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The Warning Bells are Ringing! But What Can We Do About Climate Change?

On Thursday, Feb 8th, 2024, scientists said the world surpassed a key warming threshold across an entire year for the first time on record, calling to slash planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) confirmed that the first month of 2024 was the warmest January on record, with an average surface temperature of 13.14 degrees Celsius — some 0.7 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average and 0.12 degrees Celsius higher than the previous warmest January, logged in 2020. Each of the seven months before January also broke heat records for their respective time of the year1.

Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S, said in a statement. “Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing.”

Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said the C3S findings were a “stark warning of the urgency for the action required to limit climate change at anything like the Paris targets.”

These facts align with the many comments made by the January 2023 Engage Estero Public Forum panel members on Environmental Changes and Dangers to Our Water Quality3.

During that meeting, Greg Tolley, Executive Director of The Water School at FGCU, commented on the increasing temperatures we are experiencing, “What we are dealing with as a society, country, and planet is absolutely unprecedented. He said, “You cannot use the history of fluctuations in ice ages and warmer climates to say everything will be all right now.” The types of science facts are unmistakable and include:

Ocean Temperatures

Temperatures from the surface to the deep oceans have increased since recording started in the 1980s. Those who felt we did not see higher temperatures from greenhouse gases did not realize that the impact initially occurred with temperature rises in the deep oceans.


Looking globally, glaciers’ overall size and thickness are steadily eroding, even though some individual glaciers have not been appreciably impacted.

Polar Ice Caps

 These, too, have been significantly reduced in size and volume over recent years.

Global Land Temperatures

It will come as no surprise that recordings show significant increases in monthly temperatures over the last two decades.

Matt DePaolis, Environmental Policy Director, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), stated that if we do not seriously consider what our community will look like in 50 years, not just five years, we will not have a livable future here in Southwest Florida! Such views are based on genuine changes that are taking place and are realistic perspectives.

The results in 2023 underline the views expressed during the excellent debate held at the beginning of last year. The full report can be seen on Engage Estero’s website: https://www.esterotoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/GECRqtr1-2023.pdf.

While the public and experts recognize that some nations, including China and India, have continued to burn coal and install coal-fired power stations, that does not mean that other countries should not continue to act to reduce the worrying implications of air and sea temperature increases. Research shows that ocean heat content increases more steadily than surface air warming and is a better metric to show that global warming continues unabated.

What can we do to make a difference?

At the Public Forum last year, Matt stated, “We are not looking honestly at climate change. We must slow it down, stop it, and build resilience with our population. We believe we can continue doing things as we have always been, and it will be fine. I see that reflected in the rampant development in this area. I see it in the idea that one more road will solve our traffic issues, and we must think of new solutions. Down the road, it means:

  • More public transport
  • Avoid developments in dangerous areas such as coastal high-hazard areas.
  • Avoid adding more septic systems.

Unless we act to protect this area for future generations, we will not have a livable future here.”

We know that what affects our ecosystems also affects our communities. Sea-level rise, hurricanes, and higher air temperatures seriously affect people, their homes, and the economy.

The Audubon Society is acting to reduce carbon emissions in the following way: 

Protecting existing wetlands and green spaces and restoring others, we can have cleaner water and air, preserve homes for birds, protect against sea-level rise and storm surge, sequester carbon, absorb floodwaters, and provide relief in urban heat islands.

By reducing the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, we give birds and ourselves more time to adapt to the climate impacts already coming down the pipeline and prevent more severe consequences. Audubon recently helped East Florida municipalities tackle Greenhouse Gas inventories.

By conserving energy and water in our homes, businesses, and communities, we can reduce GHGs emitted by energy production and create savings by lowering energy and water bills.

Municipalities can play a role by using renewable energy sources, cleaner production techniques, and regulations or incentives to limit industrial emissions. Cutting emissions will also reduce local pollution from industries and transport, thus improving urban air quality and the health of residents. Estero’s land purchases align with Audubon’s plans, although a collaborative plan with various environmental organizations should be encouraged.

