Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Study on Climate Impacts on Adirondacks Released

Here is a press release from the Wild Center on the report on Adirondack climate change impacts which was first posted here at the Almanack earlier today. I’ve been live blogging the Wild Center’s climate conference today and will continue tomorrow – you can read all the posts here (start from the bottom).

From the Wild Center: An advance edition of a sixty-two page report detailing potentially radical shifts in the ecology and economy of the Adirondack region was released today as part of a climate change conference held at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The document was produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and authored by Jerry Jenkins, with support from The Wild Center and The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The report analyzed data from the Adirondacks and looked at projected changes based on a range of peer-reviewed climate change models. The report states that even if fossil fuel use were immediately reduced, the upstate New York region would still experience a warming of about six degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The report details a recent rise in temperatures in the Adirondacks. Highlights of the report include: » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Alternative Fuels and Small Scale Power Generation

First a note – the Jenkins report I mentioned in my first post here is now available at http://www.usclimateaction.org/userfiles/JenkinsBook.pdf – it’s a must read for its unique insight to the climate change challenges we have here in the Adirondacks.

Now for an update. I decided to sit in on the Alternative Fuels and Small Scale Power Generation workshop. There were about 30 people in the group and I was surprised how smoothly the discussion went. There were folks from all walks of Adirondack life: state, county, and town and village government, planners, builders and developers, educators and students, green business professionals, and simple residents with an interest. Among the groups who were represented (well actually not represented, but folks from these organizations were in attendance): the Adirondack Park Agency, St. Lawrence University, Paul Smiths, SUNY-ESF, Lake Placid High School, Houghton College, Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, and many more.

We heard first from Amanda Lavigne of St. Lawrence University who provided us with lots of background information. We then characterized the problem as “what alternative fuels and power options are available to Adirondack Park residents that can reduce the rising economic impacts of home heating and transportation while minimizing carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change.”

Finally, we made a list of potential priorities including things like broadly incentivising alternative energy, creating a clearinghouse for information and technical assistance, encouraging appropriate scale local energy production for local consumption in a decentralized distributive manner, and many more.

Tomorrow we’ll be focusing on laying out a one year action plan for our group, and then we’ll be bringing it together with the rest of the other groups Wednesday afternoon.

More tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Future Paths to Mitigating Global Warming

Carter Bales, Co-Chair of the American Response to Climate Change National Conference, just gave a talk on what a national approach to greenhouse gas reductions might look like. “It’s difficult to be optimistic,” Bales said, noting also that it would require “a mobilization of the nation not seen since World War Two.” He said that provided the misinformation campaign of the Exxons and the coal producers fails, and the new Obama administration is serious, there “could be legislation may by 2011″ and it may become effective by 2015.” “There is hope” he said, “but time is not our friend.”

Generally speaking Bales said a four pronged action plan was necessary:

1 – a cap on carbon emissions
2 – raising efficiencies
3 – supporting deployment of new technologies and solutions
4 – addressing sections of the economy not included in the carbon cap (like ag and forestry)

Bales laid out five areas where differences could be made:

Building and Appliances (advanced lighting, electronic equipment, building shell / green building improvements). He called for a “new generation of appliances using half the energy of today.”

Transportation (biofuels, fuel economy improvements, advanced propulsion systems). Bales said gas would be $14 gallon if not for “peace keeping” and subsidies.

Industry (recovery of non CO2 green house gases from industrial processes, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency). Bales said that carbon capture and storage is “a complete nightmare, it either isn’t going to happen or it isn’t going to happen for a long time.”

Carbon Sinks (Afforestation of underutilized pasture and crop land, better forest management, alternative agricultural practices such as winter cover crops, conservation tillage). Bales noted that our carbon emissions in the US average about 20 tons per person; in India, it’s 1.5 tons per person. He also noted the important role of forested areas as carbon sinks. Guyana, he pointed out, has negative carbon emissions per person thanks to their large rainforest. “We should be paying Guyana to keep its rainforest standing,” he said adding that it would cost less than $5 a per ton of carbon emissions.

