Earth Day is slated for Monday, April 22, and many people will mark it with events this weekend, from the cleanup of the nearby Scarborough Marsh to a paper shredding and recycling event in Biddeford.

Climate change is the focus of Earth Day 2013, a movement that is now in its 43rd year, and it’s a timely theme for anyone who cares about the environment in which we live.

For years, this phenomenon was labeled as “global warming,” but it’s much more complex than just increased temperatures. It’s true that Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and it’s projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next 100 years.

It’s also well-documented by scientific evidence that human beings ”“ particularly our burning of fossil fuels ”“ are the main contributor to this, since greenhouse gas emissions trap heat in the atmosphere. Global warming, however, is only part of bigger picture of climate change. The extra heat, in turn, causes long-term changes in rainfall that lead to floods, droughts or intense rain; as well as more frequent and severe heat waves, according to the EPA. As well, the EPA notes that oceans are warming and ice caps melting, raising sea levels and changing the nature of the ocean in which so many creatures live.

It’s easy to laugh off “global warming” when you’re shivering in subzero temperatures during a Maine winter, but we have to keep in mind that it’s the big picture over many years, not the day-to-day temperatures, that reveal the warming trend. And this phenomenon is no laughing matter, as it will affect all of our lives through its impact on our health, agriculture, air and water quality, electrical power and transportation.

Political action is necessary to combat climate change, since the biggest problems cannot be addressed by individuals alone. It’s great for each of us to do our own part ”“ by recycling, cleaning up litter on our beaches and parks, conserving energy, planting a tree, and limiting our contribution to pollution ”“ but while those efforts certainly add up to make a difference, they’re small potatoes in the face of major contributors such as the coal burning power industries.

It’s no small task to convince political leaders around the world that we must take significant action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The energy industries are powerful and have significant amounts of money to lobby for their cause rather than for the cause of the environment, which is why the world is so delayed in responding to this threat. As well, some politicians can’t even be convinced that climate change is happening, or believe it’s just the natural course of the environment, despite the solid evidence that it’s a man-made and dangerous phenomenon.

The Earth Day 2013 website notes that climate change doesn’t hit home for most people because we don’t feel that it is impacting our daily lives directly ”“ yet. The truth is, however, that we just don’t recognize it, and climate change is already manifesting itself, such as in hazardous weather events like Superstorm Sandy.

The Environment Maine Research & Policy Center recently concluded a report that documents extreme weather over the past year in Maine, including the flooding of the Pleasant River in Brownville last year, a record rainy day for June weather in Portland with 3.63 inches of rain, and blizzards like 2013’s nor’easter that brought power outages to nearly 20,000 people.

Across the country, federally declared weather-related disasters have affected counties housing 243 million people since 2007 ”“ or nearly four out of five Americans, the center reported, and extreme precipitation events became 85 percent more common in New England ”“ a greater increase than any other region of the country ”“ between 1948 and 2011. Flooding has also been the most prevalent type of extreme weather, affecting 176 million people since 2007, the report shows.

The impact is real, and that’s why it’s so important for everyone to become aware now and take action. We encourage everyone to do your part to recognize Earth Day in your own way here at home; consider using the carbon footprint calculator at to figure out what your greenhouse gas emissions are and take steps to reduce them.

And remember to make your voice heard at the political level or consider getting involved in an environmental organization to add your voice to those that would counter the nay-sayers and polluters.