Become a Climate Change Champion! 

Welcome to the webpage for Climate Change Champions, a program of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources! 

There are many ways that you can make a difference on climate change!


North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources exterior
Native plants in landscaping outside of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Energy Use

Take no-cost steps like turning off lights in rooms not being used, unplugging electronics not being used, and adjusting window shades to help regulate your home's temperature. Learn more about energy use and climate change here


Ride a bike, walk, carpool, and use public transportation. If buying a car, consider a hybrid or electric vehicle. Learn more about transportation and climate change here


Don't make waste in the first place! This means not buying things you don't need and limiting your food waste. Recycle and compost where you can. Learn more about waste and climate change here.

Native Plants

Plant native plants in your yard and garden. Native plants thrive in our environment and adapt better to climate change.  Even small spaces can support a variety of native plants. Learn more about native plants and climate change here.

Environmental Justice 

Work with your neighbors and your community to include environmental justice efforts to protect neighborhoods vulnerable to climate change. Learn more about environmental justice and climate change here

Share What You Learn

Promote environmental stewardship in your home, school, and workplace. Become a climate change champion! Learn more about how to share what you learn about climate change here.

How is climate change hurting our state?

Climate change is a threat to all of North Carolina. The good news is that everyone can do their part to fight climate change.  You can become a Climate Change Champion by taking specific actions described below.

In North Carolina and around the world, our climate is quickly changing. Humans burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Climate change has brought rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, more extreme weather events, and more.

Rising sea levels cause saltwater intrusion that kills trees, creating ghost forests
Ghosts Forests

Across coastal North Carolina, dead trees are a common sight along rivers and wetlands.  These “ghost forests” are created when rising sea levels cause saltwater to flow into freshwater. The saltwater kills the trees.

Climate change affects North Carolina's environment, people, and economy. North Carolinians are experiencing effects like rising sea levels along the coast and more extreme weather conditions throughout the state. North Carolina has different landscapes, so the problems caused by climate change vary depending on where you are. There are unique threats to different parts of the state.

Understanding the effects of climate change in North Carolina is the first step in acting.

For more detailed information on the science of climate change in our state, follow this link: North Carolina Climate Science Report: North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies

Sunny day flooding of the parking lot at Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington - Photo Credit: Alan Cradick 11/16/20
With rising sea levels, coastal communities are experiencing more frequent “sunny day” flooding during high tides. This is an example of the flooding at the USS Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington. Photo credit: Alan Cradick, 11/16/2020.

Scroll down to learn more about the harmful effects of climate change on a specific region in North Carolina.

The Mountain Region and Climate Change

Skyline view of Mount Mitchell

The North Carolina mountains have scenic beauty and many recreational attractions. Tourism is a major contributor to the region’s economy.  The Southern Appalachians are one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world and home to species uniquely adapted to the area’s geography. Climate change is harming this fragile landscape. This threatens local communities and jobs that depend on the region's extraordinary natural resources.

Flooding, Landslides, & Erosion

Extreme weather events in western North Carolina increase the risk of flooding in mountainous terrain. Flooding can cause dangerous landslides, erosion, and the destruction of homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure.

Droughts and Wildfires

Climate change can also cause longer periods with less rain and lead to droughts. Droughts can increase the risk of wildfires, threaten fragile ecosystems, the outdoor recreation economy, and communities large and small throughout the western part of the state. 

Changes to Ecosystems

Mountain ecosystems have adapted over millions of years to many micro-climates based on differences in elevation, temperature, soil, and sun exposure. Changes in rainfall, temperature changes, and extreme weather events stress these mountain ecosystems. Climate change is shifting the habitat of certain plants and animals which can lead to local extinction and make the region more vulnerable to invasive and non-native species. 

The Piedmont Region and Climate Change

Image of Winston-Salem, NC

Urban areas within North Carolina’s central Piedmont region make it the state's most populous region. The region’s workforce, mild climate, and quality of life make the Piedmont one of the most desirable places in America to live and do business. Climate change threatens these qualities that have made the Piedmont so attractive. 

