I’ve spent much of the last year writing ludicrously lengthy posts on my blog about climate change. Unlike the rest of the blog posts I have written, I did not choose this topic because I find the science of climate change fascinating and kind of hilarious (though the science is kind of fascinating). I have been writing these posts because I am more than a little freaked out about climate change. Climate change has already had a lot of negative impacts on our planet and it’s only going to get much, much worse.
Except it doesn’t have to.
There is a lot we can still do to slow down climate change and make sure we continue to have a stable and secure planet for ourselves and for the other living things that share our planet with us. Many people are already trying to do something to slow climate change. But not enough, yet. Hopefully these posts will convince even more of Earth's inhabitants to take action on climate change. At this point, it isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s absolutely necessary.
You may be thinking to yourself, “How can the small things I do fix the entire planet?” It’s true that if you were the only one doing these things, it will not stop climate change. But if you are one of billions doing this, that can have a major impact. The more people who are doing something about climate change, the better off we all will be. Each person taking action brings us that much closer to the total number of people we need.
Here are actions anyone, even a kid, can take to help slow climate change.
Unfortunately, since the Internet came into existence, it has become really easy to find really wrong information about pretty much everything. In the face of a disaster like climate change, this is particularly serious, as it is really difficult to make good decisions when a lot of the information you hear may be coming from the Land of Make-Believe. The more people who demand facts, even painful ones, the more likely we are to get the facts we need to make good decisions that will allow us to safeguard our future.
A way to check the accuracy of climate change information is through the website Climate Feedback. Scientists use this website to review the things that public figures say about climate change. The scientists then provide feedback about what the speakers and writers got right about the science and what they got wrong. Using this website to fact check climate change reporting allows us to be sure that the information we are hearing and reading is accurate. (I’m guessing these blog posts I’m writing about climate change are too far under the radar to be reviewed on Climate Feedback, but that would be cool if they were.)
We also get a lot of wrong information about climate change from some of our friends and family, like our Uncle Steve. How do you fact check Uncle Steve? I would ask him two questions. First ask: “Can you show me your hard evidence that supports what you say and shows why it conclusively proves that thousands of scientists around the world are wrong?” (If he shows you an article online, look it up on the Climate Feedback website to see if what it says is true). You can also ask: “Are you so sure that you are right about climate change that you are willing to bet my entire future on it?”
Burn less fossil fuel.
As I wrote in an earlier post, the main way we are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is by burning fossil fuels. Though very few of us will ever see a fossil fuel fire in person, pretty much everyone in the modern world is burning fossil fuels via all the energy we are using in our homes and vehicles. The less energy we use, the less fossil fuels we burn, the less carbon dioxide each of us adds to the atmosphere, the better it will be for our climate.
Here’s some ways to burn less fossil fuels (many of these actions can also save your family money $$).
- Don’t waste food. It takes energy to grow, harvest, transport, and refrigerate the food we eat. Unfortunately, one-third of the food produced around the world each year is thrown away. The United States alone throws away around 120,000,000,000 pounds (that’s 120 billion pounds) of food each year. On average each family of four in the United States throws away $640 worth of the food they buy each year. If we stop throwing away the food we buy, we won’t need to grow as much, which will save a lot of energy and prevent a lot of greenhouse pollution.
- Walk, ride your bike, or take the bus to school (or anywhere else, for that matter). I have visited a lot of elementary schools in multiple states over the past few years, and have noticed that apparently every school in America has a line of 40 or 50 cars every morning and afternoon as parents drop-off and pick-up their kids. These cars are burning a lot of energy and releasing a lot of carbon dioxide, when they likely don’t really have to be making that twice-daily trip. Unless your parents are already heading in the direction of the school, if you walk, ride your bike, or take the bus to school, you will save gas, save the atmosphere from receiving more carbon dioxide, and save your parents some time and gas money too.
- Turn off the light when you leave a room. Lights use electricity that likely was made by burning fossil fuels, so turn off the lights when you leave a room, and don’t turn them on during the day when the sun can provide pollution-free and cost-free light.
