Global Warming Impacts in CNY

Sunday’s Post-Standard has some decent coverage on the local impacts of Global Warming on upstate New York. (I’ve copied the entire article by Delen Goldberg for archiving below). The print edition also has a half-page insert, “Central New York, Take Note” tabulating a range of local impacts due to global warming that is unfortunately not available on-line. It notes the impact of global warming on Lake-effect snow, lake thaws, ecological impacts on invasive species, insects, and birds, as well as hydroelectric power, agriculture (diary, fruit and wineries, Maple syrup) and human health.

And I’m sure this list is far from complete but most importantly it puts into relief that global warming is not just about warmer temperatures. There will be more to say on this subject especially when the IPCC releases the second part of its report on Global Warming that specifically addresses regional impacts based on “30,000 data sets from more than 70 international studies documenting changes to water circulation, to cryospheres (ice zones), as well as to flora and fauna over a period of at least 20 years.”

The main conclusion of the report is that climate change is already having a profound effect on all the continents and on many of the Earth’s ecosystems. The draft presents a long list of evidence:

  • Glacial lakes are increasing in both size and number, potentially leading to deadly floods

  • Permafrost in mountainous regions and at high latitudes is warming increasing the danger of land slides.

  • As the temperature of rivers and lakes rises, their thermal stratification and water quality is changing.

  • River currents, affected by melting glaciers and ice, are speeding up during the spring.

  • Springtime is starting earlier, causing plants to bloom earlier and changing the migrations of birds.

  • Many plants and animals are expanding their habitats into mountainous regions and higher latitudes that are becoming milder.

  • (from march 2, 2007 DER SPIEGEL)

    Thermal stratification! Hey there’s our Oneida Lake “dead zones”! And with that….

    Local warming
    Sunday, March 04, 2007
    By Delen Goldberg
    Staff writer

    A melting Arctic ice cap. Droughts in Africa. Rising sea levels. Since the late 1980s, the effects of global warming have been the stuff of dramatic images and scary predictions.

    Now, the predictions are coming true, and new facts are emerging daily to support scientists theories. Many of them are emerging in our own backyard.

    In Central New York, plants are blooming earlier. Lake-effect snow is pummeling the region in record amounts. Fish and birds are dying in Lake Ontario, of diseases previously not found in the state.

    Scientists blame the local changes on global warming and say they are the reason people are sitting up and taking notice of an issue once seriously discussed only by academics and environmentalists.

    Politicians and scientists who previously refused to acknowledge that the worlds climate is changing have for the first time agreed that it is; others have gone further to blame humans for global warming; governments are devoting resources to address the issue; and schools and churches are making environmental issues part of their curriculums and activities.

    “Its not any secret that all this stuff is going on, but people just werent paying attention”, said Oliver Clubb, co-chair of the local Global Warming Action Network. “That has changed”.

    A recent Opinion Research Corp. poll showed 58 percent of Americans say global warming will have a great to extreme impact on their childrens future. Two out of three said they believe global climate change will adversely affect the United States economy over the next 10 years.

    “It seems like weve reached a tipping point for peoples consciousness about this”, Clubb said. “Now, people are taking it more seriously.”

    But its too little, too late, scientists say. The world already has spewed a certain amount of greenhouse gases into the environment and no matter what actions are taken now, improvements likely wont be seen for generations.

    Governments weigh in

    Members of the Global Warming Action Network attribute peoples newfound interest in climate change to several factors: Al Gores Academy-Award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth; a Feb. 2 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that outlined six years of scientific data on global warming; and recent catastrophic weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina.

    “Events like that, they bring home the whole issue that weve been ignoring the environment for a very long time, and now its coming back to bite us very hard,” said Richard Smardon, chair of the environmental studies faculty at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry and co-chair of the Global Warming Action Network. Politicians are starting to pay attention, too.

  • President Bush, for the first time in a State of the Union address, this year mentioned global warming, calling it a serious challenge.
  • New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has proposed a new, 12-person Office of Climate Change to be run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll signed the Urban Environmental Accords in 2005, committing the city to a set of environmental guidelines endorsed by the United Nations. Syracuse agreed to buy energy for City Hall from alternative sources such as hydro and wind power and replaced traffic lights at 354 intersections with more energy-efficient light-emitting diode, or LED, lights.
  • The Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously in September to authorize Siemens Corp. to develop a plan to build a new power plant that would use chopped-up willow trees for fuel and provide energy to city government buildings, city school buildings and the college of Environmental Science and Forestry.
  • Momentum is quickly building to reverse global warming pollution, around the country and in Washington, Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a recent statement. “The science of global warming may be complicated, but the solution is simple. We need to act now to turn around our growing dependency on oil and fossil fuels.”

