By Susan Bodiker, Christopher Jones and Kate Oczypok
It’s not your imagination — the weather is more unpredictable. Our climate is changing.
“There’s no Planet B” is the environmental movement’s mantra. It should be everyone’s.
Here are 50 indicators and predictions, some factual, some fanciful, about what we are facing. More frequent, uninsurable “acts of God”? Let’s be honest: they are acts of humankind.
We hope this list empowers and inspires you to make some positive changes — not just for you, but for your family, community, city, country, future generations and the world at large.
1. Earlier springs and warmer temps extend our growing season, but also attract harmful invasive species of plants and pests from zones further south.
2. Insect-borne diseases, like Zika, move northward, overwhelming a region unprepared for them. As always, vulnerable populations suffer disproportionately.
3. Environmental devastation results in economic and social upheaval, forcing people to leave their homes and seek livelihoods and safety elsewhere (the rest is history).
4. Sunny-day flooding increases, lowering property values and increasing homeowners’ insurance and home maintenance costs. A once-desirable neighborhood becomes less so.
5. Congestion traffic rules go into effect to minimize emissions. Buses transition to hybrid or all-electric.
6. Lyft and Uber add jet-skis and water taxis to their fleets.
7. The Department of Public Works donates its sand supply to the Wharf and Georgetown waterfront to create urban beaches.
8. K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway becomes a very looooong lap pool.
9. Georgetown historic preservation groups create new guidelines regulating stilts and other flood-mitigation strategies.
10. M street is transformed into waterfront property.
11. Jack Evans is fined for repeatedly docking his cigarette boat at “no parking” piers.
12. Swimming and water safety courses are required at all public, private and charter schools in the District.
13. Aquaculture becomes a thing. Formal gardens become water farms for plants and animals.
14. Book Hill Park and other elevated areas are turned into windfarms to generate clean energy.
15. We get smart and serious about climate change and avert disaster.
16. From 2010 to 2019, the District experienced the warmest three years on record (2012, 2017, 2016), the top-two warmest springs (2012, 2010), the hottest four summers (2010, 2011, 2016, 2012), the warmest fall (2016) and the most 100-degree days in a month (seven in 2012). Source: Capital Weather Gang.
17. “The past decade was the hottest on record. The year 2020 was more than 1.2 Celsius hotter than the average year in the 19th Century. In Europe it was the hottest year ever, while globally 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest.” Source: BBC.com.
18. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to avoid the most severe climate impacts, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must fall by at least 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and to carbon neutrality by 2050.
19. Temperatures in D.C. over the last few months continue to be above normal: “Both December and January were milder than average, and snowfall was scant, just 5.4 inches, which is 10 inches below average. Our transition to spring has also been mild, with the March temperature currently 2.5 degrees warmer than average.” Source: Capital Weather Gang.
20. “With more than 40% of the global population living within 100 km of the coast, there is an urgent need to keep communities safe from the impacts of coastal hazards.” — Tweet by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, March 23, 2021.
21. “Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica and tropical mountain glaciers show that Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly 10 times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming. Carbon dioxide from human activity is increasing more than 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age.” Source: NASA.gov, citing Gaffney & Steffen, “The Anthropocene Review,” April 2017.
22. “The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit (1.18 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and other human activities. Most of the warming occurred in the past 40 years, with the seven most recent years being the warmest. The years 2016 and 2020 are tied for the warmest year on record.” Source: NASA.gov.
23. “The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019, while Antarctica lost about 148 billion tons of ice per year.” Source: NASA.gov.
24. At 416 parts per million, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, as of May 2020, is the highest it has been in human history. Source: Conservation.org, citing Ganopolski & Brovkin, “Science Advances.”
25. “On the personal front, I am doing a lot more,” said Microsoft founder Bill Gates on a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything session, when asked to describe his personal lifestyle changes in response to climate change. “I am driving electric cars. I have solar panels at my house. I eat synthetic meat (some of the time!). I buy green aviation fuel. I pay for direct air capture by Climeworks. I help finance electric heat pumps in low-cost housing to replace natural gas.” Source: CNBC.
Let’s Get Personal
26. Like your morning coffee? You’re not going to get it if climate change has its way, reducing harvests and increasing pests.
27. More of a wine drinker? Sorry to say — wine production may also fall victim to climate change. No more nightly vino could happen in just a few short years.
28. Help our younger generations have less worry and anxiety. According to a 2019 Amnesty International survey, four out of 10 young people aged 18 to 25 in 22 countries and six continents see climate change as one of the most important issues facing the world today.
29. Chances are, you care deeply about your health. Well, if climate change continues the way it has, the CDC has listed waterborne diarrheal diseases, mental health and stress-related issues, wildfires and air pollution among the climate-related effects on our health. Sounds like a miserable way to live out our senior years …
30. If you think immigration is a mess now, just wait, as climate change continues to wreak havoc on the people of Africa and the Middle East. More droughts, crop failures, famine, you name it, will put increased pressure on the U.S. and Europe to figure out their immigration policies.
31. Do you like to ski? Do you enjoy lobster every now and then? How about maple syrup on your pancakes on Sundays? Thanks to climate change, all of these have the potential to be in trouble.
32. If you enjoy your morning cereal, or perhaps a good loaf of bread with your lunchtime sandwich, you’re going to be paying more, thanks to climate change.
33. If you like to visit New York City, it might be flooded more often, making for a very wet visit.
34. DC declared a heat emergency more than 10 times during the summer of 2019. Expect a whole lot more sweat-inducing heat and humidity.
35. Tree canopy coverage has dropped 12 percent since 1950, according to DCist. That’s less shade to help with that gross heat and humidity.
36. By 2080, our temperatures here in D.C. will more closely remember those of Mississippi — say goodbye to any real winter and snow. Nothing says happy holidays like 80 degrees!
37. If you think allergy season is bad now … just wait.
38. Climate change is expected to cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization.
39. If you have asthma, it’ll get a whole lot worse if climate change continues its trajectory.
40. That fresh fish you love eating on your beach vacation could soon be gone, as many will struggle to find prey and die at high rates.
41. Next time you think about your charitable giving, consider a community-led nonprofit working to fight climate change. According to givingcompass.org, many are underfunded.
42. Remember that rainstorm we got in July 2019 with four inches of rain in just an hour? There will be more of those.
43. Our cars are causing a lot of issues related to climate change — that’s why there’s been more publicity devoted to electric vehicles.
44. If you’re often finding that you buy more groceries than you need, commit to only buying what you absolutely need to eat — and eat what you buy, to avoid food waste.
45. If you own your own home, solar panels could help the climate. If you rent, check for energy-saving light bulbs and the like.
46. According to Spunout.ie, Ireland’s website for information for youth, the U.S. is the second largest contributor to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, despite having just 4.4 percent of the entire world’s population.
47. If you’re building a house or have bought land for any reason, reconsider.
48. Did you know we’re the cause of global warming? According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is more than a 95-percent certainty that human activity is the main cause. That means we have the power to change it!
49. Our city is doing some great things to help with climate change. Did you know it is the first LEED Platinum city in the world, according to the U.S. Green Building Council?
50. In 2018, we were ranked the third-greenest city in America, according to WalletHub. Keep doing what you’re doing, D.C.! Who knows, we could be number one in just a few years.