Along with this, meat production produces plenty of greenhouse gasses, including methane. Personally, I like complex richness and strong flavor in foods, so I make salads with spices, cook lemons when pan-searing fish, chicken, and vegetables, and end meals with hot tea. Cooking vegetables in a similar manner to meat with sauces can make them more far more succulent and nutrient-rich than eating vegetables raw, and you don't need to eat as much to feel satiated. What you get in return for choosing more expensive food and complex ingredients is the need to eat less.
5 - Charge with solar and DC, whenever possible
DC power is inherently more efficient than AC power. All of our appliances, mobile devices, electronics, power tools, etc. run DC native, but our electrical grid is AC. As a result, 30% of ALL electricity is lost due to the conversion. Any time you can use DC power to charge a phone or batteries for a product without using AC power, you're already saving that 30% which would've gone to something else. Charge your cell phones and mobile devices in your car. Get higher-amperage chargers, 2-2.4 amps per USB port for tablets, and 1-1.7 amps for cell phones. Small solar panels have gone up in recent years, including portable solar cell chargers of all sizes. Solar charging with smaller packs takes time because of the smaller space, but larger fold-out solar products charge up much faster and typically have better output to charge mobile devices.
It will take time for highly efficient solar cells to enter the market: on large scale right now 20% is top-of-the-line, but 44% solar panels are definitely feasible. If you live in a sunny area without much shade, you may consider taking out a loan to finance a whole-house solar system: the loan payments, with government incentives, may be less than your electric bill. Solar parity varies state-by-state, and case-by-case. If you've matched solar parity, you can start saving the world AND money right now!
6 - Electric cars
Yes, you knew it was gonna be here. Ditch your gas guzzler for an electric car TODAY! Electric cars are by nature more energy efficient due to the simplification of the engine: electric motors do not have as many moving parts and do not use fuel, so you can say goodbye to a lot of stressful maintenance on vehicles: no more worrying about oil changes or gas fill-ups! If you're looking to purchase a new vehicle, see what your state has to offer for purchasing an electric car. If you do, look for a car with regenerative braking: these actually recharge when you use your brakes! Yes, electric cars are more expensive up front. But over the life of the car you will save at every step of the way: electricity is much cheaper than gas.
One of the cheapest electric cars, the Nissan Leaf, runs about $30,000. With a $7,500 incentive and trade-in, you can expect to purchase a brand new all-electric car for about $20,000. The Ford Focus also has a similar price. This is not much more than the cost of purchasing a new gas car. The next time you need to purchase a vehicle, I strongly suggest you make it electric. I plan to do so myself sometime within the next 7 years.