    And communities, too

    Across Central New York, churches, libraries and schools are working to raise public awareness about global warming.

    New York Interfaith Power and Light, an interdenominational, faith-based organization dedicated to combating the rise of greenhouse gases, loaned more than 700 copies of An Inconvenient Truth to religious organizations across the state, including several in Central New York.

    Members also are urging congregations to buy renewable energy as Tully Community Church has and perform energy audits to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money.

    “Solving the problem (of global warming) is really a moral issue,” said Janet Allen, of Westvale, the organizations vice president. “Its a question of will. We have the know-how. We have the science. We need to be taking action on these things. And taking action is really something that the faith community should care most about because we are tasked with being good stewards of Gods creations.”

    The push extends beyond houses of worship:

  • Last month, students at Cornell University and Ithaca College rallied to try to persuade their schools to adopt 100-percent clean-energy policies.

  • On March 20, thousands of concerned citizens, including many from Central New York, are expected to descend on the nations capital to demand congressional action to curb global warming.

  • And in summer 2008, the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks will host a major global warming conference that will bring together the worlds leading climate change scientists and economists to discuss the effects of global warming on the 6 million-acre park.

  • In Syracuse, schoolchildren are reducing carbon dioxide emissions by participating in the Go Green Initiative, a grass-roots effort to recycle and conserve.
  • A total of 28 local schools are signed up for the program, the most of any district in the country.

    From December 2005 to December 2006, participating schools prevented the release of 1,389 tons of greenhouse gases, avoided using 555,560 gallons of oil and saved more than 10 million gallons of water, according to program organizers.

    “By showing students that they are making a difference, we are taking steps to ensure that the next generation will grow up respecting and protecting the environment,” said Jennifer Spoor, a Go Green Initiative organizer.

    Its definitely us

    Although a small minority of scientists still question global climate change, the vast majority agree that global warming is real and its caused by us.

    Warming of the climate is unequivocal, said Richard Somerville, a distinguished professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panels climate change report. The science community is confident the recent warming is largely of human origin.

    Although heat-trapping greenhouse gases occur naturally, scientists agree that most of the warming that has taken place over the past 50 years can be blamed on humans.

    Of the total carbon dioxide emissions generated in the Northeast, vehicles are responsible for 35 percent, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Energy use by homes, businesses and industry generates another 35 percent. The remaining 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions comes from power plants, including coal-fired plants and Oswego Countys three nuclear reactors.

    If global emissions continue unabated, summers in Central New York could feel like summers in Georgia by the end of the century, scientists say. Moderate reductions in carbon dioxide emissions will likely make our summers feel like those in South Carolina. Summer temperatures in the Northeast have risen half a degree each decade since 1970, while winter temperatures have climbed 1.3 degrees each decade.

    Worse, scientists say, the greenhouse gases already circulating in the atmosphere will take centuries to stabilize, even if emissions are reduced today.

    “To stabilize concentrations requires a really massive decrease in emissions,” Somerville said. “Its going to have to be something like 70 or 80 percent of current emissions.”

    Still, the situation isnt completely hopeless.

    Where theres a will

    “I think theres both public and political support here, but we cant dilly-dally”, said Smardon, of SUNY ESF. Its serious. My guess is were going to have to do both regulatory and voluntary actions. Whats going to be tough is people are going to have to give up their second cars and conserve energy in their homes and businesses.

    In addition to the actions being taken in Syracuse, New York state has signed on to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort by Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through a cap-and-trade program. The program, projected to launch in 2009, would restrict the amount of greenhouse gases companies can emit in a specific region.

    Cities and regions are trying to do what they can, Smardon said. But its going to take some serious effort.

    “The longer you wait, the worse the problem gets”, said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panels study. “And the longer you wait, the more you have to do about it”.

    This entry was posted in Climate, Local Ecology, Regional News. Bookmark the permalink.

    One Response to Global Warming Impacts in CNY

    1. I’m glad to see some research that is documenting the local impact of global warming. I think the more energy scientists put into showing the direct environmental impact of this extremely serious issue, the more people will take it seriously.

      People generally don’t pay attention to issues that don’t affect them, and our educational system doesn’t help people see the connection between our environmental and our well being.


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