In the article “How You Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Home4,” there is a range of practical tips that the public can take on board to help reduce the increasing temperature trend. One cannot ignore the adage, “Every little helps.”

Climate change will likely become an increasing factor in determining a home’s value5. Climate change could adversely impact your home’s value in several ways, including:

  • Physical risk from increasing catastrophic events
  • Less demand for waterfront homes
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Higher property taxes

Given this warning, citizens should not turn their back on becoming involved. It is in our interest! So, consider some or all of the following suggestions: –

Get a home energy audit

Take advantage of the free home energy audits offered by many utilities. Then, put the recommendations into practice. Simple measures, such as installing a programmable thermostat to replace your old dial unit or sealing and insulating heating and cooling ducts, can reduce a typical family’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 5 percent. Replacing single-paned windows with dual-paned windows and installing insulated doors will also greatly reduce heat loss in your home.

Adjust your thermostat

We talked to Estero HVAC & AC Repair Company – Quality Service & Turning your thermostat down 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and up 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 1,050 pounds annually. Using a programmable thermostat, you can automatically lower your monthly energy bill by giving your heat and air conditioning a break. At the same time, you are asleep or out, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by another 1,050 pounds per year. Additionally major improvements in efficiency have been made. Upgrading to a new high-efficiency high-seer unit can greatly reduce electricity usage, lower-bills, and lower carbon emissions. 

Install tankless water heaters

Tankless water heaters fit on walls under sinks and warm only as much water as is needed, so there is little energy wasted. A tankless heater costs $800 more than a regular one but reduces electric bills by about $20 monthly.

Wash clothes in cold or warm water

You can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 550 pounds by not using hot water on two weekly loads of laundry.

Get your family involved

Develop a plan to reduce daily electricity use around your home. Ask each household member to take responsibility for a different electricity-saving action.

In summary, the warning bells are ringing – we cannot wait to take small steps to make a start in helping our future way of life in Southwest Florida.

Use Renewable energy

More than half the electricity in the United States comes from polluting coal-fired power plants. And power plants are the single largest source of heat-trapping gas. Fortunately, alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro energy, are gaining increased support worldwide. For example, the wind energy produced in Denmark provides about 10 percent of the country’s total energy needs. These methods of energy production emit no greenhouse gases once they are up and running.

In most states, alternatives are available for customers who want to purchase green power (50 to 100 percent renewable energy). For a complete list of green power options, visit the US Department of Energy’s Buying Clean Electricity web page.

Install solar lights

From the outside, solar lights look like small skylights on the roof. They magnify the sun inside the house, delivering strong, natural light without power. While they are most useful in interior rooms with no windows, they could also illuminate darker corners of rooms with windows.


Reduce your use of energy-reliant products, especially heavy consumers such as televisions and computers. Turn off computers when not in use. Many people may remember being told that turning a computer on and off several times a day reduces the computer’s life span. With new computers, this is no longer true, particularly given that computers are rarely used for longer than a few years before being replaced.

If you are going to be away from a newer computer for more than ten minutes, go ahead and turn it off. Reduce the amount of time spent aimlessly surfing the web. Reduce the amount of time you watch television and read a book. Many electronics continue to use electricity even if they are turned off. You can greatly reduce energy consumption by connecting electronics to power strips or surge protectors and turning these off when not in use.

Line-dry clothes

Hanging clothes out to dry requires no electricity or natural gas use.

Purchase Solar Panels

With the federal and state governments offering residential renewable energy incentives, solar energy is more accessible than ever, not to mention an excellent long-term investment.

Buy Green Tags

Suppose your energy company doesn’t offer green power. In that case, you can offset your carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing “green tags” or compensatory energy credits that add renewable power to the grid equal to the power you use. Numerous green tag programs exist and can readily be found online.