Power (expanding low carbon generation including carbon capture and storage for coal, developing wind and solar, and improving power plant efficiencies). “Natural gas is at best a transitional strategy,” he said, adding that “without fixing our power generation you’re not going to fix the problem.”

Bales also suggested a number of economic benefits from the transition to a low carbon economy:

1 – many existing industries (such as energy services) will boom especially as off-shoring is reduced and local production and servicing comes to the fore.

2 – new industries and businesses will form (particularly around efficiency retooling and green technologies).

3 – energy efficiency will save money for consumers directly.

4 – “peaking power” used at times of peak power demand will be reduced (“peaking power” is dirtier and more expensive)

5 – economies in rural areas (!!) will benefit from renewable energy technologies including wind and biomass.

One important thing for our region that Bales said was that there needs to be discussions on putting a value on standing carbon sinks like the Adirondack forests.

So far the conference is going well and putting together an Adirondack Climate Action Plan looks closer to reality then ever before. This afternoon smaller groups will meet and workshop over the following topics:

Energy Efficient Buildings & Contractor Preparedness
Alternative Fuels & Biofuels, Small Scale Power Generation
Local ‘Green’ Economic Development and The role of Government
Natural Ecosystems and The Role of Adirondack Lands and Forests in Carbon Mitigation

So many questions are going through my mind that it’s difficult to decide on which session.

What are the plans for getting the big real estate developers on board? After all, construction is a huge segment of our economy.

Does small scale power generation mean a distributed network? Small scale solar, water, and wind everywhere? Does it mean the kind of industrialization of our mountaintops and ridges like that proposed for the wind project in Johnsburg?

How does the tourism industry get on board? Does green economic development mean finally capitalizing on the Adirondacks potential as a green tourism destination?

Does the Adirondack sink mean that money will flow from government and industry coffers into the region in the future? Aren’t we in the Adirondacks like Guyana, at least a little bit?

So many questions, and I can only get to one workshop.

More at the end of the day.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Live Blogging the Wild Center Climate Conference

A first for the Almanack. Today and tomorrow I’ll be attending the Wild Center’s climate change conference here in Tupper Lake and blogging what I hear, see, and learn.

Just pulling into the Wild Center from my drive over I was heartened to see a line of hybrids – mostly Toyotas, but a few Hondas as well – it’s clear that the crowd that has gathered here is already in the choir.

The sense so far from the speakers has been that the challenge of checking human-made global warming is daunting, depressing, lacking inertia, distracted by economics and politics, but doable. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Adirondack Climate Change Conference Details

The Wild Center has unveiled final plans for the Adirondack Climate gathering, describing the economic focus of the event. The conference, open to the public, will take place November 18 and 19 at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Officially titled ‘The American Response to Climate Change – The Adirondack Model: Using Climate Change Solutions to Restore a Rural American Economy,’ the event has been in the planning stages for more than a year. The Conference will include the release of a major study by the Wildlife Conservation Society compiling information on the current impacts of climate change on the Adirondacks and showing detailed projections for the region in the near future.

The goal of the Conference according to organizers is to develop a local plan to boost the region’s economy in a world changed by climate related economics. Mickey Desmarais, who is the Mayor of Tupper Lake, is part of the Conference planning team. “We are all in agreement that new type of green power production is exciting,” he said, “but the biggest and most effective thing we can all do is to conserve what we have. It has to be done at every level, town, village, and in each and every home. We have never had this cost incentive before–-now we do and we are paying attention. We need to keep educating ourselves and the discussion at the conference will help us do that. We know our winter weather is more severe than other parts of the state so that is all the more reason to be smarter about energy. ”

The Adirondack Conference will include groups focused on energy-efficient buildings that will reduce area energy bills and create new jobs through retrofits of existing buildings and new construction, alternative fuels including cellulosic biofuels and forest by-products, small scale power generation technologies and how they could be developed in the region, the development of new local businesses that will benefit from the expected new cap on national carbon emissions, and the role of natural resources, such as clean water and forests. With water shortages predicted by many climate models, the Adirondack supply may have special future value. There is more information about the conference at its official website, www.usclimateaction.org.

