Climate change is happening. And we need to understand what is at stake, and learn how to stop it.

In late 2016, Leonardo DiCaprio and National Geographic released "Before the Flood," a film that explores climate change.

Leonardo DiCaprio (left) shaking hands with Barack Obama on The White House lawn in Washington, D.C. during a filming of National Geographic's 2016 documentary focusing on climate change.

Here are 5 important takeaways from the National Geographic documentary:

EPA: We're in for more vicious weather patterns as a result of climate change.

#5- Extreme weather.

  • Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and/or severe around the world. This is consistent with what we expect with a warming planet.
  • Increasingly frequent and/or severe weather events have serious consequences for society and ecosystems.
  • Between 2011 and 2013, the United States experienced 32 weather events that each caused at least one billion dollars in damages.
  • Changes in some weather events are more closely linked to climate change than others.

Why is this important?

Understanding the links between climate change and extreme events can help us plan for the future.

#4- Energy poverty.

Caption to background photo: Indian village women make cow dung cakes in Allahabad, India. In India, where Hindus have long worshipped cows as sacred, cow dung has been used for centuries as fuel for fires - whether for heat, cooking or in Hindu ritual fires, where it's a necessity. Now, online vendors like Amazon, ShopClues and eBay are selling cow dung patties to India's ever-increasing urban population, especially those who grew up in villages. (AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh, File)

700 million Indians cook with biomass, otherwise known as cow dung cakes. Eventually, India hopes to change that -- and it will put a huge toll on the environment.

Why is this important?

The shift to sustainable energy in the United States is imperative as developing nations build their energy architecture. The U.S. is center stage, together with other high population and energy-producing countries like China. And we can't tell the world to implement sustainable energy alternatives unless we raise the bar, and set the standard ourselves.

VIDEO: The above video shows how World Bank has gone into India to attempt to help a very specific demographic mitigate hindered educational development from the energy poverty issue internationally. Note: this is a PR video for World Bank, but shows some of the direct health implications that come with energy poverty, the developmental and security risks that can result from energy poverty, and the burning of carbon-producing extremes that Indian people have to resort to just to stay warm.

#3- Part of the world is melting.

From the top of Global Citizen's list: Greenland and the Arctic are on track to melt entirely.

Greenland is close to entering an irreversible feedback loop of melting. Ice reflects sunlight; water absorbs sunlight. As more of the country’s ice turns to water, more sunlight is absorbed, causing more heating, causing more melting, and so on. If Greenland were to melt, it alone would raise global sea levels by several feet.

VIDEO: The Arctic “is like the air conditioning for the Northern Hemisphere,” claims Dr. Enric Sala in the film. "If it goes away, that’s going to change currents, that’s going to change weather patterns, it’s going to make droughts more catastrophic."

Why is this important?

Sea-level rise and ecosystem destruction. Say goodbye to your favorite coastal vacation spot. If we don't do anything to help prevent the Arctic from melting as rapidly as it is, places like California, South Carolina and other low-lying areas like Louisiana will suffer catastrophic flooding preventing them from being habitable. Flooding has already begun in Miami.

VIDEO: Jack Black takes you into an area that has already become directly impacted by sea-level rise.

Miami isn't the only place seeing direct impacts from sea-level rise.

Caption to background photo: David Giulian, 12, watched flooding in the streets of Stone Harbor, N.J., on Sunday. The southern part of the Jersey Shore had the most severe flooding in the state during the weekend storm. (Credit: Mark Makela for The New York Times)

#2- Cows burp out dangerous levels of methane, which contains CO2.

From's "A seaweed diet could help cows fart less, which could majorly impact climate change"

Livestock contribute harmful methane during their digestive process — put simply: when they burp and fart. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animals like cows produce around 44% of "human-related methane" — meaning methane emitted from livestock bred for dairy or for human consumption.

Methane and other greenhouse gases are dangerous for our planet because they "act like a blanket" that insulates the Earth, the Environmental Protection Agency stated. Though methane has a shorter lifespan and leaves the atmosphere sooner compared to carbon dioxide, it also absorbs much more energy, the EPA noted, explaining that methane is considered to be 36 times worse than carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years. In other words: Methane from cow farts forms a strong (and stinky) blanket that could be catastrophic to our climate."

Why this is important:

If you're like many Americans, you love a mean burger once and a while. But do what you can to reduce your consumption, and consider switching to an alternative protein when possible.

Even though scientists are working on creating diets that will reduce the levels of methane emitted from cows, until then, we can make a "holy cow" effort by switching up to a cleaner alternative. Plus it's an easy and inexpensive way to help!

Methane is considered to be 36 times worse than carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years.

#1- Many of our own elected officials still deny climate change.

