Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peter Bauer: A Quick Update on Climate Change

WhatsAtStake-Climate-ActionWith a late spring snowfall, at least by the standards of the past few years, and with the nation focused on the showdown over President Obama’s looming decision on whether to greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline, this seems like a good time for a climate change update.

For starters here’s a cool graphic that shows the amount of carbon dioxide that has been released into the atmosphere to date, shows annual releases, and amounts that could be released that are currently stored in existing fossil fuel reserves.

Hopefully we all know by now that 2012 was the hottest year on record. Looking ahead in 2013, scientists predict that Phoenix will continue to set records for hot weather. The city averages over 100 days a year over 100 degrees, but in 2012 it set a new record with 33 straight days over 100 degrees. Texas and Florida droughts are predicted to grow worse and the Canadian glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate.

For those of you counting, February 2013 marked the 336th straight month when global temperatures exceeded the 20th Century average.

Last summer, following the impacts of Tropical Storm Irene, and many others, but before what’s come to be known as Superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012, NASA climate scientist James Hansen published a terrific journal article on how climate change is likely to impact areas. Among other things he talks about massive changes to the earth’s water cycle, meaning more intense storms, flooding, drought, etc. So, for a place like the Adirondacks, a historically wet place due to our geography and topography, this means extreme weather is the new normal. Here’s another piece about research that argues Hurricane Katrina-like storm surges are now twice as likely. See images of upheaval in the Adirondacks from Tropical Storm Irene here.

Other impacts of climate change mark an increase in allergies and asthma incidents and more typical southern tree and plant species creeping north.

And, changes are accelerating. New research shows that temperatures are rising faster than predicted. (The actual journal article is locked, but various press accounts describe it.) Since the last period of major glaciation, global temperatures have experienced more rapid change over the last 100 years than at any time in the last 11,000 years. CNN breaks down the story and the Associated Press also picked it up.

Last, if you want a 1-stop comprehensive piece on the folly of the Keystone XL pipeline project, read this piece. Here’s a cool multi-media overview of the issues. Always powerful, National Geographic spotlights the Tar Sands oil extraction in pictures here and here. Energy efficiency and conservation are the directions to aggressively pursue rather than new drilling. has lots more on Keystone.


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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

11 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Given where we are now and what Peter describes the only way out of this mess is to get sequestration technology to the point where we can quickly reverse the trend. All these other (slow) things are just nipping at the edges and causing us to waste valuable time and money arguing.

  2. Angela says:

    Peter, Thanks for the update. It would be nice to also know about any positive efforts taking place, new energy technologies so that we can further educate ourselves.

  3. Pete Klein says:

    Vote nuclear if you want more energy with less of a carbon impact.

  4. Paul says:

    The tar sands is a great example of why sequestration is the answer. That oil is coming out of the ground and that CO2 is going to be produced with or without piping it to US refineries. That CO2 has to go back into the ground or be used in ways that it will not get into the atmosphere. It is really pretty simple. It won’t help any special interest groups raise funds but it will work and it will remove most of the man made drivers of climate change.

  5. Charlie says:

    Tar Sands! What an ugly mess! The poor living things that were under the influence of that pristine environment until the big oil people got in there.And they claim there is no damage to the ecosystems where they operate.Hello! We cannot continue this raping of what remains of the ecosystems on this planet.We are going to pay dearly for our sins i am convinced. Truly i believe global warming and oil and gas extraction are relative to each other. How about that photo of the workers in McDonalds with logos of their favorite sports teams on their clothing.Entertain us,dumb us down,ship our jobs overseas…..then come back and offer these same desperate people work.How coincident! This mad rush for oil and gas extraction at the expense of all life on earth is in full gear these years of late.People are fighting but are having one heckuva time beating these big money people in court….these big money people who give lotsa money to our erected leaders. I see no hope for us unless more people wake up soon.