“Many of us think this is the best place in the world to live and raise families,” said Ann Heidenreich, Executive Director of Community Energy Services and another of the Conference organizers. “The people here know how to do things. We like to be independent, we get things done ourselves. I don’t see any reason in the world that we can’t get together as Adirondackers and take this opportunity to have the rest of the country say, ‘wow, those guys figured it out.’ I think we can figure out how to put energy money back into our own neighborhoods instead of sending it to Canada or Saudi Arabia for oil.”

Kate Fish, a Lake Placid resident who is Conference Director for both the National and Adirondack Conferences, said that the Adirondack gathering could have immediate impact, and said that many grassroots organizations were already helping to boost the region. “There is something big already happening here. People are looking into the future and seeing that the age of cheap energy is over – that means a possible new day for local food, for locally-generated electricity, for local materials that used to be priced out of the market because it was cheaper to truck something from Mexico than to buy it from a local maker, and when all that changes, a place like the Adirondacks could actually come out ahead.” She cited a study that says that every dollar spent locally circulates between 5 and 14 times in the local community. Fish said that last year Essex County residents alone spent $15 million on fuel oil to heat their homes, 70 percent of it imported. “That’s a lot of money to send away, and a lot that could be invested it in local power generation or savings.”

Stephanie Ratcliffe is executive director of The Wild Center where the idea for the national climate conference held last June and the regional conference was created. Ratcliffe says the conferences were custom-made for the new Museum. “We’re here in part so people can come together to dig into ideas that are important for how the Adirondacks work. We do need a better economy here, and we don’t need a snowless winter. The Adirondack idea of people living with nature works when our kids don’t have to move away to find jobs, and when we can still swim in clean lakes, this Conference gets at both those issues.”

The Adirondack Conference will take place after the election. “Washington won’t start to move until 2009,” said Lake Placid Mayor Jamie Rogers, one of the Conference co-chairs. “The more you look at this the more you see two things. We actually can do this. We can become more independent, and then you see that we’re in great shape to be out in front in the Adirondacks. We don’t have billions of dollars of skyscrapers that all have to be redone. I think of someone in New York City trying to get local food, or a local hydro dam or cutting the waste in their water system, boy it would be tough. We’ve already cut our electric use in Lake Placid by enlisting the scouts to sell energy efficient light bulbs instead of candy.”

The Adirondack Conference will be attended by members of the following businesses, academic institutions, and organizations: New York State Tug Hill Commission, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Wildlife Conservations Society, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Park Agency, New York State Department of State, Workforce Development Institute, Adirondack Community Housing Trust, Adirondack Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, SUNY – ESF, St. Lawrence University, Houghton College, Hamilton College, Paul Smith’s College, Community Power Network, Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack Mountain Club, Energy $mart Park Initiative, and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.

The Conference is open to the public. To register, please visit www.usclimateaction.org


Friday, October 10, 2008

James Howard Kunstler’s New Book Set Locally

Mark Frauenfelder over at BoingBoing has a review of James Howard Kunstler’s new, World Made by Hand. A futuristic novel set in an an upstate New York town (somewhere in the Washington or Saratoga counties?), Kunstler’s book looks at what the world could be like in a future laid low by energy shortages and global warming. According to Frauenfelder’s review:

The story is told by Robert Earle, who used to be a software executive. Now he’s a hand-tool using carpenter living in a town in upstate New York without Internet, TV, or newspapers. The electricity comes on every couple of weeks for a few minutes at a time. When that happens, nothing’s on the radio but hysterical religious talk. Rumors of goings-on in the rest of the world are vague…

The story kicks off when Earle (who lost his wife and daughter in the plague and hasn’t seen his 19-year-old son since the boy took off a couple of years earlier to find out what’s happened in the rest of the country) is elected mayor and joins a search party to look for a freight boat and its crew, which disappeared on its way to Albany. Their horse-mounted odyssey takes them on a tour through a post-apocalyptic world of insanity, greed, kindness, corruption, and ingenuity.

