You’ll Shoot the Climate’s Eye Out

And 10 More Surprising Stats About Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Christmas is just a few days away, and with it, also TBS’s annual marathon of A Christmas Story. Readers of a certain generation will remember it as the classic movie from 1983 in which Ralphie Parker, the central character, pines for an airsoft Red Ryder BB gun, only to be rebuffed, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

As it turns out, he’d do a number on the climate, too. The other day a colleague alerted me to the fact that some airsoft guns use HFC 134a as a propellant. HFC 134a is 3,800 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period.

But here are 10 other statistics you might not know about greenhouse gas emissions and energy this holiday season:

1. If considered as a separate nation, the United States’ building stock would rank third in energy consumption: Only China and the U.S. consume more primary energy than the U.S. built environment, which uses 8 percent of the world’s primary energy, 42 percent of U.S. primary energy, and 72 percent of U.S. electricity.

2. Searching for parking burns one million barrels of oil per day: In Los Angeles alone, city drivers searching for parking in a 15-block district drove more than 950,000 miles, emitted 730 metric tons of carbon dioxide, and burned 47,000 gallons of gasoline.

3. Junk mail has a huge carbon footprint, not just a landfill footprint: The energy used to produce, deliver, and dispose of junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 2.8 million cars.

4. Micropower now produces about one-fourth of the world’s total electricity: Low- and no-carbon micropower, which includes renewables minus big hydro, plus cogeneration, now produces one-fourth of the world’s electricity. When you add big hydro and nuclear to the mix, micropower produced half the world’s electricity in 2013.

5. Photovoltaic power worldwide is scaling even faster than cellphones: For the last 14 years, global solar PV production has grown faster than 41 percent per year. The amount of solar power installed worldwide is now over 140 GW.

6. Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels: The cost of solar and wind power has plummeted so much in the past five years that utility-scale renewable generation is now cost competitive with, and in some markets cheaper than, coal and natural gas, even without subsidies.

7. Efficient transportation beats out the fracking revolution: Between 2004 and 2013 the decrease in driving in the U.S. along with more-efficient vehicles displaced twice as many oil imports than the U.S. fracking revolution and the consequent rise in domestic oil output.

8. Efficiency beats out natural gas: In 2012, energy efficiency displaced nearly twice as much domestically burned coal as expanded natural gas use did. In fact, lower consumption due to 1974–2010 increases in energy efficiency was the largest single energy resource across the 11 IEA member countries’ aggregate total final consumption—bigger than oil, or than all other sources combined.

9. Universities are striving for carbon neutrality: Since 2007, the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment has encouraged almost 700 colleges and universities to commit to achieving carbon neutrality. A few small colleges have already achieved carbon neutrality, most recently Colby College in Maine.

10. There are more U.S. jobs in the solar industry than in coal mining: In 2013 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 80,030 jobs for all occupations within the coal-mining industry. Meanwhile, the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2013, stated that the solar industry employed 142,698 Americans.