Earlier this month, scientists shared some disturbing reports about global warming. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published separate data confirming that 2016 was the hottest year on record.*
It would be one thing if this single blazing hot year was a one-off anomaly. But it’s not. In fact 2016 was the third in a string of hottest years on record.
2016 Hottest Year
We earthlings started recording global temperatures back in 1880. Since then, ten of the hottest years on record have happened since 1998.
Coincidence? Fluke? Nope. According to climate scientists it’s a bona fide trend. In fact, the five hottest years on record have come since 2010.
The bottom line is that planet Earth is heating up fast. And scientists are almost unanimous on the reason.
According to Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring group at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, N.C:
“The long-term warming is driven almost entirely by greenhouse gases,” Arndt says. “We’ve seen a warming trend related to greenhouse gases for four, five, six decades now.”
* (Data corroborated by findings from both the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the U.K. Meteorological Office.)
What Are Greenhouse Gases Anyways?
What are greenhouse gases? Here’s a quick reminder. Greenhouse gases—water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone—occur naturally in our atmosphere. They trap heat and warm the earth.
You might recall from your high school earth science class that natural process is called the greenhouse effect, and it’s not inherently bad. On the contrary, a limited amount of greenhouse gases keep our climate warm enough for life to thrive.
But since the industrial revolution, when we started burning coal, oil, and gas, we’ve contributed huge amounts of additional carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere (Since preindustrial times atmospheric Carbon Dioxide levels have increased 40%, from 280 ppm in 1750 to 400 ppm in 2015).
Gradually, we’ve overwhelmed the atmosphere with CO2 and created an unprecedented cycle of warming with grave consequences like mega storms, increased flooding, eroding coastlines, rapidly melting glaciers, and more.
This warming trend and its emerging consequences are what galvanized every nation on the planet to convene in Paris in late 2015 and sign a historic Global Cimate Accord.
Global Warming Is Real & It’s Local
Here at DCI, the effects of climate change aren’t theoretical. As a small company located in rural New England, we are more prone to rapid climate change than almost any other region on the planet according to a recent study out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Reporting on the UMASS findings, The Boston Globesays that,
The scientists found that the Northeast is warming more rapidly than any other part of the country except Alaska — and that the 3.6 degree Fahrenheit rise in the region is likely to come two decades before the rest of the world gets to that point.
From our perspective, you can have two responses to information like this. You can throw up your hands and do nothing because it’s such a big problem or you can start to make changes that are within your immediate sphere of influence.
Tackle Climate Change – Use Wood!
Of course you know what I’m going to say next. We believe in and practice the latter. In fact, we’ve been practicing climate friendly manufacturing for over four decades.
During that time, we’ve endeavored to make the most sustainable furniture in the residence hall marketplace. We’ve pioneered a zero-waste manufacturing facility that is often powered by our own clean burning wood waste. You can read more about our efforts to mitigate climate change here.
But more importantly, we make the majority of our furniture from solid hardwood. By taking advantage of the carbon sink principle, we can mitigate climate change by using solid wood products.
You see, wood stores carbon for decades. In fact, as this short video (6min) illuminates, using wood products is a potential game changer.
Want to learn why using more wood is the simplest way to create a low carbon economy and tackle climate change? Watch the video below.
Also, here are some of key facts about wood to keep in mind as you watch.
- Using solid wood furniture reduces the carbon footprint of your residence hall
- Forests cover 20% of world’s landmass and they are the second largest carbon sink on earth after the ocean
- On average, trees absorb 1 ton of Co2 and emit 727 kg O2 for every cubic meter’s growth
- Using a cubic meter of wood instead of other building materials saves almost 1 ton of CO2
- The more wood you use, the more CO2 you save
- You can save over 80% of a buildings carbon footprint by using wood framing
- Wood products account for a carbon storage of 220 million tons. That increases 20 million tons per year.
And if you’re impressed with the forest growth stats in this video, you’ll be downright dazzled by China’s inspired plans to build an ecological civilization.
China has announced, via a United Nations report, that it will be covering nearly a quarter of the country with forests by 2020. The plan is to turn China into an “ecological civilization” and function as a model for future building projects.
China sees the writing on the wall and their goal is to use increased forest cover to create a massive carbon sink and a carbon neutral economy. What’s the cornerstone of that economy? Wood.
And just to be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of tree plantations which create monocultural wastelands like the Rubberwood (H. Brasiliensis) farms. China’s aim is to create ecologically rich and diverse forests.
What Are You Going To Do?
So this new information about the hottest year on record doesn’t change a lot for us in terms of how we operate. But it does inspire us to keep refining our sustainability practices and share this information with more residence hall decision makers like you.
