All around the world, the impacts of climate change are becoming more and more apparent, even here in the Pacific Northwest and the surrounding areas. The rising sea temperatures are essentially cooking some salmon in the Salish Sea before they can reproduce; high altitude deserts in Oregon and other pockets of the US have seen a 2-3°C increase in temperature between 1895 and 2018; Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the country; scientists say that wildfires in Alberta are linked to climate change too. This past July, for example, was the hottest on record and many have linked that rise in temperature to climate change.
- Is Climate Change Contributing to Slower Moving Hurricanes? from Morning Edition on NPR
According to some scientists, climate change and global warming will have an impact on the number and intensity of natural disasters and storms. As temperatures rise and the difference in temperature between the poles and equators decrease, the number of storms will decrease but the storms that do happen will be more intense and destructive and will also have significantly more rain. These intense storms and increased rainfall will have a huge impact on different areas, especially for urban areas that have limited space for the rain to eventually end up at. All of that results in more floods in urban areas hit by hurricanes and other storms.
- UN Human Rights Chief ‘Alarmed’ by Detention of Child Migrants, Climate Change by Jamey Keaten, Global News
Climate change and natural disasters have an incredible impact on humans, especially those at or below the poverty line. Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, with tens of thousands of people needing food and shelter on various islands and more than 3,000 feared dead. Puerto Rico was hit by two hurricanes in September of 2017 (Irma and Maria) and two years later, the island is still trying to recover while also facing more hurricanes like Dorian.
- Dorian Shows Us the Bleak Future of How the US Will Treat Climate Refugees by Brendan O’Connor, Vice
The destruction caused by natural disasters has a huge economic impact. A 2017 article from the National Geographic stated that between 2007-2017, natural disasters have cost the US $240 billion a year and that’s not including the recent increase in destructive natural disasters. Between the three major hurricanes and 76 wildfires on the west coast in 2017, there was an estimated $300 billion economic loss. For reference, $300 billion is enough to provide tuition to the 13.5 million students currently enrolled in public colleges and universities for all four years. If you need another reference, one billion seconds is equal to 31.69 years and 300 billion seconds is 9,507 years.
The Universal Ecological Fund (as known as the Fundacion Ecologica Universal FEU-US) is a nonprofit organization that uses and distributes analysis and information to work towards sustainable and equitable development. This nonprofit released a report titled ‘The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States’ that lays out the economic losses from human-induced climate change and weather events.
In addition to its impact on natural disasters and humans, climate change and natural disasters have had an immense effect on wildlife and ecosystems around the world. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, has a very poor outlook in the long term and climate change is a huge factor in that. One recent scientific study has also found that climate change has influenced the movement of different wildlife.
While some species are able to quickly evolve and adapt to climate change, many other species aren’t quite as lucky. According to a recent UN report, one million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction. While species often come and go, this rapid decline is unparalleled and accelerating. A group of emperor penguins in Antarctica has not produced any offspring for the last three years; wild reindeer have been officially declared extinct in the continental United States; the population of vaquita porpoises in the Gulf of California is nearing zero. Deforestation, climate change, fishing nets, and more have all played a part in these species’ rapid decline.
Natural disasters also have affected wildlife and domesticated animals of all kinds too. These disasters, like hurricanes and wildfires, destroy habitats, nests, food, and migration paths. For some wild birds, natural disasters can be devastating. And these disasters also affect pets of all kinds. Navigating a natural disaster is stressful, to say the least, but doing so with a pet can only add to that. Having a plan ahead of any disaster for you, your family, and your pets can help.
Do you want to learn more about climate change and find ways to fight back? With climate change and natural disasters, it is very important to be informed. Here are some resources you can use to learn more from:
- Climate Change from the National Wildlife Federation
- Climate Change Resources from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
- Our Planet, a Netflix docu-series about the iconic species and ecosystems in the world and the key issues affecting their survival
- Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’, Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ from Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
- International Wildlife Film Festival features photographer’s view of climate disasters by Cory Walsh, Missoulian
- The Southeast’s Unnatural Disasters from Defenders of Wildlife
There are many other ways we can all contribute and fight back against climate change. That anxiety you might be feeling (the anxiety I know I’m feeling) can be a good thing because it might spur you into action. Here are some general things you can do to help:
- Reduce your meat consumption. You don’t have to go out and immediately become a vegan, especially if doing so would negatively affect your health. But even just reducing your meat, particularly beef, consumption can make a difference. And with the rise in alternative proteins, there are many options out there!
- Eat local. Eating meat, vegetables, and other food from local farms and sources can help limit how much your food has to travel and thus, reduces the amount of carbon emissions it takes for your food to arrive at your home.
- Limit your plastic consumption and invest in reusable items if possible. Additionally, call on corporations and elected officials to take action. While individual action can make a difference, only 100 companies are contributing 71% of carbon emissions.
- Support indigenous peoples and communities.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Upcycle. Plastic in our oceans has become an increasingly pressing issue; for example, environmentalists cleaned up 40 tons of fishing nets from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch back in June 2019. Textile waste continues to be a big issue as well so the practice of reducing your consumption, reusing or recycling materials, and upcycling things you might throw away can make a difference. Additionally, requiring companies of all kinds to be more environmentally friendly can help.