We all are aware of the breaking environmental news regarding current drought conditions in the United States.  Presently, more than half of the United States is suffering from the worst drought conditions since the Dust Bowls, the last of which occurred 50 years ago.  We are witnessing wilted crops, particularly corn, dried-out, cracked soil and devastating forest fires caused by parched woodlands.  It is important to note that the current drought levels have not reached those of the Dust Bowl where 63% of the country experienced severe drought; however, today’s statistics do place this occurrence in the top 10% for the past century. 

Comparisons of statistics for severe droughts in the 1930’s and 1950s have resulted in some assumptions, especially by some politicians and talking heads that the current drought is not caused by global warming.  One such argument notes that carbon emissions were lower in the 30s than they are today, so the problem must have been due to some other natural occurrence.  Tree-ring data often have been cited to suggest that North American droughts are part of a natural cycle tied to La Nina events.  Environmental scientists now are compiling compelling evidence that rising temperatures are making droughts more common, and this phenomenon is less likely attributable to natural causes. 

The primary focus now must be on measures to address the problems of climate change.  John Antler of Montana State University has published a paper, which proposes that the government shift policies to adapt to climate change, i.e., providing subsidies for crops such as corn and soy to prevent adaptation by locking in current farming patterns. (http://www.rff.org/news/features/pages/climate-change-forcing-farmers-to-adapt.aspx)  Tom Philpott recommends a stronger push towards organic farming.  Recent research concludes that while organic farming yields smaller crop production, the organic farming process holds retains more water and performs better during droughts (http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/07/what-organic-ag-teaches-us-about-feeding-ourselves-while-planet-heats).

Currently, the United States has not been impacted as severely as many other nations by drought and destruction of food supply.  However, we see the effects of droughts in terms of increasing prices for food and increasing disasters, such as forest fires and parched land.  Droughts are becoming difficult to avoid, and steps must be taken immediately to protect our land, population and food sources.  Our very existence depends on this.  To save our world, let’s live green, be green.



The Palmer Drought Severity Index mid-century.  A reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought.  (Source:  National Center for Atmospheric Research).

Everyday we hear about the problems of climate change.  Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed the warmest temperatures recorded over a sustained period time and raging wildfires that have destroyed thousands of acres of land and the homes, lives and possessions of so many hard-working citizens.  Our communities are now inundated with garbage and landfills full of discarded electronics and junk that will never decompose.  Increasingly, we are faced with higher taxes and penalties imposed by municipalities to address the problems of aging sewage and water-flow treatment plants no longer able to support the increasing demand on these systems.  Now we have been blindsided by the announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that rising acid levels in the ocean pose a major threat to coral reefs.  Dubbed “the osteoporosis of the sea,” this phenomenon threatens everything from “food security to tourism and livelihoods”.  

As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the acidity of the water is increased.  Scientists are concerned about the effect of the higher acidity on sea life, particularly reefs, because the growing acidity negatively impacts the formation of coral skeletons, which ultimately will lead to deterioration of the reefs.  Previously, scientists assumed that the carbon dioxide absorbed by the water would be diluted as the shallow and deeper waters mixed.  Unfortunately, the majority of the carbon dioxide and its subsequent chemical changes have remained in the surface waters.

These higher acidity levels have impacted sea life in a very harsh and sometimes unpredictable manner.  For example, they have posed a major threat to oyster populations because the acid slows the growth of their shells.  Study results also reference the deleterious effect on clown fish and other sea life.  One experiment in particular has shown that the increased acid levels have dulled the sense of smell of some sea life, resulting in these creatures swimming towards predators, as opposed to away from them.  

The reduction of carbon emissions has become a matter of urgency to ensure the viability of both land and sea.  Our waters are a source of food, entertainment and livelihood for our planet’s occupations.  To protect them, let’s live green, be green.