Authors: Maria Lewytzkyj-Milligan, Veronica "Roni" Jacobi with Our Green Challenge
According to an April report from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, sixty-two percent of Americans now say they believe that global warming is happening and only 16 percent say it is not. Additionally, on June 5, 2013, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilask gave a speech to the National Press Club in Washington that stressed, “We’re seeing more severe storms. We’re facing more invasive species. More intense forest fires threaten communities each year. NOAA reported that 2012 was the second most intense year in our history for extreme weather event…New technologies and advanced practices have managed to keep production steady even in the face of these new and more extreme weather patterns. But the latest science tells us that the threat of a changing climate is new and different from anything we’ve tackled.”
Still guessing on what to do and whether any politicians are going to do anything about these findings? Well, both scientists and many of you who are paying attention to the climate debate and weather patterns are not alone, because we are all facing something new and different than anything we’ve tackled, and we aren’t afraid to complain about how politicized the discussion has become. If you’re like many people who are concerned, you like solutions and you want to avoid unnecessary risk, and you don’t want to wait around for a plan that sounds like another endless debate. Extreme weather patterns are emerging more frequently—and while it is difficult to point to climate change as causing a single weather event without in-depth research—you want to know how it might affect you and how you can tackle a new and different climate.
Although it’s still critical to continue to encourage your local, state and federal representatives to do their part, stay informed on how vulnerable your area is to climate change. You can begin here at the Natural Resource Defense Council website.
You should know a few things to have prepared when it comes to dealing with climate change as it gets warmer or cooler in the places where you live and visit. Take necessary precautions. Why wait for the city, county or state to come up with a plan? Here are 5 ways you can prepare and adapt to climate change while still doing your part to fight climate change. Even if carbon taxes come around for the worst polluters in your vicinity or taxes on gas emissions, you’re still preparing yourself in the meantime.
Even now, remember that we can still try in each of our households to mitigate our contribution to worsening climate change as responsible proactive citizens and continue to make a positive difference. We can also face a bad situation and do everything we can to avoid having a terrible experience.
5 ways we can prepare and adapt:
1. Are you likely to feel more stressed, depressed and anxious given that extreme weather events and disasters will be more severe and more frequent? Yes, according to “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States and Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is not Adequately Prepared” authored by Kevin J. Coyle, JD and Lise Van Susteren, MD as part of the National Wildlife Federation Climate Education Program. “The greatest public costs could come from ignoring the effects on mental health due to the impact of global climate change.” Since global climate change will increase anxiety, fear, depression, and stress, look up ways to reduce these affects, by learning and practicing good nutrition including the use of herbs, exercising, and using aromatherapy and other natural ways to reduce these symptoms.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Interface between Psychology and Global Climate Change, psychological forms of adaptation are very infrequently addressed in the current climate change adaptation literature. According to the APA, research on disaster preparedness, response and recovery is useful, because many of the projected impacts of climate change will take the form of disasters. For example, someone who lives in an area that may see rising seas may need to evaluate whether they have the resources to respond to the threat of a rising sea level and whether they can reduce uncertainty in the face of the risk.
In addressing our mental health concerns as they relate to global climate change, you could engage in problem solving in two ways. First, participate in community support projects and volunteerism. Secondly, assess your household habitat to adjust to climate change in small manageable stages so that you protect you and your family. This strategy is more proactive than falling prey to environmental numbness and being caught unprepared. Keep your enthusiasm and motivation up by taking small steps and identifying the barriers you face in making changes in positively impacting the world around you. Barriers that you identify may be preventing you from changing your behaviors and assessing risks you may have to face locally with climate changes. Try to tackle these barriers. Also, don’t forget to share your concern with decision-makers and businesses. Remember to pool your concerns in your community and look for others who are also interested in adapting to weather changes.
2. Are you at risk of facing a heat wave and will the sun burn too harshly on your vegetable garden? Familiarize yourself with heat wave emergency websites that you may find online in your area or other communities. Many of these disaster preparedness sites stress that you should watch for signals of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so stay in tuned with how you are responding to increased heat temperatures. You should develop a family disaster plan in the case of extreme heat. You should also make sure you adapt your home to the possibility. Finally, become familiar with places you can go to cool off.