So what can you do to mitigate global warming? A lot more than you think. As someone who has a direct impact on the lives of students, you can potentially have a major impact.
But first, let’s briefly take a closer look at the issue. What does it mean that 2016 was the hottest year on record and why is that important? Is it just a one-off?
The Three Hottest Years
Well first, this has never happened before. We’ve had three consecutive hottest years on record.
One contributing factor was the El Nino effect in 2015 and 2016. El Nino is an intermittent weather pattern that causes global changes in both temperature and rainfall. El Nino warms the temperatures and El Nina cools them.
Despite this, the long-term warming trend points to a larger momentum that transcends the vagaries of El Nino and El Nina.
One of the regions hit hardest by Global Warming is the Arctic. In 2016 it had some of the biggest temperature extremes registering 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
Dwindling Arctic Sea Ice
The result? Arctic sea is dwindling at an accelerating pace.
What you see in this short animation is the seasonal fluctuation of sea ice cover. But according to NASA, in 2015 the Arctic sea ice cap maximum coverage was the smallest on the satellite record.
That’s part of a larger trend as well.
This is not good. Why?
Because sea ice reflects solar energy and sunlight back into space. That is good. But as the surface area of sea ice continues to wane each year, it reflects less of that sunlight and solar energy back into space. Consequently, the ocean absorbs more heat from the sun.
That in turn warms the oceans, the earth, and the atmosphere.
Do you see the danger in all that? It’s a feedback cycle that creates warmer and warmer temperatures at all three levels.
And that’s just the Arctic. The issue here is the global nature of the warming. According to the New York Times:
NASA’s calculations suggested that the planet had warmed by well over a half-degree Fahrenheit from 2013 to 2016. That is a huge change for the surface of an entire planet to undergo in just three years, and it appears to be the largest temperature increase over a three-year period in the NASA record, which begins in 1880.
What’s The Good News?
This isn’t the first time we’ve faced global threats on this scale. Remember the Cuban Missile crisis which almost launched WW3? That too was a human-manufactured global scale crisis. And we resolved that.
What’s more insidious about climate change is the iterative nature of both the mounting threat and the actual impact. As humans, it’s easier for us to respond to a crisis that feels immediate and distinct.
Climate change, on the other hand, asks us for a different response. It’s the kind of acute problem that asks us to pan back—something we all struggle with—and pay ongoing attention to the big picture. And beyond that, it asks us to act in response to things we can’t always see, touch, taste, or feel right away.
That’s challenging indeed.
Real Solutions Exist
But the good news is that we are far enough along in our understanding and advocacy that there are real criteria we can point to when it comes to mitigating climate change.
In an article entitled Barack Obama, Climate-Optimist-in-Chief, climate change policy analyst Gideon Forman reflects on some key statistics from Obama’s January 2017 article in the prestigious journal Science:
Obama writes, “evidence is mounting that any economic strategy that ignores carbon pollution will impose tremendous costs to the global economy and will result in fewer jobs and less economic growth over the long term.” He cites economic modelling suggesting warming of 4 C could result in an annual loss of $340 to $690 billion in U.S. government revenue. He points out that solar and wind companies employ more than twice as many Americans as the coal power sector (some 360,000 versus about 160,000).
In 2015, he says, twice as much international capital was invested in clean energy as in fossil fuels. He concludes, “the business case for clean energy is growing, and the trend toward a cleaner power sector can be sustained regardless of near-term federal policies.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, if Google and Walmart are committed to running all their activities with renewables — and they are — the new president’s wishes are essentially irrelevant. Walmart trumps Trump.
What You Can Do Right Now
- Use your influence and buying power to purchase sustainably manufactured carbon neutral solid wood furniture
- Explore the possibility of upgrading your furniture orders to include FSC certifications
- Create flyers to educate your students about how the furniture is made and why it’s climate friendly
- Include statistics about global warming and climate change in your flyers
- Emphasize the power of action and model that goal by supporting companies that strive for carbon neutrality.
- Come to the DCI and take a tour of our zero-waste factory
Climate Change Resources
- NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information
- EPA’s Climate Change Education Website
- Climate.Gov: Teaching climate literacy
- Climate Central: Researching and reporting the science and impacts of climate change
- David Suzuki Foundation
(Photos via Flickr CC: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Climate Central, Takver)
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To set up an order today or to talk with one of our representatives, you can write to us here or call: (800) 552-8286.
You can also learn more about our industry-leading FSC CoC certification, our MAS certification, and our green materials sourcing, sustainable manufacturing, and our unique zero waste Vertical Integration Process (VIP).
Download the DCI Sustainability Pledge here.