- Unplug chargers. As long as a charger is plugged into a socket, it is still using energy, even if it is not currently charging anything. (This is called “phantom power.”)
- Take quicker showers. A lot of energy is used to heat water in our homes, so the quicker you shower, the less hot water you use.
- Don’t buy new things if the old stuff is still good. It takes energy to manufacture stuff and to ship it so you can buy it. You can burn fewer fossil fuels by using the stuff you already have that still works instead of constantly buying new stuff.
- Go outside to play. There’s a lot of fun to be had that doesn’t involve energy-using electronics.
- Talk some adults into burning less fossil fuel. If you are a kid, then chances are you are not the one making decisions about your family’s or your school’s energy bill (or that you want to spend the money you’ve saved over the few years you’ve been alive to buy your family a new energy efficient washing machine). But if you can convince the adults who make these decisions to make your home and/or school more energy efficient, that can have a huge impact on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere. Here’s some things that you can tell the adults in your life to do that can help slow climate change:
- Switch to renewable energy. Many power companies allow people to decide where their energy comes from. Your parents or school can ask their power company to switch their electricity from coal or natural gas sources to wind or solar sources. They just need to call the local power company or look on the power company’s website to see what is available. (They could also look into getting solar panels. For many buildings, the sunlight on the roof can produce all the energy the building needs without making pollution.)
- Turn down the heat and air conditioning. If you drop the temperature in the house a degree or two in the winter and raise it a degree or two in the summer, that can make a difference. You should also have everything on a thermostat timer that automatically makes the temperature comfortable when people are awake and hanging out in your home or school, but then lowers the temperature in the winter and raises it in the summer when people are away or sleeping.
- Turn down the hot water heater. As I mentioned earlier, it takes a lot of energy to heat water in your home. If your faucet water can get hot enough to be painful, that is too hot. Have your parents turn it down so it is hot, but comfortable, and that will save energy.
- Switch to energy efficient appliances. So this contradicts what I said above, but if your home or school has a refrigerator, washing machine, or other large appliance over twenty years old, then chances are it was not built that great and it is wasting a lot of energy and making a lot of unnecessary greenhouse gas pollution. If your family or school can afford new appliances with high energy efficiency ratings, buy those, get rid of the old crummy ones, and help to prevent more climate change (which will also save money on the energy bill.)
- Switch to LED light bulbs. LED Light bulbs are the most energy efficient out there, then fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs are the worst. You can tell if something is not energy efficient by seeing if it gets hot when its purpose is not to be a heater. That heat is wasted energy. Incandescent light bulbs, whose purpose is to make light, get so hot they can burn your fingers. Replacing them with LED bulbs will save a lot of energy.
- Get rid of the other refrigerator. If you have a second refrigerator in your garage or basement that currently has just five cans of Mr. Pibb in it, then ask your family if you can rid of it. That second refrigerator is using a lot of energy that is helping to cause climate change. If all that second refrigerator is doing is keeping a few cans of soda cold that no one wants and once in awhile storing some leftovers, then you don’t really need it. (Your local power company may even pay you to get rid of the second refrigerator! Look into it.)
- Put the entertainment center on a power strip. Not just chargers use phantom power. TVs, stereo receivers, and other entertainment devices waste a lot of energy when they are turned off. To prevent this, plug them all into a power strip and turn the power strip off whenever they aren’t being used.
- Get an energy assessment and insulate the house where needed. Another way to waste energy is to have a poorly insulated house or school building that allows the warm air in winter and the cool air in summer to easily escape outside. Your family or school can see if this is happening by getting an energy assessment (also called an “energy audit”). Many companies will do these for free. If you find a problem spot, and it is affordable, insulate the places that are letting heat in or out and you will save on energy.
- Don’t sit in a car that is not moving and let the engine idle. If you are sitting in a parking lot or your driveway with the car running and you know you are not going anywhere in the next two minutes, turn the car off. As the engine idles, it is still producing carbon dioxide gas.
- Get a car with better gas mileage. If you can afford to get an electric car or a car that gets over 50 miles per gallon, that can be a huge help.
Eat less beef.
After humans, the species that is contributing most to climate change are cows.