While life in Kunstler’s world is lawless and harsh and populated with opportunistic characters that make Boss Tweed look like Glinda the Good, it’s not without charms. Local communities are active and productive. Neighbors all know each other and look after one another. People grow and trade their own produce and livestock, and meals are tasty — lots of buttery corn bread, eggs, chicken, vegetables, streaks, fish. They get together and play music a lot, and because people aren’t stuck in their living rooms watching TV, they actually attend live performances.

Kunstler has been a frequently discussed here at the Almanack; at Amazon you can buy World Made by Hand.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wild Center: Local Leader on Adirondack Climate Change

Two years ago I was lamenting that no local public leaders were stepping up to the plate on trying to understand what global climate change would mean for the Adirondacks (and it’s ski-tourism industry) – thankfully, that has changed. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake has taken on the lead role of informing their neighbors about the potential impacts of global warming (such as the impact on amphibians), showing local builders what they can do to mitigate those affects, and organizing scientific meetings to discuss and asses the progress of climate change in the Adirondacks.

Next month, The Wild Center will be taking another important step with a another significant conference – American Response to Climate Change Conference: The Adirondack Model. This latest event follows-up on the national leadership meeting held this past June that addressed greenhouse gas abatement policies for the United States. This conference, however, will have a regional approach, with a focus on the Adirondacks. The work of the Adirondack Conference will, in part, be shaped by the research, findings and recommendations from the national conference. According to the website:

The primary conference objective will be to develop a Climate Action Plan for the Adirondacks. This will include specific action recommendations for individuals, communities, and enterprises; detailing climate change driven economic opportunities and benefits for region; concrete time-bound goals for efficiency improvements in buildings and transportation; alternative fuels and small scale power generation options; the role of Adirondack forests and natural systems mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; adaptation measures for local government and economics in changing climate; the role of local governments; policy recommendations for region and state; identification of priority messages and strategies for broad communication efforts; and the creation of an ongoing structure to forward action after the conference.

More than 150 leaders from businesses, local and state government, academia, Adirondack non-profits, and experts in climate mitigation in the areas of building efficiency, alternative fuel sources, small scale power generation technologies, transportation, natural systems and resources, rural areas and local economies.

The conference will take place on November 18th and 19th, 2008; Conservationist of the Year Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker.

BTW, on October 22nd, The Wild Center will announce, with its research partner the Wildlife Conservation Society and Jerry Jenkins, author of The Adirondack Atlas, a major research effort concerning impacts of climate change in the Adirondacks.

Congratulations Wild Center, for showing the way in making our region a leader in the discussions over local impacts to global warming.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wild Center’s New Film An Apparent Success

Mammoths roam the valleys, giant sloths clamber up trees and whales swim in from Lake Champlain. It’s all part of the Wild Center‘s new movie that is earning rave reviews for its new take on a rarely seen story.

The Wild Center was designed with a showpiece theater. The screen is so wide it requires three projectors working together to create the panoramic effect. This summer the Center raised the curtain on its first full-motion movie, filmed expressly for the special wide-screen theater. The movie, called A Matter of Degrees, was filmed on location in Greenland and the Adirondacks over the course of two years by the award-winning film company Chedd-Angier-Lewis.

“It’s amazing to see that the glacier that wiped this place out is basically still around, and still making news up in Greenland,” said Susan Arnold, the Museum’s membership manager who has seen the movie numerous times with all kinds of audiences. “People are really responding to the movie, everything from tears to waiting in line to see it again.”

The movie has writing credits from former Adirondack Life publisher Howard Fish, features music by sometime Saranac Lake resident Martin Sexton and is narrated by Sigourney Weaver, another of the long list of participants with strong Adirondack ties.

