The idea of global climate change is, by and large, no longer questioned. It is happening. But as science’s understanding of the phenomenon improves, there has been a change in nomenclature.
From the mid-1970s, when the term was coined, until the late 1980s, the phrase “global warming” was used. Referring to the increase of the earth’s surface temperature, this term is not inaccurate but it is inadequate — a steadily rising surface temperature is only one of the affects humanity has had on the earth.
Other effects include changes in precipitation and other weather patterns, seas both rising and becoming warmer, and worsening storms and other naturally occurring phenomenon. Global warming exists, but it is only one of a host of globally felt climate changes that can be traced back to humanity.
While it’s difficult for any given individual to gauge the increase of average surface level of the earth — an increase of about 1.4°F over the past century — the effects of global climate change as a whole can be keenly felt.
These effects are plainly evident in extreme weather. Sweltering summers and bitter cold winters, increased incidence of unusually strong storms and hurricanes, abnormal increases in precipitation in some regions and abnormal decreases in others — these are all symptoms of global climate change.
Extremes Close to Home
The historic drought in the American Southwest, which we’ve written about a number of times, is an excellent example. The region, California in particular, has been hit with a confluence of abnormalities — namely unusually warm temperatures and record low rainfall levels — which were aggravated by high levels of agricultural water use. Global climate change is the culprit.
The extreme rainfall and consequent flooding in South Carolina this past month is another example. The much watched and moisture heavy Hurricane Joaquin and a second, non-tropical storm from the south butted against a large, cool high pressure system of Canada, causing all three to temporarily stall centered over South Carolina.
The result was record-shattering rainfall — records for rainfall measured statewide, per tropical storm, in October, in a 24-hour period, and in a 5-day period have all been met or broken — and unprecedented flooding, which has claimed at least 17 lives.
Extreme Weather and Energy Use
Two of the manifestations of global climate change — higher temperatures in the summer and lower ones in the winter — also happen to be the times when energy use in the US is highest. Annual energy use peaks once in the winter when Americans are heating their homes, and again in the summer when they are cooling them.
As global climate change progresses, the summer temperatures are getting hotter and the winter temperatures are getting colder. More importantly, these periods of extreme temperatures are lasting longer. A household that runs its heat from October to April uses much more energy than one that needs heat from November to March; a household that uses its air conditioning from May to September uses much more energy than one that needs AC from July to September.
Even ignoring other factors such as precipitation levels, it is clear that global climate change — itself caused in part by human energy consumption — is causing increases in human energy consumption.
Save Energy While Preparing for Extreme Weather
Luckily, there are a number of ways your constituents or customers can prepare their homes for extreme weather and reduce their energy usage at the same time. They can start with basic steps. Urge them to purchase appliances — air conditioning units and furnaces, in particular — with an ENERGY STAR® rating. Replacing aging HVAC filters and properly insulating ductwork will prevent their equipment from working overtime, using extra energy unnecessarily.
Heat loss in the winter, and air conditioning loss in the summer, is easy to prevent by caulking window and door frames and by installing weatherstripping, sweeps, or bottoms in exterior doors, blocking leaks.
These steps alone, simple enough for anybody to do, can go a very long way toward preparing a home against weather extremes while also reducing its energy usage.
To learn more about how your customers and constituents can safeguard their homes against worsening weather extremes and also reduce their energy usage, download Illume’s Energy Savings Kit Whitepaper for free today.