One reason cows cause climate change is because they need a lot of space to move around in and also a lot of space to grow crops to feed them. Their pastures and cropland takes away natural habitats like forests that store carbon and prevent it from going into the atmosphere.
The main reason cows cause climate change, though, and I’m not making this up, is because cows burp, a lot. Burps and farts are ways animal bodies release methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide. There are currently about one billion cows around the world being kept to feed people. Each of those cows is burping methane on a daily basis. They are releasing enough methane through burping that cows are a major cause of current climate change.
If we all eat less beef and dairy, that will result in less demand for cows, which will result in fewer people wanting to own cows, which will result in fewer cow burps adding methane to the atmosphere. I can’t really say eat more chicken or pork instead, because, unfortunately chickens and pork are also contributing to climate change, though not as much as cows. I know the average kid doesn’t want to hear this, but the more vegetables you eat, the less greenhouse gases you will be adding to the atmosphere.
Write, call, or visit your elected officials to talk to them about climate change.
We need entire towns, entire states, entire countries, and pretty much the entire planet doing everything they can to slow the climate change global crisis. To do this is going to require the government to make laws to make sure we all are doing what we can. You can help convince your elected officials to work on fighting climate change by calling them, writing them letters or emails, or visiting their local offices or town hall meetings. Even though you may be too young to vote, it is their job listen to you and to do what they can to protect your future. You can find out who your elected officials are and how to contact them here or here.
Help a nonprofit group fight climate change.
There are large, successful nonprofit groups that are working hard to do what they can to curb climate change. They are able to do a lot of good because a lot of people support them. They use the donations they receive to take big actions, often at the or national level. Here are a few I can recommend to check out and see if you might want to help them.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists
- The Sierra Club
- The National Resources Defense Council
- The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
- The Environmental Defense Fund
Find some climate change friends.
If you can find people around you who also want to fight climate change, together you can accomplish a lot more than you can alone (Also, it’s good to have other people to encourage you, particularly if you have a lot of Uncle Steve's in your life). If you find enough kids at your school, and hopefully a teacher or two who want to help, you could even start a “green team” club that works to do what you can to reduce energy waste in your school and community, and to educate other people about what they can do to fight climate change.
Can we really come together to fix this serious global problem?
It has happened in the past. In the 1960s when many birds were dying because of the use of the pesticide DDT, and at the same time rivers were catching on fire because they were so polluted, the United States came together to pass legislation like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act to reduce pollution and protect endangered species. Since then, no rivers have caught on fire (at least in the United States) and species like the bald eagle and brown pelican, which many people in the 1960s thought were on the verge of extinction, have made big comebacks.
We’ve been able to come together to solve environmental problems on a global scale too. In the 1980s we realized there was a hole in the ozone layer that, because of pollution, kept getting and bigger and bigger. The ozone layer blocks radiation from space, so the bigger the hole became, the more dangerous it would be to us. The countries of the world realized this was a global problem that required a global solution. In 1987, a number of countries signed the Montreal Protocol, which stopped the use of many of the pollutants that were destroying the ozone layer. By taking this action thirty years ago, they took responsibility for what was happening and saved those of us alive today from dealing with a dangerous global crisis.
We can do that today with climate change. The human race is already taking steps in the right direction. Every country on Earth, except one, has signed onto the Paris Climate Agreement, meaning they have agreed to take steps to reduce greenhouse gases and slow climate change (I keep using the word “slow” because, at this point we can’t stop climate change. There is already too much carbon dioxide and methane in the air. We can stop it from getting a lot worse, though).
Unfortunately, the one country that has now signed off the Paris Climate Agreement is the one I happen to live in. Even though the United States is out, 196 other countries, representing over seven billion people, are in.
Even the United States is not completely out. We were in it until last year and, when we originally signed up, we made an agreement that means we cannot completely get out of it until 2020. And even though one person in the United States decided we are getting out of the Paris Climate Agreement, many states, cities, businesses, and individual citizens still want in, and they are continuing to do things necessary to fight climate change.
