Continued Effect of Climate Change in the U.S.

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Climate change has been a controversial topic for the past decade, with many still claiming it to be a false phenomenon backed by no scientific data. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the most comprehensive climate science report ever written by experts, climate change is absolutely real, and we’re the cause of it. The planet is currently the warmest it has ever been in the history of modern civilization, rainfall has dramatically fallen, extreme weather has become commonplace, and pollution has caused the destruction of countless ecosystems. Since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, global temperature levels have steadily risen, and now we are seeing the dramatic effects of it.

The Facts About Climate Change

drought In the United States, the annual average temperature has risen since the start of the 20th century. Up until the 1940’s, the annual temperature increased, then experienced a fall from then until the 1970s. From then on, it has steadily increased, with a rapid increase seen through 2016. In 2016, each region of the United States experienced increased average temperatures, with regions like Alaska, the Northwest, the Southwest, and the Northern Great Plains seeing an increase of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

More than 95% of the land surface of the U.S. has seen an increase in temperature, with very few areas experiencing cooling. Higher temperatures can lead to a number of detrimental effects. This includes making it more difficult to properly grow crops with the loss of freshwater and ideal growing conditions. It could spell trouble for our energy grids, as a higher temperature will influence people to use more energy to stay cool. It can even lead to a greater risk of airborne diseases and heavier pollution.

floodWhile temperatures have been steadily rising in the U.S., we have seen annual precipitation fall in drier areas, and increase in wetter areas. There has been a decrease in much of the West, Southwest, and Southeast. In the Northern and Southern Plains, as well as the Northeast, precipitation has increased. This has essentially resulted in drier areas experiencing drought, while wetter areas are experiencing flooding. This results in problems affecting things like agriculture, ecosystem and water supplies. Crops will not be able to be grown in areas not receiving enough rainfall, while areas receiving more than usual will experience their crops flooded. California experienced some of the worst drought conditions in its history, with the most recent drought spanning 5 years from 2012-2016. While we have since exited this drought, it can very well happen again.

Another impact the rising temperatures of the U.S. brings with it are extreme storms, which seem to have become the norm. We saw Hurricane Harvey bring forth floods of unimaginable proportions, while Hurricane Irma brought some of the strongest winds ever recorded in the northern Atlantic. Some experts are confident that warming temperatures are creating stronger storms. Research done by Jim Elsner, a climatologist at Florida State University, concludes that higher ocean heat provides more energy for storms, which can fuel their intensity. These freak of nature storms have continually ascended beyond previous records, causing catastrophic amounts of damage.

Get Involved

The Earth is changing, and we are seeing it firsthand. While climate change is something we so often see talked about on the news, there are ways you can become actively engaged in doing your part in protecting our planet. An organization called 350 is taking measures to do exactly that, by taking a stand against pollution, which is the root cause of climate change. 350 is building a global grassroots climate movement that aims to hold our countries leaders accountable to science and justice. Through the use of online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public action with the goal of opposing projects that are causing rising temperatures, which includes new coal, oil, and gas projects. 350 wants to eventually build 100% renewable and clean energy solutions.

350 has a 3-step plan that aims to build this better and cleaner future. They aim to keep carbon in the ground, which has been cited as being the cause of our planet warming up, creating a greenhouse effect in our atmosphere. They want to revoke the licenses of the fossil fuel industry, as their products contribute to the release of carbon dioxide when burned. In addition, they want to protest against the continuous building and strengthening of the fossil fuel infrastructure. 350 also focuses their efforts on helping build a new, zero-carbon economy that is more reliant in community-based sustainability solutions. This includes solar, geothermal, and wind generated energy. Finally, 350 wants to pressure governments into limiting emissions actions allowed by state and local governments.

San Diegans protested Trump’s climate-denying cabinet nominees at the Federal Building in January (photo courtesy SD350)

All members share a belief in several driving principles that guides the efforts of 350. They all stand by the fact that climate is not some distant problem that can be dealt with in the future, but rather a pressing matter that needs to be addressed now. 350 understands that they are strongest when collaborations is at its highest. By bring people together from all walks of life in pursuit of a common goal, 350 believes it can achieve its goals of a healthier planet.

For those that want to get involved, 350 has a local chapter in San Diego that is dedicated to inspiring change to prevent climate change. Their website has information on events that are held to advocate for climate change. As a member, you will meet monthly to discuss upcoming events. A recent event saw hundreds of San Diegans protest against the use of offshore drilling, advocating for a 100% renewable energy plan instead. This is a great way to join the fight against climate change, so take this chance to do your part.

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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