4 overlooked headlines of climates past
Doesn’t it feel like every day we’re waking up to another startling article about our changing climate? Well, that’s because we are.
Devastating wildfires. New projections of rising sea levels. The U.S. officially peacing out of the Paris agreement. Student marches for climate action. It all happened in just two months — and that’s just scraping the surface.
Yes, climate change is happening now, but these headlines have been decades in the making.
Inspired by Yale economist and Nobel Laureate William D. Nordhaus’ 1995 paper “Climates past and climate change future,” I did a series for Inktober — an annual Instagram challenge to ink regularly throughout October — sharing overlooked climate headlines and stories over the last decade.
I just learned how to draw this year, so don’t be too harsh on my doodles.
Published in 2010
While no Godzilla-sized rodents are towering over mountain ranges (yet), a study in 2010 found that yellow-bellied marmots in Colorado are getting bigger in size and population. Due in part to rising temperatures and summers getting longer, marmots not burning off their stored fat because they emerge from hibernation earlier in the season. Other animals, such as black bears, are also experiencing similar disruptions to hibernation patterns.
It’s a literal wake up call from our changing climate. Take action, if able, and donate to conservation groups who are fighting our wildlife with for better policy and good science. Some organizations listed with their Charity Navigator Score: 350.org (95), Environmental Defense Fund (90), and Wilderness Society (85).
Published in 2012
In her 2012 article “What whopping portions do to the plant” shared on Grist, Natural Resources Defense Council food scientist Dana Gunders expressed concerns with the shocking increase of food we’re discarding from plate waste. The numbers she reported remain true today.
“Consider that we use 50 percent of our land and 80 percent of our freshwater every year to grow food, 40 percent of which never gets eaten. That’s a lot of resources going to waste. And when that wasted food ends up in landfills, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and a major contributor to global warming. Consider also that this is all happening at a time when one in six Americans today is food insecure, meaning that at any given time, they might not have the means to get enough food. Just a 15 percent reduction in food waste could free up enough food to feed 25 million people.”
TLDR: So let’s say you throw out something as small as half a hamburger. That’s the equivalent of taking an hour-long because of the water needed for the production of the burger — an estimate Gunder cites from the Water Footprint Network.
I’m certainly no exception to contributing to this complex issue, and I’m challenging myself to do better in reducing what I buy, so I can reduce what I waste. With this upcoming holiday season, I hope you consider doing the same.
Here are some tips, adapted from various interviews and reports from Gunders:
- Be realistic about what you’ll eat, both at home and in restaurants.
- Learn when food actually goes bad, and don’t rely just on an expiration date information.
- Be thoughtful about on-sale and buying in bulk: Plan how you will store and eat it.
- Planning meals helps: If you’re using cilantro at the beginning of the week, is there something you can use it for at the end of the week?
- If you think it’s about to go bad, ask yourself, can I freeze it? You can freeze just about anything.
As with anything, we need to keep climate activism intersectional.
Straw bans at major companies and in cities did not consider those who need them — and they did not come up with a solution that cuts down on waste while also being able to serve all people.
Single-use anything is bad. For those who are able, we should use reusable and compostable straws.
But we should reduce and properly recycle all plastic, too. Much of what we recycle isn’t cleaned properly and is then trashed. To save our oceans, it’s going to take more than just getting rid of plastic straws. And as we move forward, do better at considering our communities.
New York Times: Rising Seas
“As land recedes under advancing waters, inhabitants find they are being forced to make stark changes in their lives,” wrote New York Times journalist Coral Davenport.
Seas rising is something we read a lot about now, but a lot of climate change news in the early 2010s focused on our melting glaciers, which is obviously devastating — but it’s too remote for some people to understand how it directly affects them. For years, climate change was not mentioned in much of our reporting about natural disasters. I’m so grateful for the climate scientists who have worked with meteorologists and journalists to change this.
This NYT report mentioned several impacts, from glaciers melting to what it means for vulnerable communities in the U.S.
The report said, “A study by the Florida Department of Transportation concluded that over the next 35 years, rising sea levels will damage smaller roads in the Miami area, and that after 2050, major coastal highways will also experience significant flooding and deteriorate as the limestone beneath them becomes saturated and crumbles.”
2050 isn’t far away.