Last week I attended a program on agriculture and climate that should be very alarming to anyone who is not living in denial about global warming.

Dr. James McClintock, an Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology at UAB, presented his research about wildlife species in Antarctica while agricultural land use was the focus of the presentation by Steven Apfelbaum, the Senior Ecologist, Founder and Chairman of Applied Ecological Services.

Their findings suggest that the status quo is leading to serious peril for our planet. Rising temperatures are going to pose challenges for food production, and we are messing with things we do not understand that may cause the extinction of several animal species, disrupt familiar weather patterns and conditions, cause more intense hurricanes, deprive our society of potentially life-saving natural medicines being found in parts of the world we’ve only begun to explore, and force the world’s population to fight over dwindling resources.

The Planet is On Fire

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recorded weather conditions as far back in 1880. July of 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded. And as also reported in July, these temperatures may be having their most profound impact on the world’s food supply.

Dr. McClintock said it is not surprising that the climate experiences hotter and cooler periods. What is alarming is the RATE at which conditions on the planet are changing. He said he and other scientists are seeing things happen now that they anticipated might happen in 20 years or more. The pace of change is accelerating.

Ecologist Apfelbaum recounted how traumatic it was to visit Alaskan shores and witness hundreds of mammals that normally crawl onto ice to cool off instead rotting on shorelines because the ice has melted. He found the creatures partially devoured by other animals desperate to find food as their habitats vanish in the heat.

Furthermore, shoreline is disappearing to erosion while we are going to see our ocean levels increase when ice atop melting glaciers eventually slides into the ocean. Dr. McClintock equated the current situation to ice inside of a drink failing to increase the volume if it melts vs massive quantities of water trapped atop of ice on land surfaces flooding into the ocean anew.

It’s fightening to imagine the impact of that happening and coastline development going underwater. Here in North Alabama, far removed from those coastlines, the greatest threat is droughts threatening food security and subsequent brush fires. These heat waves may also bring an increase in pests and disease while changing the nutritional quality of our foods.

Like it or not, global warming is going to affect every living creature on this planet.

Change is fought because the vast majority of the world economy relies on energy sources or manufacturing techniques that release greenhouse gases at almost every stage of production, transportation, storage, delivery & disposal. Special interest lobbying by well-organized groups distort and amplify aspects of the challenge. These groups work to suppress the consensus on the science of global warming and its likely effects.

Why is this happening? What can we do?

Carbon dioxide is released when oil, coal, and other fossil fuels are burned for powering our homes, cars, and smartphones. By using less of it, we can curb our own contribution to climate change while also saving money.

It is vital that we encourage Congress to enact new laws that limit carbon emissions and require polluters to pay for the emissions they produce. We also need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources like wind and solar power.

Heating and air-conditioning account for almost half of home energy use, so weatherizing to seal drafts and adequately insulate becomes very important. Federal tax credits are available for energy-efficiency home improvements. Look for the Energy Star label when shopping for refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances. It also takes a lot of energy to pump, heat and treat water, so being more efficient while showering and brushing teeth reduces the resulting carbon pollution.

Audio and video devices, cordless vacuums and power tools, and other electronics use energy even when they’re not charging, so don’t leave fully charged devices plugged into your home’s outlets, unplug rarely used devices or plug them into power strips and timers, and adjust your computers and monitors to automatically power down to the lowest power mode when not in use.

Food use is also important. I didn’t realize that approximately 10 percent of U.S. energy use goes into growing, processing, packaging, and shipping food — about 40 percent of which just winds up in the landfill. since Livestock products are among the most resource-intensive to produce, so eating meat-free meals can make a big difference, too. Have you tried that new Impossible Burger from Burger King?

My next car is going to be a hybrid or fully electric vehicle. Something as simple as keeping tires properly inflated can save 1.2 billion gallons of gas each year.

Educating the Public

We owe thanks to JSU Canyon Center Director Pete Conroy for hosting programs to raise awareness of these issues. Learn more about the Canyon Center.

More information about UAB and Dr. McClintock.

More information about Applied Ecological Services and Mr. Apfelbaum.

Photo 2019 Steven Stiefel / Stiefel Creative

Blog 2019 Steven Stiefel | Stiefel Creative