By 2020, our energy bills will soar.
That means a huge jump in our greenhouse gas emissions.
But instead of tackling climate change head on, we’re choosing to throw our weight behind other agendas, like energy efficiency, clean energy, and renewable energy.
But these are just the latest of our efforts to “save the planet” and boost our economic well-being.
To put this in perspective, consider this: If you were to estimate how much energy we’d need to burn just to produce the same amount of food and energy as we consume in the year 2020, we’d probably be in trouble.
(See also: Why Your Energy Consumption Will Hit the Wall in 2020.)
The only way to make that kind of impact is to scale up the things we do right now.
And while that’s probably a lot easier said than done, a new report from New York University’s Institute of International Finance suggests that there are some ideas to help.
For one thing, we need to scale down the amount of energy we consume from our buildings, which could lead to more energy efficiency in homes, businesses, and transportation.
It’s also important to take advantage of the “green rush” that’s been going on since the early 1990s, when the government pumped $1.4 trillion into the energy sector, according to the Energy Information Administration.
In fact, according with the report, since 1999, the U.S. government has spent $5.4 billion on energy research and development.
That’s almost twice the amount spent on nuclear energy, a fraction of the billions of dollars spent on the U-2 spy plane program.
The report suggests a few strategies to help us achieve these goals.
The first is to reduce the amount that we use for heating, cooling, lighting, and air conditioning.
We can do this by taking away from our cars, by building smarter, less polluting buildings, and by getting rid of the massive amounts of waste that are thrown away by our factories.
In addition, the report suggests that we might consider installing solar panels in buildings, using the sun’s energy to heat our homes, and using wind turbines to cool buildings.
That would help keep our emissions in check.
(For more on these ideas, check out the full report here.)
The second is to make the electric grid more efficient.
We don’t have to build every single mile of transmission lines.
Instead, we should take advantage to install fewer wires, making our grid more energy efficient.
For example, instead of a few thousand miles of cable connecting cities, we could have only a few hundred.
This would require a lot of infrastructure upgrades to make our grid work more efficiently.
The third is to increase the use of green technology.
If we’re going to build the biggest, most efficient, most carbon-free grid ever, then we should be using the best technology possible.
For instance, we can put solar panels on the roof of our homes to use as energy storage.
That will help us cut our emissions even more, while we can use less energy.
(More on this topic in our next installment.)
And finally, the fourth is to improve our energy infrastructure.
Our electric grid can only handle so much.
The more energy we can store in the grid, the more efficient it becomes.
That energy can then be distributed to our neighbors, our business, our community centers, our schools, and so on.
The big question is: Can we afford to keep doing this?
This article originally appeared in New York magazine.