Look for the Energy Star Label

When it comes time to replace appliances, look for the Energy Star label on new appliances (refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, air conditioners, and water heaters use the most energy). These items may cost a bit more initially, but the energy savings will pay back the extra investment within a couple of years. Household energy savings can make a difference: If each household in the United States replaced its existing appliances with the most efficient models available, we would save $15 billion in energy costs and eliminate 175 million tons of heat-trapping gases. The United States would need 30 fewer power plants if all Americans used the most efficient refrigerators. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® website for a list of energy-efficient appliances.

Use non-toxic household products

Many common household cleaners and other household products are toxic, in addition to being petroleum-based. Toxic chemicals in the home can be eliminated simply by making thoughtful choices in the supermarket after educating oneself about where the hazards are in common consumer products. How can you determine what toxics you have in your home and what products may be safe substitutes? Check out the EPA’s Protect the Environment: At Home and in the Garden page.

Purchase Carbon offsets

The principle of carbon offset is fairly simple: you decide that you don’t want to be responsible for accelerating climate change, and you’ve already made efforts to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions, so you decide to pay someone else to further reduce your net emissions by planting trees or by taking up low-carbon technologies. Every unit of carbon absorbed by trees—or not emitted due to your funding of renewable energy deployment—offsets the emissions from your fossil fuel use. In many cases, funding renewable energy, energy efficiency, or tree planting—particularly in developing nations—can be a relatively cheap way of making an individual “carbon neutral.”

Use energy-saving light bulbs

If every household in the United States replaced one regular light bulb with an energy-saving model, we could reduce global warming pollution by more than 90 billion pounds over the life of the bulbs, the same as taking 6.3 million cars off the road. So, replace your incandescent bulbs with more efficient LEDs in all shapes and sizes. CFLs use a quarter of the energy incandescent lights use and last 20 times as long. Not only will you be reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but you will save money on your electric bills and light bulbs as well.

Plant a native garden

Instead of maintaining a water-thirsty lawn and using a lot of fertilizers and herbicides (most of which are produced from petrochemicals) to keep your lawn green and weed-free, plant native vegetation and install a drip irrigation system run by a “smart” sprinkler control. These “smart” sprinklers are rather versatile. They can determine whether it has rained recently and will not water the plants if it has.

They are also programmable relative to certain types of plants, as opposed to zones. So, if certain plants need more water than others, they get it without drowning out other less water-loving plants. These “smart” sprinkler controllers cost about $200 but can save dozens of dollars a month in water.


1 World surpasses key warming threshold across an entire year for the first time, CNBC Sustainable Future, Sam Meredith Feb 8, 2024. https://www.cnbc.com/2024/02/08/climate-world-surpasses-key-warming-threshold-across-an-entire-year.html

2 Global temperature rises in steps – here’s why we can expect a steep climb this year and next

Published: July 11, 2023 https://theconversation.com/global-temperature-rises-in-steps-heres-why-we-can-expect-a-steep-climb-this-year-and-next-209385

3 Engage Estero’s Public Forum Jan 2023 Environmental Concerns and Dangers to our Water Quality. https://www.esterotoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/GECRqtr1-2023.pdf

4 How You Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Home. The National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/nature/climatechange_action_home.htm

5 Climate Change and Florida: Frequently Asked Questions, Joshua Papacek, Ashley Smyth, Holly Abeels, and Alicia Betancourt. Sept 3rd, 2021 IFAS Extension- University of Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/SS682

Climate change has become more severe than it has ever been

  • The prediction for Sanibel, Marco Island, and Southwest Fort Myers is that in 2100, they will be underwater!
  • The number of disasters that cost over $1B per year had increased from 1980, when there were 8 or 9 events, to 17 to 18 in 2022.
  • Hurricanes have become larger and slower, causing increased rain and flooding.
  • Hurricanes are increasing in intensity far more rapidly than before because of the increased ocean energy (higher temperatures). Even overnight storms can change from category 2 to category 4 or 5, as illustrated recently by Hurricane Ian.

Prepared by Allan Bowditch, Engage Estero’s Chief Communications Officer.

To learn more about environmental impacts on the Greater Estero Area, see the articles on our Environment Council page.