Dr. Jonathan Comstock of Cornell University discussing temperature change and its impacts on Adirondack ecosystems.
On Thursday, March 29, The Wild Center hosted a forum entitled the “Local Impacts of Climate Change.”
At the center of discussion was the Responding to Climate Change in New York State report (known as ClimAID) recently released by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
“I think the ClimAID report is a tremendous assimilation of research and strategies,” said Bob Stegemann, Region 5 director for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“When you look at the full body of climate change data, there is overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing,” said NYSERDA program manager, Mark Watson. “I think we should be very concerned about it.”
“I think that one thing that stands out about the report is that climate change is happening now and it is impacting me and my neighbors,” added NYSERDA assistant project manager Amanda Stevens.
Forum speakers discussed the impacts of climate change which are detailed in the report, including impacts to ecosystems, agriculture, and the economy across New York State and the Adirondacks.
“Perhaps the biggest single factor we have is rapidly changing climate zones, and if climate change happens faster than plant dispersal, whole plant communities can be lost,” said Cornell University ecologist and botanist Dr. Jonathan Comstock. “For logging and forest harvesting interests huge stands could be lost.”
“We’re going to have warmer temps, more heatwaves, more downpours, and more drought,” said Stevens. “It’s kind of odd to have more intense precipitation and flooding and at the same time have areas of drought, but that’s what’s going to happen.”
“One thing’s for certain for the Adirondacks,” said Comstock, “the potential loss of winter sports is a huge economic factor.”
The speakers went on to discuss possible approaches to help mitigate these effects. “I think what’s great about the report is that its talking about strategies – about what we can do,” said Stegemann.
“This is one of those things that can’t be done only from a top down approach,” said Watson. “Community action is essential.”
In light of this, The Wild Center has created programs to both educate and to bring people together to discuss the issues surrounding climate change.
“The Wild Center took on learning about climate change to learn about its impacts on the Adirondacks and to share that with those who love the region,” said Kara Page, project manager for the Wild Center’s Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan (ADKCAP) program. “I like how we’ve approached this, saying let’s be practical about this and let’s try to share info on energetic incentives and demonstration initiatives like our pellet boiler and the kind of green building program the Wild Center has supported.”
One of the biggest questions put forward by both the ClimAID report and the speakers was the timeliness of implementing such solutions and strategies before more climate change occurs.
“It is important to channel this need to change our behavior into practical solutions,” said Page.
“We’ve already put a lot of change in motion, but there is a big difference between business as usual and some of the changes we can make,” said Comstock.
For more information see http://www.nyserda.ny.gov and http://www.adkcap.org.