We’ve Reached A Milestone…

Check out the green roof at the EPA's Denver, CO officeThis spring, we hit a big milestone. It wasn’t a fun milestone, like a 50th wedding anniversary or record number of home runs, instead it was rather sobering. Atmospheric monitoring stations across the Arctic have been measuring more than 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (a heat-trapping gas) in the atmosphere. At the moment, this level has only been reached in the Arctic, however it’s only a matter of time before those levels are seem everywhere else.

You may be thinking to yourself, what does this matter to me? Well, it tells us that we as citizens of the United States and of Planet Earth – despite climate talks, summits and negotiations – are still in trouble. It is essential that industrialized and developing countries continue to participate in conversations working to mitigate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and devise a strategic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are other things we can begin to do today – things that will help us to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

We have already begun to see the impacts of climate change – extreme weather stormed through all regions of the United States in 2011, and has already made an impact this year. Adapting to and preparing for the climate impacts we see today and we can expect to see in the future will make us more resilient in the face of changing climate. Utilizing no regret solutions, those strategies that will benefit communities no matter the impacts of climate change, are critical to our resilient future.

We can work to protect and restore our natural infrastructure – wetlands, forests, and rivers and their floodplains that slow floods and provide clean water. We can use water more efficiently at home, in factories, and on farms. In an urban setting, installing green infrastructure can help to decrease temperatures and polluted runoff as well as improving air quality and providing a place to enjoy the outdoors.

To fully tackle the issue of climate change, we will need a two-pronged approach stressing both mitigation and adaptation strategies. Hitting the 400 ppm mark should signify to all that it is time we act. While mitigation often happens from the top down, adaptation can be a grassroots effort. By increasing no regret solutions in your community, you can help to make your community more prepared for the impacts of climate change.