While most of us can point to examples of all five scenarios at various times in our lives, the evidence of the increasing regularity of these events is overwhelming. And sobering. The consequences of a warming atmosphere that holds more water and energy is wreaking havoc in the quality of our lives.
More frequent and intense rain events cause flooding, property damage, sewage overflows, an increase in waterborne pathogens that transmit disease, an increase in algal blooms, and polluted runoff. Coupled with damaging windstorms they also place great stress on infrastructure—like water treatment facilities, roads, and bridges. And while scientists predict the warmer temperatures will result in less ice coverage and, therefore, lower water levels by the turn of the century, the storm events create volatility in the levels of the Great Lakes. Such volatility damages our shoreline and increases the cost of maintaining marinas and navigable waterways. It puts tourism, one of the key economic drivers for the region, at risk. It also affects the productivity of our farms, another economic driver, with soybean and maze crops expected to decline 10-30% by mid-century.
Warmer temperatures mean an increase in the number of parasites and ticks, including the black-legged ticks known to transmit Lyme disease. This disease, when not detected or treated, can lead to joint pain, arthritis, neurological problems, heart palpitations, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet. This is serious stuff. In addition to the increase in ticks, the warmer temperatures are spurring the migration of the white-footed mouse, a known carrier of Lyme, into southern Michigan.
But there are things we can do to slow down the consequences of climate change. And that gives me hope. The David Suzuki Foundation has created a top ten list.
- Demand climate solutions this election. We are fortunate to have active chapters of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonprofit, grassroots advocacy organization that offers educational programs on policy options.
- Use energy wisely. Replace all light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs. Unplug computers, televisions, and other electronics when not in use. Wash clothes in cold or warm water and hang-dry when possible. Install a programmable thermostat. Look for Energy Star labels when purchasing new appliances. Winterize your home and minimize the use of air conditioners.
- Use renewable energy. You can learn more at the websites of your local energy provider.
- Eat for a climate-stable planet. Eat more meat-free meals. Buy organic and local food. Don’t waste food. Grow your own.
- Start a climate conversation. We’re living it, why not talk about it?
- Green your commute. Take public transportation. Ride a bike. Car-share. Switch to electric or hybrid vehicles. Fly less.
- Consume less, waste less. What would happen if we were charged per pound for trash disposal? Aligned incentives drive behavior change and can foster innovation
- Invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels. I also suggest investing in corporations and businesses that adhere to sustainable growth—companies that measure and compensate their leaders on profitability AND social and environmental responsibility.
- Support youth-led movements. In October, I introduced you to Hannah Huggett, the high school freshman who led this year’s Climate Strike in Holland. Join her in making recycling a priority in your home and community.
- VOTE. And vote with knowledge. Thanks to the League of Conservation Voters, an organization that scorecards state and federal representatives on voting records that include issues like pollution-free energy options, we can make informed decisions.