You want to know about a humongous and little know secret in the climate debate?
It's that developed counties like Australia and the USA actually, despite population growth, have had their total carbon emissions go down over the last ten years. For realz.
For all the desperate cries from environmentalists about melting ice caps are stranded polars bears, we have actually been making steady and measurable progress to decarbonise the economy. This fact seems to have been lost in the fight between right-wing climate deniers and devoted climate activists.
This good news does not mean that we're out of the woods. Global carbon dioxide levels are still rapidly increasing and are at their highest of all time. We still need to decrease our carbon emissions way more that what we've seen in recent years. But as it looks, peak carbon for several developed countries has already come and gone in the 2000s.
There are several reasons for this decline.
A slowed economic growth means people buy less things, travel less, and generally more careful with wasting energy.
The shift toward natural gas released less carbon dioxide per unit of energy.
The growth in rooftop solar power has helped.
The other reason is that all of the appliances we use (including cars) have all become dramatically more energy efficient: fridges, freezers, dishwashers, computers, microwaves, water-heaters, washing machines, and clothes dryers have become multiple fold more energy efficient since the 1980s.
Your current refrgerator now might very well use only 10% of the energy as the one you had growing up in the 80s (if you are in your 30s like me).
As the building sector used up approximately 40% of a countrie's energy usage, these appliances cumulatelty have quite an impact.
One great success story that has helped drive this sharp evolution in energy efficiency is the Energy Star Rating program in Australia.
What we learn is
> The power of disclosure - we make the data about the energy easy to find at the point of purchase.
> The government only needs to mandate the use of the sticker, and does not need to micro-manage appliance manufacturers. The manfacturers are left alone to innovate in way that increases their products' energy ratings'.
> The design of the energy rating stickers is obvious and easy for consumers to undestand.
> The stickers are used at the point of purchase.
> Appliance manufactuers first objected to the legislation to madate the public energy ratings, but now they love the energy ratings, as use them as central feature in their sales.
> It's much easier to lobby a government to mandate for a simple disclosure of data, than it is to pitch ambitios targets or specifications to industry. It's also more likely to acheive a better result.
The energy rating system in Australia has been considered to be so sucessful that it has now expanded to include water ratings on taps, showerheads, toilets etc and also gas appliances such as gas water heaters and gas stoves.
Here's a table and chart of the energy consumption of a refidgerator made by ---- since 1970.