With global warming starting to make its presence felt, we present five important things Clevelanders can do to reduce their environmental impact.
Cleveland is expected to see significant impact from climate-induced weather, according to a new study about to be released from University of Buffalo.
Temperatures have already increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit in Cleveland, with an expected increase of 5 degrees by end-of-century. While the largest shift in temperature will, at first, affect winter, a Cleveland Climate Vulnerability Assessment found, summer temperatures are expected to increase most by mid-century. The increase in temperatures will produce warmer winter nights, and more extreme weather events: More intense storms and flooding. Longer periods of high heat and drought.
Meanwhile, the City of Cleveland has updated its Climate Action Plan (CAP). It is in draft form and available for public comment until August 5. In the CAP, the city outlines where it plans to reduce by 80% carbon emissions by 2050—a figure determined by the Paris Accord necessary to avoid significant damage to planetary systems. In addition, the city and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress are producing a Climate Resiliency Plan that provides a framework for cool cities strategies like the program to plant 50,000 trees in the most vulnerable neighborhoods.
How can you help? Here are some important decisions that have impact on carbon emissions, a heat-trapping gas, the main culprit in climate change.
#1. Location. Location. Location. Where you choose to live may be key to lowering your carbon footprint. As the map of the carbon intensity of Northeast Ohio (above) shows, location of your home correlates strongly with carbon intensity. One factor is home size, but location also determines how much transportation you consume. To help Northeast Ohio dig itself out of a sprawl trap — where emissions from driving continue to increase (9% since 2010, according to a carbon footprint analysis of Cuyahoga County) — you may want to choose to live in a community that doesn't have such high demands on your transportation budget. By living in close proximity to as many daily needs as possible, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and carbon emissions reductions are possible. Choose a community that has a high WalkScore and has good options available for walking, biking, and making transit part of your daily routine. Communities that have walking and biking baked into the design of their streets improve their mode share and help people make better choices to reduce their carbon footprint. Also, look for a bike or carpool buddy on the Gohio Commute website to reduce your commute impact.
#2. Carbon intensity of energy has decreased by 4% in Cuyahoga County due to a shift from coal to fracking gas. Fracking still has significant environmental impact. Therefore, to reduce your energy use at home, replace lights with LED bulbs (now widely available and affordable), and insulate your home, especially if it was built before 1950. Sign up with a power company that sells renewable energy credits to offset your home’s fossil fuel use. And, reduce your plug loads.
#3. Plant trees. (And a garden). Trees sequester, or absorb, tons of carbon over their lifetime. They cool air temperatures by providing shade and through evapotranspiration, a scientific term for moving moisture from ground level to atmosphere, reducing the dreadfulness of humidity. Trees absorb lots of rain fall, offer amazing ecological service to birds and other animals, reduce stress, and raise property values.
#4. Eat local. And organic. Most food in Cleveland comes from the West Coast which means it has a huge carbon footprint traveling in a refrigerated car for a 1,000+ miles. Do a quick web search on which Cleveland area grocery stores, restaurants and farmer’s markets specialize in local, Ohio grown food. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables are delicious, and they reduce the miles from farm to plate. Plus, don’t waste it: 40% of what gets thrown out is food. Start a stew or compost it as a last resort.
#5. Travel less, live more. Air travel is one of the worst carbon sins, and it has grown exponentially. Think about the need to travel, and plan your escape here. Flee to the CLE, bike to a local park or the lakefront, start a conservation club, sit under a tree and read.