The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is underway in Glasgow until November 12th, and it reminds us of the pressing need to accelerate our actions to address Climate Change.
In August, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major report that warns climate change is accelerating at unprecedented speed, and we must cut emissions now before it’s too late to make a difference.
The study shows that the effects of global warming are deadly with heat waves, droughts and floods killing thousands of people and disrupting lives around the world. Wildfires are burning with unprecedented frequency and intensity, and the rise in the oceans’ temperature is threatening entire ecosystems and supercharging hurricanes and typhoons. Anecdotally, we see that here in South Florida with the rising sea levels, red tide algae, and longer and more intense hurricane seasons.
The report is clear: Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary driver of such changes.
If you are like me, the thought of addressing climate change seems enormous and overwhelming. After all, I’m only one person and this is an issue that must be addressed by the government and big industry. What can I do about it? Turns out, plenty!
1.Talk about it.
According to The Nature Conservancy’s Chief Scientist Katherine Hayhoe, the number one thing we can do about climate change is “do the exact thing we’re not doing: talk about it.”
More than 6 in 10 Americans are worried about climate change but only one-third of Americans talk about climate change with the people they care about. Silence is no longer an option, and our silence is doing more damage than good. We can’t solve a problem we don’t talk about, and simply having a conversation is the most important thing we can do!
Talk about climate change with your friends, your family, and your neighbors. Talk to your local business owners and elected officials about climate change and let them know how you feel!
2. Plant a tree.
An ancient proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”
Studies show that old growth forests, especially tropical rain forests, are extremely important in combatting climate change.
Trees exchange more CO2 with the atmosphere than any other vegetation type and thus, form a crucial component of the global carbon cycle. Trees absorb more CO2 as they grow through the process of photosynthesis. When they perform photosynthesis, they pull carbon dioxide out of the air, bind it up in sugar to build its trunk, branches, and roots, and convert it into the oxygen we all need to live. Trees mostly store the carbon in its wood and roots, releasing only small amounts of carbon to the soil as its roots capture nutrients and water or when its leaves decompose.
Different trees absorb different levels of CO2 and the type of tree you plant matters. According to the United States Forest Service, the best trees for carbon sequestration are those with large trunk diameters and dense wood. Also, the faster the tree growth the more carbon it captures- so plant fast-growing hardwoods like Oaks and Maples.
While planting one hardwood tree falls short of what’s needed, the catchy motto “Planting a tree a day helps keep emissions at bay” certainly encourages action that can do a lot of good. Every little bit counts – even if it’s just one hardwood tree in your backyard!
3. Use less plastic
Fossil Fuels are responsible for more than 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and plastics production accounts for 4-8% of annual oil consumption.
Every step from production to disposal of plastics releases greenhouse gasses. Extraction and transportation of the fossil fuels used to make plastics is a carbon-intensive activity, emitting millions of tons of carbon dioxide. Refining and manufacturing of the plastics themselves is also a greenhouse gas intensive process.
Plastics disposal is usually processed in three different ways: landfill, incineration, or recycling with less than one-third of plastics making it to recycling bins. Landfill and incineration of plastics both have climate impact and greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Earthday.org Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.! That means that by switching to a reusable water bottle you can save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.
Will that fix climate change? No, but it will make a difference in your own personal carbon footprint plus it helps to reduce the billions of items of plastic currently choking our oceans, lakes, and rivers.
4. Eat less red meat
What does beef consumption have to do with climate change, you might ask?
Well, according to the United Nations report, producing the livestock we eat generates as much climate pollution each year as do all the tailpipe emissions from all the vehicles in the world!
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane made up about 10% of all U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2019, and about 36% of methane comes from livestock. Methane is produced as the livestock digests the cellulose in grass and is then emitted as the livestock belches or is released through flatulence and manure.
Additional Greenhouse Gas emissions are produced when we use energy to grow feed for the livestock and clear forest for pastureland.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up meat entirely! One analysis from National Resources Defense Council shows that if Americans cut just one-quarter pound of beef a week from their diet it would be equivalent to removing 10 million cars off the road for a year!
Small changes in your diet can make big changes for the planet as well as your health. Try eliminating meat for one meal each day or having a “Meatless Monday.” Have smaller portions or try plant-based meat options.
5. Do Something, Do Anything…
The most important thing you can do is something…anything but doing nothing.
There are literally thousands of ways you can combat climate change and help the planet- recycle, drive less, fly less, use less air condition and heat, compost, buy locally farmed organic food, ride a bike, take public transit, invest in renewable energy, sign petitions, contribute to or volunteer for a Climate Change organization.
Find something, or many things, that interest you and fit your lifestyle and start doing it. There is no more time to wait! If we each start doing something- and talking about it with our friends, families, and neighbors- maybe, just maybe, businesses and politicians will be inspired to act now too!
Here at Flamingo Gardens, we’re doing something about Climate Change…many things in fact! Beyond our usual botanical and wildlife conservation, we’re planting more trees, reducing single-use plastics, adding more vegetarian options to our menu, and most importantly talking about Climate Change with our friends, families, and neighbors!
Recently we created the Eco-teers, a volunteer outreach program to help create meaningful environmental impact in our area and help educate the public on climate change. For more information on the Eco-teers visit our website at: