Think Green

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How you can help fight climate change

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.4 F over the past 100 years and is projected to rise another 2 F over the next century. That rise in temperature may translate to some potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather over the next several decades, and these shifts figure to impact society in a variety of ways, none of which are likely to improve quality of life.

The impact of climate change will vary depending on geography, but no region of the planet will be immune to the potentially devastating impact of climate change unless something is done to reverse the trend. For example, the EPA notes that coastal communities in the southeastern United States are likely to see the sea level rise, and such communities will be forced to deal with increasingly intense hurricanes. In the northwestern United States, rising sea levels are likely to increase coastal erosion, while rising temperatures will threaten local forests, agriculture and wildlife.

Though many who present the issue of climate change tend to focus on its potentially devastating consequences, there is still a chance to reverse climate change. That's because humans are largely responsible for climate change, so it stands to figure that what was done by humans can ultimately be undone as well. According to the EPA, human activities over the last century have released large amounts of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are a result of burning fossil fuels to produce energy. But greenhouse gases also are emitted by industrial processes, deforestation and certain agricultural practices. When these greenhouses are emitted, they trap energy in the atmosphere, causing it to warm. This warming process is necessary to sustain life on Earth. But as these greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, as they have done in the last 100 years, the result is a change in climate that threatens society, human health and ecosystems across the globe.

One effective way to combat climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which individuals can do in a number of ways.

* Make "reduce, reuse, recycle" your family's mantra. Many people have heard the slogan "reduce, reuse, recycle," but few people may know just how effective it can be. Reducing, reusing and recycling helps conserve energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from resource extraction, manufacturing and disposal. If products are reused and recycled, then less new products need to be made, reducing the industrial emissions that contribute so heavily to climate change. The EPA notes that American recycling activity alone saves roughly 11.3 billion gallons of gas each year. Even some waste can be reused. For example, composting food and yard waste greatly reduces the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a result.

* Be more efficient with water usage. Efficient water usage can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably. For example, only running a dishwasher when it is full can save 100 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, greatly reducing your contribution to climate change with little or no effort on your part. The EPA notes that 3 percent of the energy used in the United States goes toward pumping and treating water, so using water efficiently can greatly reduce greenhouse gas pollution that's contributing to climate change. Turning the faucet off while shaving and brushing your teeth are two more easy ways to conserve water and reduce emissions.

* Be more responsible behind the wheel. Vehicles are significant contributors to climate change, but drivers may not know that it's not just the automobile that can contribute to pollution. Drivers also can contribute to greater greenhouse gas emissions if they aren't driving efficiently and responsibly. When driving, avoid hard accelerations and quick brakes, as that type of driving wastes fuel that will need to be replaced. Driving without so many fast stops and quick starts is more fuel efficient, and over time this will greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions you're producing every time you get behind the wheel. Other ways to improve fuel efficiency and therefore reduce your vehicle's emissions include clearing unnecessary items out of your car so the engine doesn't have to work as hard to get from point A to point B and to keep time spent idling to a minimum.

Climate change has already begun to wreak havoc on the planet, and things only figure to worsen if men and women fail to make reversing climate change a priority.