As responsible inhabitants of planet Earth, we recycle, take public transit when we can, and even think about the foods we eat and clothes we buy in the context of global health—but how much do we think about why we do this? With environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s scathing speech at the United Nations still ringing in our ears, and Emergency Awareness month coming to a close, it’s a good time for all of us to think about the climate crisis, how it will affect you, and why you should continue doing what you do to reduce your carbon footprint.
Increased Weather Extremes
You may have already noticed the impacts of changing weather in your region—heatwaves and downpours in the northeast, widespread wildfires in the west, droughts in the southwest, and major flooding in the Midwest. Fewer birds and butterflies, higher spring and summer temperatures, greater intensity of hurricanes, higher water lines, starving wildlife, new insect-borne diseases, dying reefs, air pollution… it’s all almost too much to bear!
Even with governments and companies around the world moving to change damaging practices, the current trend in weather extremes is part of our new normal, so knowledge about preparing for emergencies has become a necessity to ensure the safety of our families.
Dangers to Your Home
With all the DIY projects you’ve already finished, and the ones you have planned for the future, you may not even want to think about the possibility of a major loss resulting from climate change. Still, we all know to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.
Those who live in coastal communities may be severely affected due to rising sea-levels, forcing them to seek shelter or new housing further inland. Rising temperatures that tax our aging electricity infrastructure could result in widespread power outages. No fun. Especially when our air conditioner is a valued family member that keeps us comfortable and sane during the summer months. Working harder to do the job can shorten the lifespan of your AC equipment.
Then there's the water—that precious, life-sustaining element that we long for during dry months. That creek that was so charming when you first bought your property can cause massive damage to your home and anything else nearby in the flooding caused by a large storm. Extremes in weather may also herald changes in your insurance premiums, so make it a point to review your policies yearly to make sure you're protected.
At the other extreme, homes in wooded areas face increasing risk from devastating forest fires. In the west of the United States, the scope and damage of these fires has doubled. If you do live near wilderness, make sure your family has a plan in place in case the flames come to your door.
More Expensive Food and Drinks
For morning coffee drinkers, this news could be potentially devastating, but with much of the coffee produced by the Arabica variety, an increase in temperatures can be detrimental to that life-giving elixir. Adapted to cool mountain slopes, farmers are increasingly being forced to chase cooler temperatures at higher elevations for their crops. Unfortunately, there is a finite amount of farmland, and the decrease in output will affect the price of your morning pick-me-up.
And hold on to your beers, but climate change will also affect the liquid bread so essential at baseball games, parties, and as an after-work mainstay. Reliable access to clean water, which many of us take for granted, is a very real threat to breweries around the world. And with barley crops washed out by extreme deluges, along with hops damaged by drought, over time, this will lead to a decreasing output of beer, accompanied by an increase in price.
Weather extremes also damage food staples like corn, rice, and wheat. And disruptions to our basic food supplies affect other industries that create cherished products that add joy and convenience to our lives, like boxed cereals, packaged cookies, and snack cakes.
If you want to get back to basics, get your vegetable garden started. Widespread warming means you may need to consider a protected area to keep your crops from frying, so while you're getting that together, install some extra storage under the stairs to give you space to stockpile some beer and coffee.
Increasing Health Risks
Our dependence on fossil fuels and reluctance to get rid of our gas guzzlers isn’t helping either our planet or the air we breathe. An increase in air pollution can be dangerous for those who suffer from asthma. And those emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect only exacerbate the extreme warming of our environment, leading to heat related illnesses like heat cramps, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion.
After a long winter, you’d think spring would be a welcome event, but a happy change for some is an allergy attack for others. Spring is arriving more than a week earlier than it used to, creating distressing conditions for allergy sufferers. Allergy-proofing your home can help, but when combined with extreme spring melts, and insect invasions, it’s easy to see how costly the climate crisis can be detrimental to our health.
Depending on your preference, vacation can involve lounging at the beach, exploring the forest, or taking in the big city lights. If you like to absorb a little history by visiting some of the national landmarks, it will pain you to hear that those iconic symbols of our hard-fought freedoms have also been determined to be at risk from climate extremes. Historic sites like Ellis Island, natural treasures like the Everglades, and scientific achievements like Cape Canaveral and Johnson Space Center all face mounting danger of catastrophic flooding.
And speaking of the sea, if you're a beach or snorkeling enthusiast, you may have already heard how reefs around the world are suffering from an increase in temperature and acidity in the water. These include Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which has been devastated by coral bleaching, and the Florida Keys reef, which is hemorrhaging limestone from acidic waters.
Coastal areas and lowlands are not the only locations at risk, though. Many people love mountain vistas, surrounding themselves with trees. Some of these people make the dazzling beauty of the Rocky Mountains their home. Unfortunately, millions of trees in this area have fallen victim to wildfires, drought, and insects, all brought on by climate change.
If the lake is your destination of choice, you may have already witnessed or seen photos of dried up lakes in the west. Drying lakebeds, not just in the US, can affect groundwater wells that supply water for significant populations around the world. Droughts will deplete groundwater supplies in order to meet demand, and if precipitation does not catch up, the situations can become dire. Many cities are already facing water shortages, and that problem will very likely get worse in the years ahead.
The climate crisis is an epidemic we can't avoid because it is already upon us. Reducing our carbon footprint is a start, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Now that we know the challenges we're facing, it's time to make things happen.