A Matter of Degrees takes viewers back to an Adirondacks that was home to mammoths, California condors, ground sloths, ice and floods. “We wanted to look at what made the Adirondacks,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center and one of the film’s producers. “It was fascinating to know how much has happened in this one place, and that it’s never been explored on film before.” Ratcliffe was on the team that flew to inspect Greenland as a location. “It really felt like time travel. There were places in Greenland that looked similar to the Adirondacks, without the forest cover. We stood at the edge of a glacier, and it did feel as if we were standing on an Adirondack peak 12,000 years ago.”

Rick Godin, who led the local camera crew, flew over the Adirondacks with a state-of-the-art camera that could zoom down on details from a mile above the tree tops. “It was the same technology used in filming Planet Earth for the BBC. It was great to be up there, knowing that we were making a real movie about the Adirondacks and telling what we think is a really important story.”

The movie is 24 minutes long, and received rave reviews when it was screened for preview audiences at The Wild Center’s national climate conference in June.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our Endangered Adirondack Amphibians

This weekend The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is hosting a special symposium that will look at the global and local health of amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, etc) and what it means for the Adirondacks and our planet (details below, along with a full list of Adirondack amphibians).

Probably because they lived in two polluted worlds – they are cold-blooded animals that metamorphose from a water-breathing juvenile to an air-breathing adult – amphibian populations around the globe are threatened or extinct. Some scientists believe it’s related to environmental pollutants, development that reduces their habitat, and global warming (which exacerbates pathogen outbreaks) are to blame.

This brings up the DEC’s Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project (known as the Herp Atlas), a ten year survey (1990-1999) documenting the distribution of New York State’s herpetofauna. Using more than 1,200 volunteers, the project hoped to count 20 species in each survey block (based on 7.5′ topographic quadrangles) – that number was lowered by the end of the project to 15 species in each block – the data is lame, and hasn’t been exploited as far as I can see.

What data there has been made available is here, although I’m not sure why it hasn’t been included in the USGS North American Amphibian Monitoring Program.
Records prior to 1989 were also supposed to be compiled for a historic database, but the online data doesn’t even include 1999’s findings, let alone any historic data or analysis. So all the public really has to work with is a simple map and a series of fact sheets on the state’s amphibians and reptiles.

We have to wonder (no we don’t, we already know) why the Whitetail-deer management effort is so comprehensive, when the the herps are given short-shrift. The fact is that amphibians are experiencing an obvious and serious decline that suggests they may be “toads in the coal mine.” How about at least a Landowner’s Guide for Managing Amphibians?

Here are the details for the Wild Center’s Amphibian Weekend, which is free for members or with paid admission:

July 26 – 11am-12pm: “Amphibians of New York State” in the Flammer Theater with Dr. Glenn Johnson, Professor Biology at SUNY Potsdam and co-author of Reptiles and Amphibians of New York State 12pm-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall. 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater Why Amphibians Matter with Dr. Kevin Zippel, Program Director of Amphibian Ark, a scientific initiative sponsored by the Chicago Zoological Society . The Chicago Zoological Society is leading zoos worldwide in the globally coordinated public awareness campaign entitled “2008 The Year of the Frog.” 2-2:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in The Great Hall. 3pm-4pm: Children’s Program in The Great Hall with Wild Center naturalists called “Cyclin’ Around the Pond: The Life Cycles of Amphibians in Blue Pond”.

July 27 – 11am-12pm: Get “Up Close with Wild Center Amphibians” in the Flammer Theater with our own amphibian biologist, Frank Panaro. This program will cover the biology of Adirondack amphibians with special glimpses of them under the camera. 12-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater entitled “Conservation of Kihansi Spray Toad” with Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Curator of Herpetology at The Bronx Zoo. Other topics covered will be global amphibian health and zoo initiatives to protect and conserve amphibians worldwide. 2pm-2:30pm: Amphibian Encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 3pm-4pm: Family Art Program- “Flippin’ Frogs and Slithery Salamanders”- Origami frogs and salamanders (the frogs can actually flip!).

