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Take a 'Snapshot' of How Climate Change Affects Your Community

Kim Knowlton

Posted June 19, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Today, NRDC is launching a new webtool that lets you take a ‘Snapshot’ of what climate change means in your area. You can read whether current conditions and trends in your area indicate a higher vulnerability to extreme weather events, such as heat waves, floods, and drought as well as health risks that climate change is fueling, right now.

Here’s how it works: you enter your ZIP Code to get a quick ‘Snapshot” of how your county stacks up in several of the categories from our climate vulnerability maps: Extreme heat, air pollution, flooding, drought, infectious illness like dengue fever, wildfires, sea level rise, and extreme weather. It’s a quick way to get a sense of how these threats can affect the environment and your health, right where you live.

You can also easily share your Snapshot on Facebook or Twitter with the webtool.

NRDC has been bringing together scientific information about the local effects of global climate change on communities nationwide since 2007. We’ve created web tools that let you zoom in and ask, ‘What does climate change mean in my backyard?’ Our online maps connect the dots between climate change and the ways it harms our health.  We’ve mapped extreme weather events that are being fueled by climate change, and we also highlight preparedness steps that protect our kids’ health and our own, saving lives and dollars along the way.

Climate change is one of the most serious public health threats facing our nation, but many people don't yet realize how it could affect their local community and health. While climate change threatens all of us, children, the elderly, and communities living in poverty are among the most vulnerable. Storms like Hurricane Sandy and searing summers like 2012 - the hottest summer in America’s history – take a huge toll on health, and are themselves a ‘snapshot’ of what our future will look like more and more, with climate change. We need to be ready.

Why the urgency now?

  • Extreme heat can be lethal. The annual death toll from extreme heat is already on the rise, according to a report released by the CDC at the beginning of June, with the number of heat-related deaths predicted to jump from the current annual rate of around 700 to between 3,000 and 5,000 by 2050.
  • Increasing flood risks with climate change will hammer homeowners. A new report released by FEMA suggests that, by 2100, the number of flood-prone properties in the U.S. could double. An estimated 70% of that additional flood risk will be from climate change (the other 30% due to projected population growth in at-risk areas).
  • Drought and wildfire risks are worsened by extreme heat. Much of Texas is in a state of drought emergency declared by Governor Rick Perry, and the costs of the 2012 drought have been estimated at $60-100 billion.  
  • It’s been estimated that American taxpayers in 2012 paid $139 billion in damages related to many types of events fueled by climate change: severe weather, flooding, wildfire and drought.
  • The health-related costs of climate change add billions more – not to mention the costs in lives lost, illnesses, lost work and school days, and diminished quality of life on hot, smoggy days.

Hopefully, our new webtool will bring these statistics home for people.  We want people to be able to think about and talk about their own local climate-health vulnerabilities -- because taking action to protect the places and the people we love from climate change is an urgent matter.

What kinds of actions could make a difference?

Limiting heat-trapping carbon pollution, which is the root cause of climate change, would make an enormous difference. The US Environmental Protection Agency State has proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants, which would cut about 40% of US emissions. This is a critical step forward. You can ‘Take Action’ here to write the President a letter saying so.

At the same time as we work to prevent and reduce carbon pollution before it gets into the air by moving toward cleaner, less polluting fuels, we need to become better-prepared for climate change, too. State preparedness plans and policies have not kept pace with these health challenges. Only about one-third of US states have climate preparedness plans in place that include public health measures to cope with climate challenges.

We have to do better than this.

We need to prepare and plan for the future, not the past. And the future isn’t an abstraction: it’s where your kids and grandkids will live, and you, too, in a slightly older version. Your local climate-vulnerability Snapshot could be a different picture in the future, if we put the brakes on heat-trapping carbon pollution today and veer away from the worst effects of climate change.

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About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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