5 things you can do about climate change

Story highlights

Climate expert: Most important thing is to inform yourself

Recycling and reusing can reduce costs and up efficiencies

Buy an energy efficient vehicle

CNN  — 

Climate change isn’t something in the far-off future: It’s a potentially disastrous reality that’s already starting to have effects that are expected to worsen, experts say.

Longer summers and heavier rainfalls are some of the impacts Americans are already seeing, according to the National Climate Assessment. We should expect more flooding, wildfires and drought.

The report, a new White House update released Tuesday, calls for urgent action on climate change.

Climate change is here and action needed now, new White House report says

So what can you do at home to take action?

1. Become informed

The most powerful way that the average person can combat climate change is to become informed about it, says J. Marshall Shepherd, former president of the American Meteorological Society and professor at the University of Georgia.

“Obviously, it makes sense for people to be as efficient and green as possible in their thinking on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “But where I think the biggest impact that individuals can have is: Becoming climate literate.”

If you educate yourself about what’s going on with climate change and what can be done about it, you can make more informed choices when it comes time to vote for the people with the power to make big decisions.

“Where the biggest impacts on our planet will be, will come from large-scale policy changes and solutions that are influenced by who’s in office,” he said.

Only read trusted and verified sources of information about climate change, Shepherd said. He recommends the websites climate.gov and Climate Central (of which he is a board member) for essential facts and resources.

Learn about various responses to climate change that policy makers are discussing:

– Mitigation means lowering carbon dioxide levels – for instance, by instituting carbon taxes or taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

– Adaptation means responding to the consequences of climate change – for instance, building seawalls to prepare for rising sea levels around vulnerable cities.

– Geoengineering means changing the Earth itself to counteract climate change – which would include hypothetical technological interventions such as putting large mirrors in space or changing our oceans to absorb more carbon dioxide, Shepherd said.

Beyond reading up on the issues, you can still do a small part to influence the big environmental picture.

2. Make changes at home

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists steps to limiting your greenhouse gas emissions, which would also save you money. These include:

– Changing your five most-used light fixtures or bulbs to products that have the EPA’s Energy Star label;

– Heat and cool more efficiently, such as by using a programmable thermostat, changing air filters and replacing old equipment with Energy Star products;

– Seal and insulate your home;

– Make use of recycling programs, and compost food and yard waste;

–Reduce water waste;

–Use green power, such as solar panels;

–Estimate how much greenhouse gas you emit with the EPA’s calculator.

The U.S. Department of Energy has an online guide to buying green power.

Check out clean energy resources and financial incentives in your area through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

3. Be greener at the office

If you have a desk job, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your emissions while at work. The EPA advises:

– Set computers and other office equipment to power down during periods when you’re not using them;

– Use Energy Star equipment;

– Recycle and reuse whenever possible;

The David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental nonprofit organization, additionally recommends using video conferencing to reduce air travel for business.

4. Reduce emissions in transit

Whether it’s taking a vacation or doing your daily commute, you can reduce your carbon footprint in simple ways that also save money. The EPA’s recommendations include: