Unless you have been avoiding the news and life in general, epic weather events are starting to get noticed even in the U.S. The record floods, heat, snows, tornadoes, fires and — more importantly — their after-effects are waking up even die-hard climate change deniers. Although extreme weather and unpredictable systemic impacts have been predicted by NASA and NOAA climate models, the mainstream media is actually paying attention and getting nervous. Not only is extreme weather dangerous, unpredictable and enough to spoil your party, destroy your home and way of life, it is conceivable that it will change our lives sooner rather than later.
As weather becomes more unpredictable, and extremes happen more often, we will all be looking for ways to survive and thrive in spite of it. This will test the abilities of our elected leaders and it will test our character as a society. U.S. military leaders have been engaged in strategic planning for some time and it is important that ordinary people plan for the impact of climate change as well. Our government can't completely protect us from Mother Nature.
What are some of the impacts and what should we be doing to be safe and live well?
First off, unpredictable weather will result in:
Flooding. Large quantities of moisture rising off warmer than usual oceans are creating bigger, wetter weather systems resulting in flash floods, enormous snow packs and floods several feet above flood stages in some places. If we have a wet summer in the Champlain Valley of Vermont, for example, many homes and camps and parks now under water will stay uninhabitable, possibly for some time. Aside from the social consequences and health issues of thousands of septic systems overflowing into the lake, which supplies the water to hundreds of thousands of people in the valley, the monetary damages are already exponential.
Tornadoes. We are seeing tornadoes in places that have never experienced them before like Vermont and Massachusetts. The high school where I work with 1,400 students and a couple hundred adults has an underground fallout shelter with a capacity of 100. Severe weather bulletins happen at a moment's notice. Building shelters in public buildings for tornado events will be very costly.
Crop damage. This spring many farm fields were washed out repeatedly, after spreading fertilizer, after seeding, and after growing had begun. Climate models show that the wheat belt will migrate into Canada as the climate warms. What does this mean for a state and a nation that is used to being a bread basket and agriculturally-based? Food producers will become wealthy and poorer countries without basic commodities will become hungry.
Melting ice packs. Melting polar and continental ice is draining freshwater supplies in places where there are large populations. Californians and Arizonans, to mention two states, know this already. In countries with millions of thirsty people, with little or no water, or with water being owned by private companies or used for industry, it is logical that we will see social unrest and political instability. This will become expensive.
I am not predicting an apocalypse but it is possible that there will be some panic, some finger-pointing and some disruptions unlike anything we have ever seen. It is possible we will see the federal government having to prioritize what it can afford to support in the FEMA budget as disasters become even more commonplace. It is possible that food and energy will become much more expensive and continue to erode your standard of living. Although this is not a popular view, the lion's share of energy use and carbon pollution comes from business and industry. Scientists say the climate models show that the difference between doing nothing about carbon emissions and curtailing them will result in avoiding cataclysmic climate impacts during the next 20-40 years.
So what can you do so you will be prepared for these possibilities or worse, if it happens?
For your health and survival
1. Be prepared for disastrous weather that is likely to come. This means find a place to live far above your local flood plain. Make sure you have an emergency shelter.
2. Learn to grow your own food, preferably without fertilizers and pesticides which may become expensive, as they are made from crude oil.
3. Get a good water filter or a still. You need clean water every day.
Lifestyle changes that will minimize climate change impacts
1. Carpool whenever you can. It will save money and improve your social life!
2. Become politically active and lobby your congressional reps and senators to curtail carbon emissions immediately. Since business and industry contribute the most to climate change, even widespread personal activism will not equal the efforts of modest commercial changes.
3. Support local farmers and community sustainable agriculture. Food that is grown locally and without carbon-based chemicals lowers our carbon footprint.
4. Use energy wisely. Energy costs are predicted to skyrocket in the coming years. Most of our energy comes from coal and other fossil fuels that put a lot of carbon into the air. Unplug.
5. Recycle, reuse, repurpose. When we reuse and recycle our stuff, whether it is cars, clothing or toys, it costs less energy and less money.
6. Minimize your lifestyle.
7. Actively work toward solutions. One highly regarded organization that is approaching climate change and other significant problems is Solutions
. Solutions is a nonprofit print and online publication devoted to showcasing bold and innovative ideas for solving the world's integrated ecological, social, and economic problems. Check them out and join the team!