How do we know climate change threatens our way of life? Science. Here's a small sample of the MOUNTAINS of evidence and information about climate impacts on our world.
What Can You Do About It?
It's important to begin on a high note. The current climate crisis isn't the end of the world. We can make a difference. YOU can make a difference. Here's how.
Kill Your Grass
My husband hilariously says that all the men in his family unintentionally kill the grass in their pursuit of that lush green lawn. Lucky for him, WE DON'T HAVE ONE! Homeowners tend to think of their yards as being apart from nature. Quite the opposite! True and lasting climate action and conservation start in your yard. I cannot recommend enough, Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard by professor and entomologist, Doug Tallamy. Doug discusses his mission to convert 20 million acres of green lawns into native "green spaces" - havens for beneficial bugs and birds. He calls his mission, "Homegrown National Park." We joined his effort and recently converted our entire yard into an Arkansas Certified Wildspace with the help of a free program through the Central Arkansas Master Naturalists.
Reduce Food Waste
I'm a big fan of NPR's Life Kit for simple ways to change my daily routine. I love their segment, Food waste is a big problem. These small changes can help. These tips don't put an end to the joy of eating out, and they satisfy my desire to organize with little glass containers and a dry-erase marker.
I've committed myself to making a few small changes to reduce my plastic footprint - carrying a Yeti water bottle, refusing straws, and switching from screw top wine bottles to cork top (I'm fancy now!). It doesn't take much if all try one or two things from this list from the World Wildlife Fund: Ten Tips to Reduce Your Plastic Waste.
Talk About It
The best way to fight climate change is to TALK about climate change. Frame your conversations in terms of "what can we do" instead of "the world is going to hell in a handbasket." Talk with your friends, neighbors, family, AND elected officials. Tell them you are concerned about climate change and "here's why." Here's how to talk with your elected officials in Washington.
Think of the Children
Anxiety about climate change is on the rise - especially among school-aged children. Kids are smart - they see the news, they hear adults talking about current events, and they can recognize patterns. The increasing pattern of extreme weather events affects them, their communities, and their country. So, how do we talk to them - responsibly - about what is going on? If you have/know a kid (or are a kid!) asking about or learning about climate change, you can print off this comic made by NPR. It tells the story of a kid worried about climate change who takes the initiative to organize his classmates to plant trees in their neighborhood and talk to their school about a sustainability plan. It emphasizes the importance of making small changes and working together on the bigger ones.
Eat Less Meat
This can be a controversial topic, and I too love a delicious burger. Agriculture accounts for about 11% of greenhouse gas emissions. "Enteric fermentation" is a big piece of that 10%. Yes, I am talking about methane released from the digestive processes of cows. Yes, it is TRUE that cow burps are a major contributor to greenhouse gases BECAUSE Earth is home to a lot of cows - 1 billion. Around 93 million of them are in the United States. Add in the emissions from manure (cow poop) management, and you've got quite the contribution. I'm not suggesting we all go vegan. I challenge you to reduce your meat consumption just one day of the week or if in a pinch, convert just one of your favorite recipes to vegetarian. I know I love the Tofurky Italian Vegan Sausage in my red beans and rice. This article in Scientific American, "Eating Less Red Meat is Something Individuals Can Do to Help the Climate Crisis," puts it nicely - "Our climate problem is big, but a person's diet change can make an impact."
Taking a Deep Dive
For my fellow nerds out there, I've put together a quick list of my favorite scientific reports about climate change, agriculture, and our food supply.
USDA Climate Report
A warming world will change the way we grow, move, buy, and eat food. The USDA report, "Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System" examines how climate change affects food production, processing, transportation, trade, and consumption, among others. I like this report because it models climate change scenarios and their impacts on each part of our agriculture and food systems.
USDA Vulnerability Assessment
Do you want to know how climate change affects your region of the country? The USDA Climate Hubs have produced vulnerability assessments on each of the U.S.'s major agricultural areas. This is important because climate change doesn't mean the same thing for everyone geographically. Similarly, no one climate solution will work for everyone. For example, the Southwest Regional Hub discusses wildfires and droughts. The Southeast Regional Hub discusses hurricanes and saltwater intrusion.
National Climate Assessment
Volume II of the 4th National Climate Assessment "Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States," also evaluates climate impacts on a regional level within the U.S. This report covers everything from water, energy, land use, forests, biodiversity, coastal effects, agriculture, air quality, and more. I particularly like the data points provided around historical changes in weather patterns based on region and, of course, the "what can we do about this" chapters - Reducing Risks Through Adaptation Actions and Emissions Mitigation.