Though it's scary, Barack Obama addresses the "opposition" very eloquently:

"Even if somebody came in campaigning on denying climate science, reality has a way of hitting you in the nose if you're not paying attention. And I think the public is starting to realize the science in part because it's indisputable." -Barack Obama

Caption to background photo: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), right, with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in 2007. Smith has hacked away at climate change funding but doesn't want to say so. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

97% isn't enough?

A full 97% of researchers taking a stance on climate change say it’s man-made, as do 97-98% of the most frequently-published climate scientists. But according to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, they’re all wrong. (Words: (Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

There are some important things missing here.

What did "Before the Flood" leave out? After viewing the documentary, it became clear: there's more that we can do. Right?

Absolutely -- and now for the top 5 list of to-dos that will help reduce your carbon footprint.

#5- Insulate.

Caption to background photo: Fiberglass Batt Insulation – Fiberglass batt insulation is a cost effective way to add R-value to wall cavities, and attic deck spaces. While mostly used in new construction, fiberglass batt can be used in some retrofit scenarios as well. (Photo:


Air that leaks through your home's envelope − the outer walls, windows, doors, and other openings − wastes a lot of energy and increases your utility costs. A well-sealed envelope, coupled with the right amount of insulation, can make a real difference on your utility bills.

  • Increase Comfort.
  • Sealing leaks and adding insulation can improve the overall comfort of your home and help to fix many of these common problems:
  • Reduced noise from outside
  • Less pollen, dust and insects (or pests) entering your home
  • Better humidity control
  • Lower chance for ice dams on the roof/eves in snowy climates

Most Homes Will Benefit.

Most homes in the United States don't have enough insulation and have significant air leaks. In fact, if you added up all the leaks, holes and gaps in a typical home's envelope, it would be the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year!

VIDEO: Tips for buying an energy-saving programmable thermostat.

Why this is important:

Insulating your home means a ton of energy saved, which will help lighten the load of energy needing to be produced from the start.

#4- Invest.

Caption to background photo: Though your retro appliances may still work (and some may even look cool), an easy way to dramatically cut down your energy usage is to go down to your nearest home improvement store and invest in Energy-Star Certified appliances. (Photo:

VIDEO: A quick look at how much electricity and water is used in a non-Energy Star vs. Energy Star washing machine.

Why this is important:

It might not be the most inexpensive option up front, but it can save you a ton of money yearly. Plus, you might get a rebate for turning in your old stuff, and it can help you get on your way to becoming an energy-saving climate change advocate.

#3- "It's LIT" when you use LED bulbs instead.

Caption to background photo: LED technology is becoming more accessible because of technology advancements making it less expensive to invest in energy-saving lights. (Photo:


  • Compared to traditional incandescents, energy-efficient lightbulbs such as halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs) have the following advantages:
  • Typically use about 25-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, saving you money
  • Otherwise lost heat-energy is reduced by as much as 60% in LED technology
  • LED's can last 3-25x longer.
Most LED bulbs (bottom left) are constructed using high durability hard plastics rather than traditional glass, making them less prone to shattering and causing danger (Photo:

#2- Eat locally-produced, organic food.

Caption to background photo: An area of the Amazon rain forest inside the Jamanxin National Forest that was burned to clear land for cattle. (Photo: Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times)


"Eat locally-produced and organic food. It has been estimated that 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. Transporting food requires petroleum-based fuels, and many fertilizers are also fossil fuel-based."

"Cut the beef and dairy. It takes a lot of resources to raise cows, and it’s especially bad if you buy beef from somewhere like Brazil, where it was grazed on land that used to be tropical forest but was cleared for agricultural use. Deforestation is a top contributor to carbon emissions and thus climate change."

#1- Carpool, utilize public transit, or drive a hybrid.

Caption to background photo: Traffic clogs the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles. (Photo: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images)


  • Between 1990 and 2006, emissions in the transportation sector increased by more than 25%, representing almost half of the total national growth in greenhouse gas emissions during this period.
  • Approximately 85% of transportation sector emissions are related to the surface transportation system.
  • An effective strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must include improved fuel economy, reduced carbon content in fuels, and reductions in the growth of vehicle miles of travel.

Those who choose to ride public transportation reduce their carbon footprint and conserve energy by eliminating travel that would have otherwise been made in a private vehicle.

The result is fewer vehicle miles of travel and reduced emissions. A single person, commuting alone by car, who switches a 20-mile round trip commute to existing public transportation, can reduce his or her annual CO2 emissions by 4,800 pounds per year, equal to a 10% reduction in all greenhouse gases produced by a typical two-adult, two-car household.

By eliminating one car and taking public transportation instead of driving, a savings of up to 30% of carbon dioxide emissions can be realized.

Find more creative ideas to reduce your carbon footprint:

Created By
Chase Maszle


Created with images by Kdsphotos - "polar bear big bear white" • janeb13 - "tropical cyclone catarina march 26th 2004 cyclone"

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