Increased Temperatures & Humidity

Climate change is causing hotter temperatures and more humid conditions in the Piedmont. Cities often have higher temperatures because of fewer trees and more pavement and rooftops that absorb and retain heat, creating urban heat islands. Heat waves contribute to more cases of heat stress and illness. The Piedmont’s urban population is particularly at risk. 

Changes in Precipitation

Climate change brings changes in precipitation. More intense and frequent storms put Piedmont communities at risk from flash floods because impervious surfaces like pavement prevent water from absorbing into soil and groundwater. Climate change also creates more frequent and severe periods of drought, threatening agriculture and drinking water supplies.

Harms to Ecosystems

The Piedmont’s natural areas are important to its environmental, recreational, and economic health. The region’s rivers, streams, and parks provide corridors for wildlife to move and migrate. Climate change is shifting habitats, threatening species’ survival in a region where habitat is already fragmented due to development. 

The Coastal Region and Climate Change

North Carolina coastal state park

Eastern North Carolina is home to one of the most beautiful, fragile coastlines in America, historic communities, and a coastal plain of farms, forests, and rivers. Floodplains in Eastern North Carolina are home to endangered species and some of the world’s oldest trees.  The many natural and historic resources support tourism which is important to the regional economy. These resources are vulnerable from climate change because of rising sea levels and more extreme and more frequent hurricanes and tropical storms. 

Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise leads to increased flooding in coastal communities and along the state's sounds and bays. By 2100, many of these areas will experience high tide flooding nearly every day and a greater chance of severe flooding from coastal storms. Coastal flooding harms businesses and residential areas and presents challenges to protecting archaeological and historic resources.

Hurricanes and Extreme Weather

Hurricanes and tropical storms are wetter and more intense because of more water vapor in a warmer atmosphere. Property damage and economic harm from storms stress local communities. Low wealth neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable due to the legacy of injustices from past land use policies and limited availability of resources to recover.

Changes to Ecosystems

North Carolina’s coastal ecosystems are diverse. They range from dunes and maritime forests along the coast, to marshes, wetlands, and freshwater rivers extending westward.  Areas exposed to the ocean are vulnerable to sea level rise and the forces of intense tropical storms.  Inland ecosystems face the loss of wetlands and experience saltwater flowing into freshwater sources. These effects threaten habitat for species such as bald cypress trees, blue crabs, egrets, and the endangered American red wolf. 

What can we do to combat climate change? 

Global climate change is a big problem, so how can one person make a difference? Well, great news! Each one of us can take specific steps to fight climate change and protect our health and way of life. Plus, fighting climate change is a group effort – actions taken by millions of individuals will produce substantial carbon emission reductions and build community resilience to the effects of climate change. 

Learn how to fight climate change by topic

Tab/Accordion Items

We consume energy every day - turning on the lights, charging our phones, and driving our cars. When we use energy, we usually burn fossil fuels. We can reduce how much energy we use, prioritize energy efficient practices, and use renewable sources of energy like solar and wind. These steps decrease greenhouse gas pollution and save money.

Students do a hands-on experiment on the pier.
Students learning about solar energy . Solar energy is a type of renewable energy and does not emit greenhouse gas emissions.

What you can do: 

  • Take no-cost steps: turn off lights in rooms not being used, unplug electronics not being used, and adjust window shades to help regulate your home's temperature.
  • Adjust your thermostats
  • Make sure your light bulbs are energy efficient. Electricity providers will sometimes offer discounts on energy efficient light bulbs, like LED bulbs. Look for the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star certification on the light bulbs that you buy. On average, one energy efficient light bulb can prevent 780 pounds of greenhouse gas emission over its lifetime.
  • Heat and cool your home efficiently:
    • Replace your HVAC filter every 2-3 months to make it easier for your air conditioner to cool your home.
    • Make sure your windows and doors are properly insulated. 
    • Consider purchasing rooftop solar panels for your home. 
  • Look for an Energy Star certification on appliances you purchase, like washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

For more ways to save energy and money, follow this link to EnergyStar's Low- to No-Cost Tips for Saving Energy at Home

Emissions from transportation are about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Learn more about transportation and climate change here: EPA's Carbon Pollution from Transportation
Electric vehicles charging at the NC Zoo during the National Drive Electric Week in 2021. Electric vehicles do not emit tailpipe emissions unlike traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. 

