Four Ways Your Actions Can Help Combat Sea Level Rise

Guest Blog | December 20, 2013 | Climate Change, Extreme Weather

This post is the fifth and final in a five part blog series on sea level rise, being developed concurrent with the new IPCC climate report, Florida Atlantic University’s Sea Level Rise Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Oct. 16 – 17, and the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall on Oct. 29. You can read the other posts here.

At this point in our blog series, we hope we’ve made it clear that sea levels are rising and that climate change is one of the primary culprits. As we examine the possibility of flooding, erosion of our coastlines and endangered livelihoods of our coastal communities, we recognize that combating and adapting to rising sea levels as soon as possible is a must.

Despite how it might sometimes seem, individual voices and actions can add up and make the difference between whether we achieve constructive action or enable catastrophic delay. Here are just a few ideas on how you can join the public officials, businesses and other organizations already taking action today, and help take a stand against sea level rise.

1. Cut down your carbon footprint.

Though our society’s transition away from fossil fuels as our main energy source is not happening as fast as it should, making changes in the way you consume energy in your everyday life will have an impact on limiting the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Using energy to light and heat your home, driving a car, and powering appliances all lead to greenhouse gas emissions, which are fueling climate change and sea level rise.

Carbon footprint calculators are a great tool to help you see just how much energy you are currently using to help you learn where smart energy choices can reduce your consumption and climate pollution. You can reduce emissions through simple actions such as powering down electronics, changing out light bulbs, or just driving more efficiently. Find a carbon footprint calculator here, and see what other simple yet impactful changes you can make in your everyday life. Small steps add up if we all do our part.

2. Get involved and volunteer with a conservation organization near you.

A new study by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment found that our best defenses against sea level rise come from natural coastal habitats – coral reefs, mangroves, sea grasses and sand dunes shield almost two-thirds of our coastline. Helping to protect and restore them is a large part of the solution.

That’s where citizen volunteers come in. Find an organization near where you live, or do some research before vacationing in a coastal community, and join the defense team!  If you’re in Florida, maybe you can hook up with the Urban Paradise Guild and help replant native trees and protect mangroves. (Don’t forget to sign up for the Florida Climate Alliance either, so that you can stay connected with other concerned citizens in your area.) If you’re in South Carolina, volunteer with the Waccamaw Riverkeeper to help educate others on the importance of clean water. But if you’d rather get your hands dirty, grab your friends and family next year and sign-up to participate in the state’s annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep, sponsored by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.

Every bit helps, and you’d be surprised what a little attention and thoughtfulness can do. Interested in photography, or happen to have a smart phone with you the next time you’re in Tybee Island? Perhaps you can participate in the Tybee Island King Tide Project, and help Georgia protect against sea level rise by photographing King Tides next spring. Something as small as a camera photo can go a long way to raise awareness, and help identify areas most vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise.

Whatever you do, stay connected: get involved region wide, and join the Southeast Coastal Climate Network (SECCN) to keep up to date on how your neighbors are helping fight alongside you.

3. Visit coastal communities, and support those businesses that are already climate aware.

Sign of an SCBARS business.

As the seas continue to rise, coastal towns may find it harder and harder to compete in the tourism industry – flooding issues can be a huge deterrent when deciding whether or not to make coastal North Carolina your next summer destination. Although disasters like Superstorm Sandy temporarily made coastal towns less than popular vacation spots, it is now more important than ever that we consider visiting one of these areas in order to help revive them. Whether you live in a coastal area, or happen to have the travel bug, consider planning your next spring break to see some of these beautiful towns, and help boost their economy now; show them that there is a reason to protect our treasured coastal places, and that more investment in climate adaptation is needed to preserve tourism in the area.

While you’re there, take the time to thank those who are already taking action. As we noted earlier in this series, businesses large and small are realizing that if they have any chance of survival in the long-term, they need to take action against and protect themselves from the impacts of climate change. As consumers, we need to do our best to support those who are already in the climate fight. On your next vacation to the coast of South Carolina, keep an eye out for one of these window decals, shown on the right: these stickers identify stores that are part of the SCBARS campaign, short for South Carolina Businesses Acting on Rising Seas. Not only will you be benefiting the local economy by shopping at these stores, but you will also be supporting businesses that are taking a stand to protect their communities from the impacts of sea level rise. See which companies have signed onto the Climate Declaration and consider giving your business to them. Don’t see your favorite brand on the list of Declaration signers? Get in touch with them and urge them to sign on.

4. Support policies that support mitigation of climate change.

Last but not least, it is imperative that we show our elected officials that we do care about protecting our treasured places. There are some local governments and organizations who are already taking the reins and leading in the realm of sea level rise planning, and coastal communities throughout the region would do well to take note of their actions. Our government works for us: we need to let public officials know that this is an issue that needs attention, and soon. Stand up for our treasured coastal communities, and contact your U.S. Representative and both of your U.S. Senators, as well as your state legislators, and encourage them to support policies that address and slow sea level rise.

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