Confronting Climate Change

"Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet."
- Paris Agreement, 12 December 2015

Wind River Valley photo by David Keener 

Climate change is the greatest existing threat to American wildlife, wild places, and communities around the country. Without action, breeding ground for ducks in the American heartland could dry up, moose in New England could be lost to parasites, forests in the west will burn more frequently and ferociously, and trout streams in Appalachia could become too warm for trout. Climate change is caused by pollution from harmful gases released by human activity. These gases are heating up our planet at an alarming and unsustainable rate. This damage is not merely the result of our over reliance on fossil fuels, but also because of poor land use and agricultural practices that release warming gases into the atmosphere. Fortunately, if we act quickly, there are solutions that will help us avoid the most calamitous impacts of climate change.

The National Wildlife Federation is working to make those solutions happen in order to ensure a stable environment for future generations. Specifically, the National Wildlife Federation is:

  • Working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the US by promoting a rapid transition to a responsible clean energy economy.
  • Partnering with US farmers and ranchers to adopt agricultural practices that protect wildlife, reduce emissions, and store carbon.
  • Safeguarding American wildlife habitats against the impacts of climate change so that species can adapt and thrive in a changing world.
  • Working internationally to bring about market changes that reduce deforestation.

In addition to this, the National Wildlife Federation runs programs that enable individuals to make a difference through projects, like Gardening for Climate Change, and educate children, like our Eco-Schools Program.

 Wood Duck photo by Isobel Wayrick

The following National Wildlife Federation programs aim to prevent the causes, mitigate the impacts, and adapt to the fluctuations of a changing climate:

Climate and Energy

Human-caused climate change is the result of harmful gases being released into the atmosphere. Climate altering gases primarily come in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is released when we burn fossil fuels, and when land-use practices, such as tilling, expose stored carbon and microbes in the soil to oxygen. Pollution also comes from the release of other greenhouse gases, including methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases like hydrofluorocarbons, which build up in the atmosphere and trap heat on our planet. These gases have led to public health problems, haze, more frequent and extreme weather, increasing incidence of drought and fire, ecosystem disruption, and changes in species distribution and migration patterns. It is of critical importance to wildlife that we reduce these harmful emissions as quickly as possible.

Climate-Smart Conservation

Climate change is already having profound effect on our wildlife and the habitats they call home. To safeguard wildlife in a warmer world we need to make conservation "climate-smart." Preparing for and coping with current and future climate impacts is an emerging field known as "climate change adaption." The National Wildlife Federation is working closely with federal and state agencies to help conservation managers understand how to incorporate climate adaption into their work in order to carry out climate-smart conservation.

International Wildlife Conservation

Global deforestation is a significant source of climate change pollution, impacting wildlife and habitat throughout the United States and the world. Evidence is mounting that the loss of forests in South America and Africa can have a direct effect on rainfall and temperature patterns in the US. Tropical forests, which provide key habitats for migrating species, are especially threatened because they are often cleared for large-scale agriculture to produce ingredients for products we use daily. The National Wildlife Federation develops strategies to help ensure that agricultural production can meet the world's needs without destroying forests or jeopardizing wildlife habitats.

Gardening for Climate Change

For millions of Americans, gardening is much more than a hobby - it is a passion. Unfortunately, climate change is threatening the gardening experience across the country. However, there are actions that you can take to be part of the solution, even while gardening.

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