Halloween Horror Story: 5 Scariest Aspects of Climate Change
By Casey Ivanovich
Halloween has arrived, and it's time once again for goblins, gremlins and ghost stories.
But there's another threat brewing that's much more frightening—because it's real.
An unrecognizable world is quickly creeping up on us as climate change progresses—and the anticipated impacts are enough to rattle anyone's skeleton.
Here are five of the scariest aspects of climate change. Read on if you dare…
1. Extreme Weather is Becoming More Extreme
A changing climate paves the way for extreme weather events to live up to their name.
In 2017 alone we saw fatal events worldwide, including:
- The most severe drought in Somalian history.
- Devastating wildfires in northern California.
- Weeks of heavy rainfall and flooding in Nepal, Bangladesh and India.
The fingerprints of climate change can be found on each of these events.
As global temperatures continue to rise, heat waves are expected to become more intense, frequent and longer lasting.
Scientists also predict that rainfall patterns will continue to shift, increasing regional risk for widespread drought and flooding.
Drought conditions may also prompt wildfires to occur more frequently and within a longer fire season. The wildfire season in the western U.S. is already weeks longer than in previous years.
Hurricanes are also influenced by climate change. Rising sea surface temperatures, a moister atmosphere and changing atmospheric circulation patterns have the potential to increase hurricanes' power and travel paths.
Extreme weather intensification impacts human health and development in many ways—extreme heat events directly generate health hazards such as heat stroke, while drought and wildfires threaten crop and ecosystem stability.
The 2017 hurricane season has already demonstrated the shocking consequences of intensified hurricanes and flooding, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria killing more than 150 people and causing as much as $300 billion in damages in the U.S. alone.
2. Tipping Points Loom in Near Future
A particularly alarming facet of climate change is the threat of irreversible changes to climate conditions, called "tipping elements."
These components of the climate system earn their title from a possession of critical thresholds, or "tipping points," beyond which a tiny change can dramatically alter the state of the system.
Many tipping elements have been identified by scientists and some may have already passed their critical threshold. For example, a vicious cycle of sea ice melt has already been triggered, leading scientists to predict that Arctic summers will be ice-free before mid-century.
Imminent tipping points also exist for melting ice sheets, particularly those of Greenland and West Antarctica, where full ice sheet collapse could result in global sea level rise of up to 20 feet and 16 feet respectively.
Coral reefs too are rapidly approaching a grave tipping point. Essential relationships between algae and corals begin to break down as ocean waters rise in temperature and acidity. Without stabilizing these changes, the majority of global reef systems may collapse before global temperatures reach a two-degree Celsuis warming threshold.
3. Coastal Communities Battle Sea Level Rise
Sea level rise is one of the most visible impacts of climate change, as increased coastal erosion physically erases continental borders.
As the climate warms, ocean waters expand and ice sheets and glaciers melt. Both factors contribute to a rising sea level at an accelerating rate. Communities in Alaska and several Pacific Islands are already fleeing rising seas—relocating as their villages are engulfed and eroded.
Rising sea levels also intensify damages from extreme weather events such as hurricanes. A higher sea level allows storm surges to grow in height and volume, exacerbating flooding and associated damages.
As water levels continue to rise, more coastal communities will feel the consequences. Many major cities are located on coastlines, with almost 40 percent of U.S. citizens living in coastal cities.
Protecting people from this creeping threat will be difficult and costly—as we've already seen in the aftermath of coastal storms such as Superstorm Sandy.
4. Humans Are Nearing Uncharted Climate Territory
A globally averaged two-degree Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming over preindustrial levels is the most widely suggested threshold we need to stay "well" below.
The threshold was first proposed by William Nordhaus in the 1970's, in part because of its historical significance—the human species has never lived during a time in which global temperatures were equivalent to two-degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
The unprecedented nature of this benchmark provided a foundation for alarm that carried the two-degrees Celsius value into political and scientific discussions for decades.
In a changing climate, unprecedented events will become the norm.
In some cases, they already have.
As infectious diseases spread to previously untouched regions and an Arctic ozone hole threatens to open, people are beginning to catch the first glimpses of the new world we are creating—one that is in many ways more hostile and dangerous than the one we leave behind.
5. Many American Politicians Deny the Problem
Perhaps the only thing more terrifying than the impacts of climate change is the overwhelming denial of their existence by some political leaders in the U.S.
The Paris agreement served as a major step forward in promoting climate change mitigation policy on an international scale, with almost every nation agreeing to tackle this looming threat.
Then in June, President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the agreement. That means the U.S. will be one of only two countries—out of almost 200—failing to participate in the accords.
The same efforts towards dismantling U.S. climate progress can be seen in recent national policy. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt (who recently claimed that carbon dioxide is not a major contributor to global warming) is perhaps the most visible of an exhausting list of leaders within the current administration who deny climate science. The administration is trying to undermine or reverse policies addressing climate change, including the Clean Power Plan and information about climate change is vanishing from official agency websites.
The rest of the globe is striving to implement meaningful climate policy, including China's unparalleled growth in renewable energy support. Soon the U.S. will be left in the dust in the race for a greener world.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Then do something about it.
We can't protect you from the monsters hiding under your bed. But combating the ominous impacts of climate change is a much more hopeful endeavor.
For more information on how you can help, click here.
By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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