Casey Smith, Naturalist
I recently attended the Climate Reality Leadership Training in Pittsburgh, offered by the Climate Reality Project, https://www.climaterealityproject.org/, founded by Al Gore. Despite the negative impacts we learned about climate change, the training was still educational and inspiring. I learned information that gives me hope for the future of our planet.
Sixteen of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2016 was the hottest year on record globally, beating out the two previous hottest years on record, 2015 and 2014. Increased ocean temperatures make for the stronger storms that we’ve seen this hurricane season. Hurricane Harvey dropped 33 trillion gallons of water on the United States, equal to the flow of Niagara Falls for 509 days. Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 hurricane for three straight days, a new global record since satellite tracking began. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times. It’s being released into the atmosphere faster than at any time the last 66 million years. Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere have increased dramatically from the burning of fossil fuels, creating a thermal blanket that traps heat over the entire planet.
As a Naturalist, I see the decline in the Monarch butterfly population, increased algae blooms, and the spread of illnesses like Lyme disease and Zika virus. And we’ve all seen the catastrophic storms, floods, and wildfires on the news. But I also see hope. The Paris Climate Agreement is dedicated to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening countries’ abilities to deal with the effects of climate change. Syria recently joined the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the US the only country opposed to the pact. “We’re Still In” is a growing movement with a current total of 20 US states, 110 US cities, and more than 1,400 businesses that have pledged to uphold the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement, helping to ensure the US meets it commitment. In the US, solar energy jobs are growing 17 times faster than the overall economy. We now have 84 gigawatts of wind energy installed and 44.7 gigawatts of solar energy capacity, enough to power a total of 33.7 million homes. In December 2016, Ohio was listed among the top 10 states for energy efficiency jobs, with over 1000 total clean energy jobs in Delaware County alone.
What can you do? Buy recycled materials. If you must buy new, research the manufacturer – do they use green practices when making the product you’re buying. Write to elected officials. Vote. Volunteer for citizen science projects like Frog Watch. Go solar! Ohio has a deregulated electricity market, meaning you can choose where to buy your energy, opting to use companies who offer renewable energy. Check out http://www.energychoice.ohio.gov/Default.aspx for more information. But most importantly, educate yourself from reputable sources.