Here is a complete list of amphibians from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry:

Salamanders (Order Caudata)

Mole Salamanders (Family Ambystomidae)
Blue-spotted salamander ~ Ambystoma laterale
Spotter salamander ~ Ambystoma maculatum

Lungless Salamanders (Family Plethodontidae)
Spring salamander ~ Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
Four-toed salamander ~ Hemidactylium scutatum
Red-backed salamander ~ Plethodon cinereus
Two-lined salamander ~ Eurycea bislineata
Mountain dusky salamander ~ Desmognathus ochrophaeus
Northern dusky salamander ~ Desmognathus fuscus

Newts (Family Salamandridae)
Red-spotted newt ~ Notophthalmus viridescens

Mudpuppies (Family Proteidae)
Mud puppy ~ Necturus maculosus

Frogs and Toad (Order Anura)

True Toads (Family Bufonidae)
American toad ~ Bufo americanus

Treefrogs (Family Hylidae)

Spring peeper ~ Hyla crucifer
Gray tree frog ~ Hyla versicolor

True Frogs (Family Ranidae)

Bullfrog ~ Rana catesbeiana
Green frog ~ Rana clamitans
Mink frog ~ Rana septentrionalis
Wood frog ~ Rana sylvatica
Leopard frog ~ Rana pipiens
Pickerel frog ~ Rana palustris


Monday, July 21, 2008

Bill McKibben Named Conservationist of the Year

The 2008 Conservationist of the Year award was Presented at by the Adirondack Council at the Silver Bay Association in Hague on Saturday. McKibben is the 24th annual winner of the honor, which includes the gift of a hand-carved loon.

Recent winners of the award have included The Wildlife Conservation Society (2007), Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (2006), Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky (2005), and the Open Space Institute (2004). Past winners include NY Governors Pataki and Cuomo, and NY Times editor John Oakes. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Newcomb VIC to Host Climate Change Lecture

According to a media release we received last week, the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry’s (ESF) Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb will feature a presentation on climate change during the Huntington Lecture Series at 7 p.m. this Thursday, July 10th at the Newcomb VIC.

Colin Beier (that’s him at left) is a research associate at the AEC. He will present a program titled “Changing Climate, Changing Forests: from Alaska to the Adirondacks.”

Beier will demonstrate that the impacts of climate change in the far north are much more than disappearing sea ice; the boreal forests are changing dramatically, due to increased fire, insect outbreaks and tree diebacks. These are all are linked to climatic changes in the last century. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wild Center: Climate Change ‘Producing Significant Harm’

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is holding a national climate conference [details pdf] opened today with an admonishment from conference Co-chair Carter Bales: “We know the risks from climate change are immediate and serious. We know that we have to cut emissions now to cut those risks. It is time to stop talking about what we can do, and start to do it.” Conference organizers released this note today:

The two day conference has attracted leaders from industry, science and policy organizations to the Adirondacks because its organizers promised the event would focus on solutions that would place the United States in a leadership position in a global effort to move away from carbon-based economy. But before the conference attendees started to hash out solutions two speakers took the stage to update the audience on the latest climate science.

John Holdren, a world renowned expert and director at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and President of Woods Hole Research Center spoke first. Holdren warned that climate change was not a future event, but “causing significant harm now.” In graphic detail he presented statistics that showed a speeding up of changes in weather patterns around the world, including new data from China linking droughts in Asia to changes in climate. “This is not some radical group,” he said, “this is coming out of the Chinese government, and it is causing them to act.” Holdren told the gathered leaders that the odds were growing worse each day that the world temperature would reach a level not seen in 30 million years, “a time,” he said, “that crocodiles roamed in Greenland.”