That one powerful person in the United States who keeps making a lot of bad decisions about climate change doesn’t get to keep his job forever. The majority of Americans want us to do something about climate change, so, I’m assuming, once he’s gone, we will be back on track. Unfortunately, scientists agree that the Paris Climate Agreement isn’t enough to stop the worst of climate change. We all have to do a lot more. The momentum to fight climate change is on our side, though. Each year as the natural disasters caused by climate change get worse, more and more people are going to demand we take stronger action to fight it.
So please do everything you can to fight climate change. The future of you, me, and every living thing on the planet depends on it.
Our future if we do nothing about climate change.
Since I assume as I write these that kids in the age range of 10 to 14 might be reading them, I didn’t want to go to big into the doom and gloom of how awful it's likely to get. Kids and teenagers should not be burdened with solving the problems caused by adults because too many of the adults don’t know or don’t care that they are causing huge problems for their children and grandchildren. At the same time, as a nonfiction children’s author, it’s basically my job to be honest to kids. So if you want to know, I have listed below some articles that provide information on what is likely to happen because of climate change. It’s not good.
NASA. “The Impact of Climate Change on Natural Disasters.”
The Los Angeles Times. “Fires, droughts and hurricanes: What's the link between climate change and natural disasters?”
The New York Times. “From Heat Waves to Hurricanes: What We Know About Extreme Weather and Climate Change.”
The New York Times. “How Global Warming Fueled Five Extreme Weather Events.”
ScienceDaily. “"Why storms are becoming more dangerous as the climate warms: Analyses of energy cycle offer a new explanation of climate change."
EOS. “Humans to Blame for Higher Drought Risk in Some Regions.”
The Los Angeles Times. “Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California.”
MIT News. “Climate change to worsen drought, diminish corn yields in Africa.”
NASA. “Study finds drought recoveries taking longer.”
University of Birmingham. “Europe's drought trends match climate change projections.”
Anthropocene Magazine. “Climate change will bring us less nutritious crops–and rising global protein deficiency.”
The Independent. “World 'faces food shortages and mass migration' caused by global warming.”
The New York Times. "Hotter, Drier, Hungrier: How Global Warming Punishes the World’s Poorest."
Scientific American. “World Hunger Is Increasing, Thanks to Wars and Climate Change.”
The Washington Post. “A climate chain reaction: Major Greenland melting could devastate crops in Africa.”
The Washington Post. “Food scarcity caused by climate change could cause 500,000 deaths by 2050, study suggests.”
National Geographic. “Climate Change: Health Risks.”
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “Health Impacts: Climate and Human Health.”
NPR. “How Climate Change Is Already Affecting Health, Spreading Disease.”
Time Magazine. “Study: Climate Change Is Damaging the Health of Millions of People.”
The Chicago Tribune. “Study shows deadly heat waves are becoming more frequent.”
National Geographic. “By 2100, Deadly Heat May Threaten Majority of Humankind.”
The New York Times. “95-Degree Days: How Extreme Heat Could Spread Across the World.”
The New York Times. “As Climate Changes, Southern States Will Suffer More Than Others”
The New York Times. “In Sweltering South, Climate Change Is Now a Workplace Hazard.”
High economic costs
Anthropocene Magazine. “Climate inaction will leave our kids a trillion dollar debt.”
Business Insider. “Severe weather has cost the US government $350 billion since 2007 — and climate change could make it much worse.”
The Independent. “The cost of climate change: World's economy will lose $12tn unless greenhouse gases are tackled.”
National Geographic. “Hidden Costs of Climate Change Running Hundreds of Billions a Year.”
Science. “Here’s how much climate change is going to cost your county.”
Loss of oxygen in the ocean
Oceanbites. “As far as the eye can(‘t) see: climate change may impact vision.”
Oceanbites. “Take my breath away: Decline in oceanic oxygen levels fifty years in the making.”
The Washington Post. “Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate.”
More global conflicts and refugees
The Guardian. “Climate change 'will create world's biggest refugee crisis'.”
National Geographic. “Climate Change and Water Woes Drove ISIS Recruiting in Iraq.”
Scientific American. “Once Again, Climate Change Cited as Trigger for Conflict.”
Vox. “How climate change could lead to more wars in the 21st century.”
