2016 Was a Scorcher. What Does That Mean for King County Labor?
By Louis McGill
National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981
Last year was the hottest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Before that, 2015 was the hottest year on record. Before that, it was 2014.
A separate analysis by NASA scientists confirms the findings: Earth has experienced three straight years of record-breaking heat, and the overall global average temperature has risen sharply since the late ’70s. Of the top 17 warmest years on record, 16 occurred after 2000.
But what does all this mean? The consequences of global temperature increases can be a little hard to feel in our day-to-day lives. What does it mean to you if arctic ice coverage fell to its second lowest reach last year? How does a changing climate affect your workday? And, most importantly, what can be done about it?
As it turns out, more than you might think.
They call Washington the Evergreen State for a reason, but even our verdant home has been affected by drier conditions caused by climate change. According to the National Academy of Sciences, western states like Washington have seen an increase in wildfires, which can endanger homes and communities and reduce air quality, worsening existing heart and lung conditions. Meanwhile, hotter summers can lead to increased danger for heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke.
If all this talk of heat is making you thirsty, think about your drinking water. In the Pacific Northwest, we depend on snow and glacier melt for much of the water we drink. Our mountain glaciers have been in retreat, threatening water supplies for humans as well as the salmon populations many Washingtonian fishermen rely on for their livelihoods.
But there are steps we can take to both adapt and fight back. Jobs in solar panel manufacturing and other renewable energy industries are on the rise. As of 2016, there are more jobs in renewable energy than in fossil fuel extraction, and retraining programs are available through government-funded initiatives.
Regardless of your industry, you can take positive steps in your community and your union. Ask your union leaders about health and safety protections related to the hazards of climate change. Take advantage of community initiatives such as gardening workshops, water and energy conservation programs, health screenings, and more. These actions help you directly respond to climate issues without breaking the bank.
Global climate change may feel like a far-off problem, but we can feel its effects and find its solutions here at home.