Climate Change: Can We Reverse It’s Affects?
Try to #BeWaterWise
There’s No Denying It
Climate change is real and it’s starting to accelerate the world’s record heat waves we have commonly been seeing the past couple of years. This summer has been especially hot, particularly in the Pacific Northwest region of the US and western Canada where temperatures are being seen in the 110s and touching close to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thanks to a study constructed by an international team of scientists headlined by Friedericke Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford — due to human’s effect on climate change, we can conclude that this heat-phenomenon is not just a once-in-a-millennium event. “It would essentially happen every five to 10 years,” says the study from World Weather Attribution. Additionally, this level of extreme heat “would go from essentially virtually impossible to relatively commonplace.”, said study co-author Gabriel Vecchi, a Princeton University climate scientist. He also added, “that is a huge change.”
Yes, huge change to say the least. “Those few degrees make a big difference in human health,” said study co-author Kristie Ebi, a professor at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington. “This study is telling us climate change is killing people,” said Ebi.
Meteorologist Tyler Kranz explains this issue further in an Associated Press article saying that regions in the Northwest like Portland and Seattle are getting dangerously hot. “We’ll often hear people say, ‘Who cares if it’s 106 or 108? It gets this hot in Arizona all the time.’ Well, people in Arizona have air conditioning, and here in the Pacific Northwest, a lot of people don’t,” Kranz said. Kathrine Morgan, a 27-year-old resident of Oregon, can’t afford air conditioning or window a/c units on her bookstore and hostess jobs. “All my friends and I knew that climate change was real, but it’s getting really scary because it was gradually getting hot – and it suddenly got really hot, really fast,” says Morgan.
In areas like Portland, Oregon where they have opened cooling centers, December Snedecor, one of the first attendees, remembers pouring water on herself in her tent frequently to try and beat the heat. “It made me dizzy. It was not good,” Snedecor said. “I’ve just got to stay cool. I don’t want to die.”
In Oregon, due to the record-high heat wave, the state medical examiner reported 116 deaths on Wednesday, August 11th.
Record Low Water Levels
Due to new extremes surrounding the ongoing 20-year-long drought in the West, the US government declared a water shortage on the Colorado River. This river, spanning many western states and behind the creation of the Grand Canyon, has dropped by 20 percent over the past 100 years. What’s even worse is that this river feeds the nation’s largest human-made reservoir, Lake Mead, which also has experienced record low levels.
The ecosystem is being seriously challenged as animals and wildlife die of dehydration from these lower levels of water.
For example, birds can manage extreme heat by mouth and skin perspiration; however, they are now struggling because this requires water. Further, fish populations are dwindling as cold-water fish are being forced out and colonies change demographics to more invasive species like small-mouth bass.
When there is less water in rivers, lakes, and damns, the water becomes warmer. Many species get their water through their food, “So if it’s hotter and drier, they will need to eat more food,” says Steven Beissinger, an ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “This requires more energy or effort to obtain more food, which increases water needs further.” This seemingly unending and terrifying downward cycle only intensifies the question, can we come back?
We don’t know. Thankfully though, measures are being taken to remain optimistic. Last year, the Arizona Game and Fish Department transported a record 2.4 million gallons of water via helicopter to outdoor tanks where animals can reach. “There are about 3,000 tanks in Arizona alone that can hold anywhere from 2,500 to 10,000 gallons of water each”, says Nick Serpa of Cronkite News.
Larisa Hardin of the AGFD says, “While it may sound far-out to build a whole separate network of water infrastructure for animals, the catchments are essential” to keep wildlife on the landscape through these extreme weather conditions.
Wildfires normally are a natural component of a healthy landscape. In centuries past, fires acted as ecological reset buttons cycling out old nutrient-scarce vegetation so that new, microbial-dense, undergrowth could come in. “Species such as most of our ungulates — deer, elk, those kinds of critters that are very mobile — love those big patches out there, burned forest next to unburned forest,” says Dave Peterson, a forest biologist at the University of Washington. These “spot” fires also helped to make sure that no vegetation or species overgrew one another.