The Washington Post. “A proposal in New Zealand could trigger the era of ‘climate change refugees’”
Weather, Climate, and Society journal. “Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria.”
The Atlantic. “Has Climate Change Intensified 2017’s Western Wildfires?”
The New Yorker. “Oregon’s Eagle Creek Fire and the New Reality of Life in the Smoke-Filled American West .”
The New York Times. “In a Warming California, a Future of More Fire.”
Australian Academy of Science. “More than just temperature—climate change and ocean acidification.”
National Geographic. “Ocean Acidification.”
NOAA. “What is Ocean Acidification?”
Oceanbites. “Ocean Acidification: No Longer Confined to the Sea Surface.”
Scientific American. “Rising Acidity in the Ocean: The Other CO2 Problem.”
Anthropocene Magazine. “America may not have the power to deal with future hot days.”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. “Climate change is projected to have severe impacts on the frequency and intensity of peak electricity demand across the United States.”
Scientific American. “Major U.S. Cities Face More Blackouts under Climate Change.”
Rising sea levels
Anthropocene Magazine. “Scientists can’t tell whether sea-level rise will be bad or catastrophic.”
The New York Times. “Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater.”
The New York Times. “The Sea Level Did, in Fact, Rise Faster in the Southeast U.S.”
The Washington Post. “New science suggests the ocean could rise more — and faster — than we thought .”
Spreading diseases and parasites
The Atlantic. “The Link Between Zika and Climate Change.”
National Geographic. “Climate Change Pushing Tropical Diseases Toward Arctic.”
The New York Times. “Tree-Eating Beetles Set to March Northward as Winters Warm.”
NPR. “Will Climate Change Help Ticks And Mosquitoes Spread Disease?”
Wildlife extinctions and ecosystem disruptions
The Atlantic. “Coral Reefs Are Bleaching Too Frequently to Recover.”
EOS. “Threatened Sea Turtles in Hawaii Losing Ground to Rising Oceans.”
National Geographic. “Half of All Species Are on the Move—And We're Feeling It.”
The New York Times. “With Climate Change, Tree Die-Offs May Spread in the West.”
Science. “Just 1°C of ocean warming can upend marine ecosystems.”
Smithsonian. “How Climate Change is Messing with Bees.”
The Atlantic. “The Ghost of Climate- Change Future.”
EOS. “How Will Climate Change Affect the United States in Decades to Come?”
Fortune. “How Climate Change Will Transform the Way We Live.”
Oceanbites. “Oceanic Outlook in the New Government Climate Report.”
The Washington Post. “Thousands of scientists issue bleak ‘second notice’ to humanity.”
Here’s some other articles that provide more tips on things you can do to fight climate change. These are also my Online References and Resources:
Anthropocene Magazine. “It’s time to double down on humankind’s methane emissions.”
Anthropocene Magazine. “Switching beans for beef could get the US 75% of the way to emissions reduction targets.”
Anthropocene Magazine. “U.S. Wind and Solar Prevented Thousands of Deaths and Billions of Dollars.”
The Atlantic. “What If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef?” video.
EOS. “The Power of Water, Wind, and Solar (and Nothing Else).”
Greater Good Magazine. "How to Overcome "Apocalypse Fatigue" Around Climate Change."
The New York Times. “Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.”
The New York Times. “Here’s How Far the World Is From Meeting Its Climate Goals.”
The New York Times. “How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps.”
The New York Times. “How Much Do You Know About Solving Global Warming?”
The New York Times. “If You Fix This, You Fix a Big Piece of the Climate Puzzle.”
The New York Times. "A Secret Superpower, Right in Your Backyard."
The New York Times. “Three New Year’s Resolutions That Can Help Fight Climate Change.”
The New York Times. “The world is projected to emit this much CO2 by 2100, exceeding our carbon budget three times over.”
World Watch. “Livestock and climate change: what if the key actors in climate change are... cows, pigs, and chickens?”
You can keep up with the latest positive developments related to climate change by subscribing to the online
Also, if you want a scientific ranking of which actions are the most effective to fight climate change, check out this book:
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Edited by Paul Hawken