    • Paul says:

      People are waking up. They just need to support things that have a good shot at working. Look at these links to carbon sequestration projects going on now that work (and BTW are supported by some large oil companies for the benefits to them). These are the kinds of solutions that people can agree on. These other ideas, like protesting a pipeline that won’t stop the emissions, or arguing about wind turbines, are a waste of time and money and we don’t have much of either:

      • Paul says:

        Let me add. Look at what is going on in China. There must be ways to allow them to continue their growth (we can’t stop that) and keep the CO2 at bay. This is it.

  6. Peter says:

    I hate to say it because human driven climate change and climate chaos, based on science, is happening, and the consequences for the earth as we know it are dire, but human culture is sort of quirky and human beings are sort of selfish. The idea that change will come through education and government policy is a significant and almost unprecedented leap. It might take a lot. We are a nation capable almost no action to limit assault rifles after our children get massacred while heading off to sit in a circle and learn their alphabet in kindergarten. The idea that we can actually pay attention to present and future science when it interferes with our own luxury might be a bit of s stretch. I am not some horrible pessimist, but human extinction will occur at some point; to me, it sounds perfectly logical, given our behavior and power, that we will be the catalyst for that extinction. Unfortunately, human and cultural shifts appear to come after violence or catastrophe. My own perspective is that human beings will be lucky if both occur with more frequency on minor scales to stimulate aggressive change. So we should hope for a few more hurricanes, for New York City to flood, and for Beijing’s air quality to sicken more of its population. Even then, it will be a monumental step to counter human selfishness. We can’t even leave the Essex Chain of Lakes alone in the midst of a natural park.

  7. Jeff says:

    IF you want to read about Climate Change and its effects on wildlife go to adn down load Seasons’ End, Beyond Seasons’ End, and Delta Waterfowl’s Duck Migration Study. YOu will see what the various NGO’s are looking at while they study Climate Change.

  8. Mike says:

    I still think the best solution to Climate Change is adaption after tragedy occurs, and to a lesser extent conservation and renewables. Some may call this defeatism, but any realistic study shows that significant climate change is going to occur the next 100 years, it will be somewhat unpredictable, and we will still need affordable energy for the foreseeable future.

    This means when roads wash out in the Adirondacks, the state needs to build better roads, with more rip-rap, and reinforcement. As we better get to know the threat, we can take efforts to reinforce existing roads. Houses that are demolished by extreme weather should not be rebuild — and such lands should be transferred to the forest preserve, to ensure no man-made structures will ever be build on these lands.

    That said, most of the warming in NY State, over the past half century has occurred in the winter and not the summer. March has gotten particularly warm — increasing almost 2.5 degrees over the past century. The month of July is about the same temperature today as it was in 1890s. Rainfall is up as much as 10″ per year, compared to 1890s.

    Carbon sequestration is a waste of fossil fuels, and all of the scientific evidence suggests it won’t work. Nuclear power makes no sense in a bankrupt country like the United States, it’s much to expensive for another plant to ever be built again. Solar and wind will be an important part of the future, but don’t discount fossil fuels, especially cleaner ones like natural gas and low-sulfur diesel, which will continue to generate the bulk of our electricity and transportation fuel in the future. That does mean more carbon in the air though.

    Snowmobiling seasons are going to grow shorter in the Adirondacks. But on the other hand, camping and paddling seasons will get longer. The rut will occur later, so hunting season will probably eventually become similar to the Sotuhern Zone. But that’s the nature of beast.

    Carbon emissions are going to increase. It’s a fact of life. We can’t prevent every tragedy, but over time, our infrastructure will evolve to more resilient to events that previously would damage it.

    I’m not particularly worried about Climate Change.

  9. Matt says:

    Why is it that nobody talks about H.A.A.R.P. when discussing climate change? Why is there no scientific data using this, and the “Russian Woodpecker,” as it was called, and its effects on the jet streams through Extreme Low Frequency bombardment of the ionosphere? I guess that data is classified, thus, scientists are working with incomplete data on the current global climate change model. Guess where all these violent storms are coming from? Yep, the U.S. Government is using weather as a weapon of control.
    We are now all Sheeple.

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