Climate Change Impacts Americans. Here's how.

Carol from Seattle, Washington

Seattle had an especially dry summer in 2018. I needed to water my landscaping to keep it alive. We are dependent on snow pack in the Cascade mountain range to supply our water and that is becoming less reliable with increasingly warm, dry weather. This has increased the cost of water. Our city has grown rapidly, increasing property values along with the cost of living here, including utilities and taxes. I am now retired and living on Social Security, so I am feeling the economic impacts of climate change. More importantly I am deeply concerned about the environmental damage being done and the dangers of rising sea levels and more violent storms. I have made an effort to reduce my carbon footprint, eg. given up my car, kept the thermostat at 64 degrees, and eating little meat because I feel a moral responsibility to do what I can and know that every one of us must take action now to save life on this beautiful planet. Climate change must be a global priority issue. Thank you for making this a national priority.

Katie from California

Last July on a freakishly hot night that broke records across southern California and that was attributed to climate change with 99% certainty, a fire suddenly broke out in our neighborhood due to hot winds, the likes of which I've never felt before, that pushed flames toward us rapidly. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. We ran out of the house with nothing, and no time to prepare, and fled. Our house survived with minor damage, but that anguishing night most of the houses on our street burned down. I look out at the foundations of five burned out houses as I write this.

 

Elliot from Michigan

I grew up in Northern Michigan. It’s a beautiful place where nature is a big part of life. I grew up hiking in the woods, cross-country skiing in the winters, and swimming in Lake Michigan. With climate change, a lot of my cherished childhood experiences will be impacted. A couple of winters ago, my town hosted the state championship for Michigan Nordic skiing. It was a really exciting time for our town. February is the heart of winter in Michigan, but when the meet came around, it was 50 degrees and we barely had enough snow to ski on. Climate change is really important to me and the memories I have from my childhood. I believe a revenue-neutral price on carbon pollution is the best way to address climate change quickly while also keeping the economy growing.

 

Deborah from California

After living in Alaska for 37 years, I experienced many of the significant impacts that climate change has had on our country's most northern state. With respect to impacting me directly, climate change caused massive spruce bark beetle outbreaks, which killed all of the mature spruce trees around our cabin overlooking the Matanuska Glacier. Each year, through our cabin window, we saw the Matanuska Glacier shrink, in width, depth, and length. We also saw the dramatic loss of glacial ice in numerous other areas of Alaska, including Portage Glacier (near Anchorage), Kenai Fjords National Park, and Glacier Bay National Park. With respect to Portage Glacier, we used to take all of our visitors there to see the glacier and glacial icebergs on the lake. The Forest Service built an extremely popular visitor center there for glacier viewing. Within a few decades, the glacier could no longer be seen from the visitor center, having retreated substantially.

The massive fires in Alaska and elsewhere made breathing difficult on many summer days, especially for my mother. We had to buy several air purifiers for her home. As winters warmed, snow turned into ice and many of my friends slipped and broke bones on the treacherous sidewalks, roads, parking lots and driveways. As a family, the amount of snow available in Anchorage for cross-country skiing diminished substantially, and Nordic ski opportunities for youth decreased, including for my son. Less snow adversely affected the economy.

I traveled throughout Alaska extensively, including visiting the heavily impacted villages of Shishmaref and Newtok. With great empathy for their plight, I worked with many Alaska Native leaders to try to help find funding for the costs of relocating these villages due to climate change. Hearing their stories was heartbreaking, especially since they are blameless victims. Flying over Alaska I saw drying and dried lakes, ponds and rivers; I saw burning tundra (previously unheard of); I saw the shrinking polar ice cap; I saw dying trees and the vast damage from huge fires; and so much more. Two and a half years ago, I moved from one front-line of climate change (Alaska) to another: Goleta, California. Since arriving here we have experienced numerous massive fires and a deadly debris flow. We had to evacuate my son, who lives in Santa Barbara; and the Holiday Fire came very close to our house. As a lecturer at UCSB, finals week had to be cancelled and rescheduled because of the unhealthy air quality from the huge Thomas Fire (the largest in California's history at that time). Like others, I had to wear a mask for a considerable amount of time when going outside because of the unhealthy air.

One of my student's homes burned completely down in the Woolsey Fire last year, and 88% of an extraordinary unit in the National Park Service, the Santa Monica National Recreation Area, also burned as a result of this fire. Santa Monica National Recreation Area is a place we used to hike in, but many areas remain closed. Our local beach, Goleta Beach, has been increasingly eroded, and was closed for a long time to take the polluted dirt from the tragic Montecito debris flow. Although we have resisted it, the increasingly hot summer temperatures will likely require us to install air conditioning. We will increase the number of our solar panels to cover the additional energy use, but this will all be very expensive. Climate change, in general, is very expensive. At UCSB, my students complain about being hot, and studies show that performance and learning are decreased under hot conditions.

Life disrupted. Increased costs. Personal tragedies. Environmental destruction. I have experienced and witnessed all of these because of climate change.