Gas stove

In the U.S., furnaces, water heaters, and stoves often burn natural gas. Though better for the climate than oil or coal, it’s still a significant source of carbon pollution.

Kate Harrison is a city council member in Berkeley, California. She was surprised to learn that burning natural gas in buildings produced more than a quarter of her city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Generally, when people think about climate change, they think about cars and factories,” she says, “so I was stunned to find out that this large proportion was coming out of residences, offices, etc. That motivated us to look at how we could tackle that issue.”

So she helped pass a new law in Berkeley. Starting next year, the city will ban the use of natural gas in new residential buildings under five stories. The law will eventually apply to larger buildings and commercial construction, too.

New buildings will use electricity rather than gas. This switch can have a big impact in cities like Berkeley, because most of their electricity comes from renewable sources.

Berkeley’s law is the first in the U.S., but dozens of cities are considering similar laws. Harrison says when cities commit to taking action, rapid change is possible.

“I think we just hit a tipping point and now we’re on the way,” she says.

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Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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