What you can do: 

  • Ride a bike, walk, carpool, and use public transportation where available.
  • Make fewer trips by grouping errands, teleworking, and carpooling. 
  • Drive smart - go easy on the gas and brakes, use cruise control, and keep your car well-maintained.
  • When buying or renting a car, choose an energy efficient car like an electric car, a hybrid, or a car with high gas mileage.

The best way to reduce waste is to not make it. When organic waste like food decomposes in a landfill, carbon dioxide and methane gas (both greenhouse gases) are created. When inorganic wastes like single-use plastics are created, natural resources like water, fuel, metal, and timber are processed, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions.  

Finished compost at the NC Zoo. Composting can happen on any scale. It can be done on a large scale like in this picture, or on a small scale in your backyard or garden. 

What you can do: 

  • Don't make waste in the first place! This means not buying things you don't need and eating your food before it spoils.
  • Think about that item’s durability, sustainability, and if it can be recycled when you buy something. 
  • Reduce your food waste by buying only what you need, composting food scraps, and donating unused food to food banks or shelters.
  • Reuse and repurpose old items,  like clothing, reusable grocery bags, and containers to cut down on the amount of waste you create. 
  • Buy used items. 
  • Buy items made with recycled content.

For more ways to reduce your waste, follow this link to EPA's page on reducing waste

Planting native plants (which grow naturally in North Carolina) and creating landscapes with more plant diversity helps build resilience to changes in the environment and extreme weather events like heat waves and drought. Native plants in general need less water and maintenance, and they support native wildlife. They store carbon and minimize soil erosion. Follow this link to the NC Cooperative Extension to learn what native plants are best for your area and needs. To learn more about North Carolina’s native plant communities, the NC Natural Heritage Program is a great resource.

In April the woodlands in the NC Museum of Art, Museum Park are full of native wildflowers, such as this Green and Gold, Perfoliate Bellwort, and Bloodroot.

What you can do:

  • Plant native plants in your yard and garden.
  • Consider elevation and flooding events when deciding what to plant. 
  • Sustainably garden by reducing your use of gas-powered lawn equipment, planting alternatives to grass where it doesn’t grow well, and using fertilizers sparingly, if at all.
  • Improve soil health to help store carbon. You can do this by adding organic matter like compost. 
  • Plant native trees in urban areas to increase shade and lower summer temperatures.

Climate change unequally harms low-income and under-served communities because of past land use policies and limited investment. Acknowledging and addressing these disparities is key to advancing effective and equitable climate change solutions. This work requires thoughtful partnerships and meaningful involvement of communities that are closest to the problems.

The spark of environmental justice began during a protest in Warren County, NC. In 1982, a small, predominately Black community was designated to be the site of a hazardous waste landfill. The landfill would accept PCB-contaminated soil that resulted from illegal dumping of toxic waste along roadways.

What you can do: 

  • Learn about your community and what climate issues threaten your neighborhoods, who is most vulnerable, and how you can help. Check out North Carolina Community Mapping System.
  • Work with your neighbors and your community to include environmental justice efforts in how you fight climate change.
  • Get involved! Local governments have voluntary advisory boards and neighborhood councils where you can help shape policies and funding decisions to assist your community and those areas most challenged by climate change.

Share what you have learned with family and friends and take action today! 

Use resources like the NC Science Trail to share and learn more about our science, the environment, and climate change harms in our communities. 

What you can do:

  • Educate others about how we all contribute to climate change and the steps we can take to fight climate change.
  • Promote environmental stewardship in your home, school, and workplace.
  • Participate in experiential learning and citizen science opportunities to broaden your understanding of global climate change. The NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources has partnered with science museums and nature centers across the state to create an online resource for helping you seek out experiential learning and citizen science opportunities: see NC Science Trail.
  • Get outdoors with family and friends to learn about the environment firsthand while enjoying the health benefits of nature. Follow this link to learn more: NC PATH (NC Parks and Trails for Health).
  • Share with others how they can become climate change champions, too!