The surprising twist is that our society has suppressed wildfire activity. You would think that this would be a good thing to not have fires every couple years, but that is just the opposite. “I think it’s hard to imagine nowadays just how little fuel that would have been in these dry forests when you had fire every few years,” says Christopher Adlam, a fire specialist at Oregon State University. “Even if you had a hot and dry year, historically that wouldn’t necessarily have led to all of a sudden, fires exploding everywhere – there just wasn’t enough to burn.”
Instead of the 20 trees per acre before fire suppression, we now have areas in California and Oregon with up to 4,048 trees per acre ripe for ferocious wildfire spread. This has caused California’s Dixie Fire to burn through 950 square miles over the past 30 days.
Are Governments Helping?
State agencies and governmental organizations are doing their best but struggle to keep up with the rapid increases in temperature caused by humans.
Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, has declared a state of emergency. The move allows for opening cooling centers, adjusting public library hours to stay open later in the day, and providing free transportation to those heading to the cooling centers.
Volunteer-led cooling centers, like the one in Portland, opened Wednesday, August 11th for people unable to get away from the heat.
What Can You Do?
Join or start your own environmental awareness clubs and organizations like the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that focus on water-conservation. Share information like local weather, industry laws, and regulations so people can make smart decisions. Zero-emission goals continue to be the focal point of our international landscape as we try and fight our climate change issue.
Updating your irrigation methods to water-smart systems helps conserve water as well. These methods include:
- Soaker hoses, like those from Melnor, are good because they distribute small amounts of water across large areas and can allow for precise watering right to the root.
- Smart gardening devices like Melnor’s watering timers let you schedule specific watering times so that you can optimize your garden growth without the fast drying of soil in high heat.
- Soil moisture sensors measure the moisture of soil, so you don’t waste water on soil that is already wet.
- Water-conserving faucet heads for sinks and showers reduce the amount of water being dispensed while keeping similar water pressure.
- Precise sprinklers, like the MiniMax™ Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler, let you water the lawn and not the sidewalk.
You can also implement redistribution methods to help conserve water. When it rains, set out water barrels (where state statutes allow) to collect rainwater to then water your garden through the week. This will help you save money on water bills and keep the Earth green!
Lastly, one of the best ways you can help fight climate change is to plant trees. According to a study published by the Nature scientific journal, 15.3 billion trees are chopped down every year. That number may seem insurmountable but if everyone does their part, we can slowly reverse the effect on our climate.
Reasons To Act Now!
- 11 billion tons of Greenland ice melted in just one day (8/20/21) – equivalent to 4 million Olympic size swimming pools.
- If all of Greenland’s ice were to melt, it would raise sea levels 23 feet, submerging coastal cities. That would put everything south of West Palm Beach, Florida underwater.
- The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years.
- There’s more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than at any time in human history.
- The effects on climate change may be irreversible by 2030!
Please share this blog to your social feeds and friends so we can get this information out! #BeWaterWise
Borenstein, Seth. “Study: Northwest Heat Wave Impossible Without Climate Change” U.S. News. 7 July 2021. https://www.usnews.com/news/news/articles/2021-07-07/study-northwest-heat-wave-impossible-without-climate-change. Accessed 24 August 2021.
Flaccus, Gillian. “Heat wave hits Northwest, sending people to cooling centers” Associated Press. 11 August 2021. https://apnews.com/article/science-health-environment-and-nature-heat-waves-c9678121d32fec37d88d2f299d6853f8. Accessed 24 August 2021.
“Human-caused climate change increased the likelihood of early growing period frost in France” World Weather Attribution, 15 June 2021. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/human-caused-climate-change-increased-the-likelihood-of-early-growing-period-frost-in-france/. Accessed 27 August 2021.
Jones, Benji. “The West’s megadrought is so bad, authorities are airlifting water for animals” Vox.com, 20 August 2021. https://www.vox.com/2021/8/20/22630551/colorado-river-shortage-drought-wildlife. Accessed 24 August 2021.
Simon, Matt. “The Science of How Wildfires Got So Hellish” Mother Jones, 23 August 2021. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/08/western-fires-science-wildfires-hellish-climate-change-human-meddling/?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=email. Accessed 24 August 2021.