Holdren was followed by Thomas Lovejoy, president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. Lovejoy echoed Holdren’s calls for swift action. He cited global reports of major shifts in species locations, showing that “nature is already on the move everywhere.” Lovejoy said that based on current science, 20 to 30 percent of all species on Earth are likely to be extinct by 2030 as a result of traumatic system shifts caused by changes resulting from climate change. He pointed to locations all over the globe, using models that consistently predict drought in the critical Amazon region in South America and rising sea levels that would alter vast habitats and force large human migrations. Both Lovejoy and Holdren spoke about the complexity of the natural world, and the difficulty of understanding how each change would impact other parts of the system. They both agreed that the pace and scale of changes would cause, as Lovejoy put it, “ecosystems as we know them to fall apart.”

Lovejoy cited the heat wave that took 35,000 lives in Europe in 2003 as an example. The spike in temperature was then thought of as a one in a hundred year event. Lovejoy said that based on current projections that same heat wave would occur every other year by 2020, and would be considered a cool summer by 2050.

The economists and business presenters followed Lovejoy and Holdren. Dimitri Zenghelis, Chief Economist at Cisco’s climate change long-term innovation group and a special advisor to the British government on climate, who had flown in from London for the conference, reiterated that this was not “tomorrow’s story, this is happening now.”

Zenghelis said that a reduction of emissions across the globe of 6-10% every year for the next ten years would produce a 50/50 chance that global temperatures would stabilize at only 1.2 degrees hotter than today, a level that is projected to lead to severe disruptions in natural systems, including those responsible for food and water supplies.

Zenghelis ended by saying that the solutions that were available to cut emissions could result in a cost of only 1 to 2 percent of global GDP, a number he related to the 5 percent of U.S. GDP dedicated to military expenditures or the 15 percent spent on healthcare.

Ken Ostrowski, who is the head of a major climate initiative at McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading consulting firms, presented an outline of the McKinsey Report on greenhouse gas reductions that describes ways the U.S. could reduce emissions. The report also helped form the basis for the conference’s solution-oriented structure. In one example he said that a move to use existing energy efficient products would eliminate the need for $300 billion dollars in new power plant investment freeing up money for other uses.

Ostrowski described a series of ways that the cuts could be made in a way that benefited the economy. He used examples as simple as consumers changing to fluorescent lighting that would cut electric use, reduce overall costs for consumers and cut pollution associated with manufacturing and shipping dozens of old-style incandescent light bulbs that a single long-lasting fluorescent bulb would replace. More complex examples included the challenges posed by the need to move quickly and in an organized way across many parts of the economy.

Each attendee at the conference was supplied in advance with reports outlining options that would collectively help move the United States sharply away from carbon dependence. The eventual goal is an 80 to 90 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. Conferees broke up into three groups, one to hammer out recommendations for power generation, another for forestry and land use, and the last for buildings and appliances. More than 60 leaders from each sector sat around tables and began to shape their group’s recommendation. The gatherings were closed to outside observers to allow what conference director Kate Fish said would be a completely open discussion. “What they are trying to do here could be historic,” said Fish. “We wanted everyone to feel that they could take risks, and take positions without concern that they might be quoted in something they said years from now.”

Fish said that the conference was filled to overflow, with more than 200 total attendees for an event that organizers planned for 125. All of the main presentations are being prepared for internet broadcast by the Wild Center. “We filmed all the Plenary sessions,” said Fish. “We will post the presentations and speeches as soon as possible on the conference website.” She said that the entire conference plan, and all the advance reports were already posted in the website the Wild Center created for the Conference at www.usclimateaction.org. She said that all the presentations and speeches would be available on that site within three weeks.

Attendees will reconvene Thursday to complete work for each sector, and to convene as a group to work toward a first draft of the conference’s “Message to the Nation,” which will be widely circulated once it has been completed. The conference concludes Thursday at 5:00.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Biggest Threats to Adirondack Water Resources

The Adirondack Council has released a report that outlines eight major threats to Adirondack water resources. Titled Adirondack Waters: Resource at Risk [pdf], the 32-page booklet describes the threats and what can be done about them. The eight risks include: Acid Rain, Mercury Pollution, Global Climate Change, Aquatic Invasive Species, Inadequate Sewage Treatment, Suburban Sprawl, Diverting Adirondack Waters, and Road Salt.

