Shining a light on global warming

18Seconds.orgWhen I first saw Al Gore present his slideshow on global warming in L.A. in 2005, I thought we could create a tipping point from his message if we created a movie out of it. Today, I hope a new tipping point is making its debut.

So many people coming out of the theater after seeing "An Inconvenient Truth" told me how deeply affected they were and that they were looking to figure out what they could do to make a difference. It became clear to them from the overwhelming evidence that the debate about this climate crisis is over and it's just a matter of "What can I do?"

My message today is this: You can do one thing right now and it only takes 18 seconds. That's how long its takes to switch to an ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). That simple action will put money in your pocket and at the same time reduce greenhouse gases and our dependence on energy. If every American swapped just one bulb, it would save more than $8 billion in energy costs, prevent the burning of 30 billion pounds of coal, and keep the equivalent of two million cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. We'd save enough energy to light more than 1.5 million homes for an entire year!

Today, a group of companies, government entities, non-profits, religious groups, academic institutions and individuals are launching a campaign to educate Americans about the cost-savings and environmental benefits of CFLs. 18Seconds.org is a movement about empowering the individual: Every person in America can literally change the world in one easy step.

If flickering, buzzing tubes come to mind when you think fluorescent, you'll be surprised by today's CFLs. They now rival the warm light of traditional incandescent bulbs and they work just about anywhere. They do cost more at the checkout counter (about $2.50), but you save it back in your electric bill in a matter of months. Simply put, CFLs are a win-win for your wallet and the environment.

Yahoo! has built a powerful tool in www.18seconds.org, which tracks data for CFL purchases nationally and locally. You will be able to see the amount of CFLs sold across the country, by city or state — along with the equivalent dollars, energy and greenhouse gas emissions saved. By the way, I have to give a shout-out to the amazing engineers who were given a sabbatical from their day jobs to pull it together. 18Seconds.org is a great feedback tool to see how we're doing. AC Nielsen has collected purchase information for most grocery store, drug and mass merchandise retailers and is feeding it to the site. Hey, all you bloggers out there, grab the 18seconds badge and you'll have your own personal ticker.

I believe the CFL is the Trojan horse into the minds of the American public — once you get somebody feeling good about making a difference while also saving money, you have them thinking about what else they can do. Every CFL represents an opportunity for ordinary people to take a stand.

Policymakers are beginning to embrace CFLs as an energy-saving solution. The Australian government just announced plans to ban incandescent bulbs in five years and similar legislation was proposed here in California by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine. And 12 U.S. mayors have already signed on to promote the 18Seconds mission in their respective cities — from San Jose to Seattle to Trenton. With proven cost savings and environmental benefits, and endorsements from leading scientists, non-profits, corporations and government entities, the popularity of CFLs is reaching a tipping point.

Global warming is potentially the greatest threat we're facing this century. There's a lot that has to be done. We need more fuel-efficient cars; more solar, wind and other renewable-energy technologies; and reduced carbon emissions from manufacturers. But don't underestimate the power of simple collective actions. Change a bulb, change everything. Today.

(And weigh in on my Yahoo! Answers question today with your creative ideas on growing the movement.)

Lawrence Bender
Producer, "An Inconvenient Truth"

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