With the arrival of summer, temperatures are beginning to rise – and so is energy consumption. With concerns over climate change continuing to grow, now is a great time to focus on environmental conservation. You can start conserving natural resources at home by practicing responsible, sustainable energy consumption – and you’ll save some money on energy costs too!
The Truth About Climate Change
Many of us have been around long enough to remember “global warming,” but that term simply did not accurately reflect the reality of what is happening to our environment. What we now call climate change refers not only to changes in temperature, but also changes to things like rainfall and wind patterns, crop and flower blooming seasons, and more.
Experts agree that climate change is being caused by humans and the ways that we have been increasing levels of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, in the atmosphere. The two major sources of greenhouse gas emissions are the fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas that we use for electricity, heat, and transportation, and deforestation methods used to clear land for urbanization or farming.
Experts say that climate change is the #1 threat to humans globally. When the weather is out of whack, the routines and the natural cycles of the planet are disrupted, with catastrophic effects. And we have already begun to see the effects of climates changing: we have seen arctic ice sheets melting, leading to rising ocean levels, which in turn causes disastrous flooding.
Many climate scientists and meteorologists use Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as an example of the types of climate-related emergencies we can expect to see in the future. 15 years later, New Orleans neighborhoods are still trying to recover from the tragedy. Just one hurricane can wreak havoc and lead to extreme homelessness, poverty, water contamination, and strain on local resources.
Climate change also exacerbates medical risks and the spread of infectious disease. The World Health Organization estimates that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year by the year 2030 – just 10 years from now. With temperatures and rainfall rising, insect-borne diseases like dengue fever, zika, and lymes disease will flourish. Hotter temperatures will place people at a greater risk for medical emergencies related to heat stroke and cardiovascular and kidney disease. Air quality will decrease because of pollution, higher mold levels due to warmer and wetter seasons, and higher pollen levels due to longer pollinating seasons. All of this will put people at a risk for respiratory health issues, particularly the 300 million people who suffer from asthma globally.
What You Can Do
These threats are real, and the time for action is now. There are some changes you can make in your own home that can help slow the rate of climate change. These suggestions involve some changes to your lifestyle, but they will help the planet and save you money or improve your health.
- Reduce your air conditioner usage this summer. Instead, rely on overhead or portable fans, or invest in insulating window curtains to help your house stay cooler for longer.
- Hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer to save energy.
- Unplug your phone and laptop charger when not in use, and consider switching to power strips for other appliances so you can turn them all off at night. The bonus is that these three steps will also cut down on your energy bills.
- Walk or bike instead of driving. This is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, and reduces the use of fossil fuels.
- Eat in-season, locally grown fruits and veggies. The environmental cost of growing and farming out-of-season produce is very high, and supporting local farms reduces transportation emissions. Or, start your own garden!
- Reduce red meat consumption. The meat farming industry is a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of perpetuating the farmed meat cycle, look for local, sustainable farms and butchers for high quality, low carbon footprint meats.
- Reduce and reuse as much as possible! Fix your appliances, shop secondhand, and make small switches, like using rags made out of old t-shirts instead of paper towels or recycling candle wax. Factories create a lot of carbon dioxide when making new products – plus, think of all the money you’ll save by limiting your online shopping!
Unfortunately, because climate change is a multifaceted issue, there’s no one solution for slowing down its effects. But by participating in efforts to save our planet, you are modeling the importance of environmental sustainability to your family, friends, and community. This environmental stewardship is critical as we head towards the breaking point for our planet’s future. All of these changes, though small, are a step forward on the path to a healthy, thriving planet for years to come.