Discussing extreme heat waves with your family and community ahead of time will help reduce your fears, depression and anxiety. Some people start arranging for air-conditioned shelters to be opened. You can localize the emergency information so that you don’t have to find it out when the heat is on. One good website is the National Disaster Education Coalition.
Many bloggers provide tips online about how to protect your gardens during extreme heat. Two pointers that are worth highlighting include: (1) applying mulch over soil to keep the soil moist which protects the soil from the direct sun, and (2) using shade cloth or protective row covers in your garden. Thinking about how to provide shade to plants will also spark more learning on good companion plants that might create partial shade for young plants.
3. Are you at risk of facing extreme rain or extreme drought? According to a May 2013 NASA report, climate change will increase drought in temperate regions while the tropics will experience more extreme rains in the future. A visit to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center reveals severe to exceptional drought conditions across the US in 2013. It’s worth mentioning that the West is quickly becoming home to the new epicenter of the 2013 drought. The US Seasonal Drought Outlook for June 20 – September 30, 2013, released June 20, 2013, shows large-scale trends of drought persisting or intensifying in the West, the South and the High Plains.
According to Ready.gov which lists several strategies for drought preparedness, one of the most critical things you can do to prepare is to make the practices that they list a daily practice and help preserve water. Their tips include never pouring water down the drain when you can find another use for it, check all your plumbing for leaks, and install an instant hot water heater on your sink. They offer a lot of great tips here. They also suggest that you consider rainwater harvesting, where practical.
In preparation of extreme rains, be prepared for the possibility of flash flooding from major thunderstorms due to the rapid rise of creeks and streams. According to NOAA, many automobiles become buoyant in as little as 2 feet of water and you can lose control of your vehicle in as little as 6 inches. Take action by moving to higher ground and never drive in flood waters. Ready.gov suggests that before a flood you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. You should also avoid building in a floodplain unless you can reinforce your home, consider installing check valves to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home, and construct barriers to stop flood water from entering the building.
4. Are you wondering how climate change might affect your pet? Warmer temperatures may cause an increase in fleas and ticks for cats and dogs, so be diligent in flea and tick treatments and if your pet is outdoors frequently, especially if you know the woods or grasses in your area have a lot of fleas, check your pet daily in warm months. In terms of exposure to extreme temperatures, always leave pets plenty of water and make arrangements for your pet in case of natural disaster. Cats exhibit success at weathering various changes, but the full effects of climate change remain open-ended.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association Healthy Pet, climate change can increase the risk of spreading some diseases by impacting the life cycles of insects such as ticks which can affect dogs and cats negatively.
The AAHA also mentions that the spread of other diseases by raccoons and skunks may also increase so talk to your vet and educate yourself on local preventative treatments for pets based on your pet's age, health status, home and travel environment, lifestyle and changes in your local climate.
5. Are you at risk of suffering from more allergies? Climate change may be releasing more pollen and ragweed into the air, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and making life worse for roughly 30 to 40 million season allergy sufferers nationwide. Take more precautions to cope with your allergies. One place to get tips and find out how much climate change can affect you is on the NRDC’s Climate Change page “Serious Threats Where You Live and What to Do about Them.” Simply type in your area code and you’ll get tips and data you can trust.
Strike it While the Iron’s Hot
With any potential threat, it’s better to strike it while the iron’s hot and accept the inevitable changes we’re all noticing and turn our problems into opportunities to adapt and become stronger. You wouldn’t wait to protect your car from possible theft, so why not protect yourself from possible weather changes in your area. Just like you would still try to make sure your neighborhoods remains safe, even as you prepare yourself in the case of an emergency, you should become prepared for more extreme weather shifts, and still continue to make enough of a difference to lessen the future blows the climate takes on all of us. If we pay attention and develop ways to pollute less and still pursue our dreams and goals, we can show a little earth tenderness. This includes breaking our habit of getting in the car for every chore. It includes relying less on our thinking habits and habitual beliefs. It involves eating less meat, since according to Worldwatch Institute, agriculture and livestock from the agricultural sector remain the major source of global green house gas emissions.
Let’s become proud first responders and enjoy being part of the solution!