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While the current and future tolls of climate change are regularly discussed on a world-scale, the ways in which it will affect the lives of individuals is often overlooked. So how will climate change alter the average person’s day-to-day? In short, it can vary greatly based on geographic region. Here is what states along the U.S. coasts can expect:
Weather unpredictability, sharp temperature swings and an increase in severe storm frequencies can pose risks to anyone’s wellbeing. If you’re older, or have any underlying health conditions, these swift changes may cause problems you hadn’t considered. In most U.S. regions, these risks can manifest as: breathing difficulties due to hotter, damper weather that elongates pollen seasons and increases the prevalence of smog; body temperature-related issues, from heat cramps to heat stroke; and natural disasters, which present ample direct and indirect hazards.
These risks cause a domino effect, putting your wallet’s wellbeing on the line, too. With the above issues, comes a host of costs that aim to prevent or remedy them. They include larger and more frequent medical bills, higher insurance rates, more expensive utilities and tax increases (as if they weren’t bad enough already).
To go a step further, climate change may influence many “quality of life” aspects of your everyday. If your job is outside, it will be impacted by the heat. For safety and comfort reasons, operations will likely slow—and at times even halt—increasing costs, project times and stress. Relaxing or exercising outdoors to unwind may be problematic for the same reason. There’s even the possibility of impeding indoor activities due to forced blackouts because of cooling-induced strains on the grid, like we saw this summer in many major cities—and that’s not even accounting for storm-related blackouts, which will also increase in occurrences.
Although the current science indicates that the planet will continue to warm into the middle of the century, we still have a chance to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees C. The same IPCC report warns that “whether we limit warming to this level and prevent the most severe climate impacts depends on actions taken this decade.”
So, what can be done? We combat climate change at one of its primary sources: greenhouse gases.
Many parts of the U.S. already are fighting climate change at its source in one way or another. One example is by focusing on sustainable waste management and avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise be released by landfills. Some New Jersey communities, for example, like Essex County, Union County and Camden County, are doing this by utilizing Waste-to-Energy technology that processes their waste into local electricity.
By diverting waste from landfill, these counties are avoiding landfill methane, a greenhouse gas that is up to 84 times more potent than CO2. Another benefit of Waste-to-Energy is the ability to recover energy locally and support the grid during times of high demand. What’s more, the metals from the waste are recovered and recycled, saving thousands of tons of virgin ore. In 2020 alone, those three New Jersey WTE plants recovered nearly 60,000 tons of ferrous and non-ferrous metal.
Still, more can be done. We as a country need to embrace sustainable waste solutions. We need to follow the waste hierarchy more closely, educate our communities and businesses on what’s at stake and what can be done, and incorporate those best practices into our everyday lives so that we may secure a better future for ourselves and our planet.
To learn more about Waste-to-Energy and how it’s helping offset the impacts of climate change, explore our website Covanta.com
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