The changes in climate were once only dictated by small variations in Earth's orbit. Today, scientist-backed research confirms our actions as humans have drastically caused an abrupt increase in our planet's temperature. And the effects are incredibly detrimental to the future of all living things here on Earth. But, there's still a chance for us to make a difference, for the better.
Let's Start by Looking at the Effects of Climate Change
Greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide trap heat radiated from the sun, causing temperatures to rise. These gasses exist naturally, but humans add an excessive and dangerous amount to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for energy and chopping away at forests.
The oceans absorb the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing waters to become more acidic. In turn, this calcifies species like oysters, clams and shallow-water corals. The more sophisticated the human species becomes, the more natural resources we consume and eventually, destroy.
All of the above factors mean we can expect sea levels to rise and more severe hurricanes, while droughts become more intense, threatening crops, wildlife, and freshwater life. But really, the consequences of global warming are endless.
Here's How You Can Make a Difference in Your Everyday Life
There are plenty of ways to shrink your carbon footprint. Let's start by measuring the size of your emissions using Conservation International's Carbon Footprint Calculator. Getting a full understanding of the size of your emissions helps offset the effects of your personal footprint. But here are eight easy ways you can make a difference right now:
1) Light Bulb Idea
Use energy-efficient light bulbs whenever possible. On average, LED light bulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent lights, and they last longer, too.
2) Wish Upon an Energy Star
Swap out old appliances like refrigerators and washing machines for models certified by ENERGY STAR, a government-backed program that ensures consumers have easy access to energy-efficient products.
3) Cycle Through the Motions
Use cold water when running your clothes through the washing machine, and line-dry as many items as possible.
4) Grade School Reminders
Remember what they used to tell us in grade school? Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. The EPA estimates doing so could save nearly 600 pounds of CO2 per year. That's equal to 600 miles worth of driving.
5) Fill in the Gaps
Homes built before 1980 were not required to be properly insulated, therefore, your home may be wasting unnecessary amounts of energy. Efficiently insulating your home helps keep your heating and air-conditioning system maintain steady temperatures year-round, significantly decreasing your home's energy consumption. Ultimately, this shrinks your carbon footprint and saves you tons on your energy bill. See how much you can save by using the USA Insulation Energy Savings Calculator.
6) Travel Smarter
When you can, use an alternative to driving. Leave the car at home; try walking, biking, or taking public transportation instead. When you drive, try to avoid unnecessary acceleration and speeding; it wastes gas and money. Whatever model or make you drive, ensuring your car is regularly serviced, free of excess weight, and has fully inflated tires maximizes its fuel efficiency.
7) Don't Be a Meathead
Buy and eat less meat; eating one pound of beef is equivalent to releasing nearly 19 pounds of greenhouse gases.
8) Keep Things Bottled In
Try a reusable water bottle like Thermos® or Hydro Flask®. A demand for plastic means a higher demand for fossil fuels.
Although Americans account for only a little over 4 percent of the human population, we're responsible for almost a third of the human-induced carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. The consequences of climate change are more real than ever and will continue to increase if we don't do something about it. So, do your part to save the environment we call home.
To see how some of Earth's key climate indicators are changing over time — sea ice, sea level, carbon dioxide, global temperature — check out NASA's Climate Time Machine