Acid Rain – More than 700 bodies of water in the Adirondack Park have been damaged and native fish, amphibians, and other aquatic life are threatened. Although they may look clear and pristine, the appearance of water bodies damaged by acid rain is actually due to a lack of native life in the water. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which provides for the largest reductions in the pollutants that cause acid rain since the passage of the original Clean Air Act in 1963. Congress needs to put these new rules into law. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Step It Up’s Saturday Glens Falls Events

Tommorrow, Saturday, Novemeber 3rd, local citizens concerned with doing something about global climate change will be attending a series of Step It Up events at the Farmer’s Market, City Park, Wood Theater, and other local Glens Falls spots to raise public awareness. A complete list of events in our area can be found here.

EVENT SCHEDULE

10:00 am Bike, Walk, Carpool to Farmers Market at South Street Pavilion

Information, displays and entertainment at the Farmers Market along with locally grown and made food and other products. Save energy that would be used transporting imported alternatives. Traveling to the market by foot or bicycle reduces your carbon footprint even further! Entertainment by Bill Campbell. Meet people who use their bikes to commute. Rick’s Bike Shop will show commuter bikes. Local food and snacks, solar oven cooking, biodiesel info-samples. Also, get to know the Toyota Prius hybrid.

11:30 am Entertainment by C.E. Skidmore at City Park (Bay & Maple Streets)

Fun Activities for Children organized by Joy McCoola and National Honors Society

12:00 Noon Rally for the Planet at City Park

Representatives from the Sierra Club will introduce the Cool Cities program. Mayor Roy Akins will sign the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. Commuter-biker David Legg will describe his positive experiences traveling by bike in Glens Falls. Kirsten Gillibrand’s representative, Lisa Manzi, will describe the Congresswoman’s efforts in regards to climate change. A group photo will be taken to relay to Washington. On the way to the Wood theater, stop out front to see the Natural Gas Honda!

1 – 5:00 pm Presentations and Exhibitors at Wood Theater (207 Glen Street)

1:00 pm Author James Howard Kunstler – The Long Emergency (Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century) Book signing to follow in the lobby

2:15 pm Barton Mines video presentation on Green Building

2:30 pm Green Builders/NYSERDA Presentation

3:00 pm GroSolar’s Carbon Challenge – How solar energy works in your home

4:00 pm Seth Jacobs – Local Agriculture as Part of the Solution to Global Climate Change

Exhibitors: GroSolar, Green Builders, G.F. Electric, Community Energy, Thermal Associates, NYSERDA, Cornell Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Stewardship Association.

5:45 pm Premiere of “The Eleventh Hour” (Leonardo DiCaprio’s Directorial Debut)

Aimie’s Dinner & A Movie 190 Glen Street (518) 792-8181 Reservations suggested.

7:30 pm “Live N’ Local” Premieres at Rock Hill Cafe with Local Bread Giveaway!

“Live n’ Local” will happen every Saturday Night at 7:30 pm. Rock Hill is going to establish a venue for original music and an audience who appreciates it. Local food and local musicians. Three Dimensional Figures, a great local jazz/jam and techno trio will be their first guests. No Cover Charge!

Sponsors: Barton Mines, City of Glens Falls, Rock Hill Cafe


Monday, October 29, 2007

Is Another Adirondack Fire Disaster On The Way?

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most terrible Adirondack years on record. Forest fires ravaged the region in 1908 and led to a widespread system of fire detection. The recent California fires point up the danger Adirondackers face as global warming tends the region to increasing episodes of drought such as that that occurred this fall and contributed to the historically low levels at the Hinckley Reservoir.

According to the APA:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fires raged out of control in the many of New York State’s vast wooded areas. The years 1903 and 1908 were particularly disastrous, and because of public outcry for protection from the devastation, the state began a rigorous fire and prevention and control program, including the building of fire towers. » Continue Reading.