Climate Change

Climate Change

Climate Change

Global climate change poses a serious threat to the Adirondack Park. Changing weather patterns will affect the quality and quantity of Adirondack Park waters. Warming temperatures are already changing the Park's ecosystems, threatening the survival of some native wildlife and plant species. Warming also threatens the park’s communities and culture.

The Impact of Climate Change on the Adirondacks

The Adirondack Park’s biological diversity is derived from its location at the transition zone between the temperate, deciduous forests of the Appalachian Mountains and the boreal, spruce-fir forest of Canada. As the Park warms, that transition zone is likely to fade northward into Canada. Climate scientists predict that the Adirondack Park’s climate will resemble today’s Richmond, VA by the end of the century if we don’t take swift and decisive action to combat greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere.

In general, we are getting warmer and wilder weather. Warming temperatures can bring fewer and smaller wetlands, while wildly fluctuating precipitation patterns can cause flash flooding or prolonged droughts.

Shrinking wetlands will reduce suitable breeding habitat for migratory birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and fish. Changes are already being noted in the northward movement of migratory bird breeding areas and earlier opening buds of flowering plants; a situation that can disrupt pollination of plants and feeding patterns of birds, insects and other species.

Non-native species that currently can’t survive Adirondack winters are expected to replace native plants and animals as temperatures rise.

Cold water aquatic species are especially at risk. Since many of these species are especially vulnerable during spawning and mating, temperature fluctuations could affect population levels. Species of fish that are ecologically valuable and prized catches among anglers, including brook and lake trout, could drastically decline or be lost altogether if climate change is severe.

Maple syrup production depends on a reliable freeze-and-thaw cycle to make the sap flow. This cycle too is being altered by climate change.

Shorter and warmer winters will limit outdoor recreational activities for which the region has become famous, including skiing and other Olympic sports, snowshoeing and ice climbing. Tourism will be affected and this could add to the problems for the environment. Snowless winters such as 2016 could cause mounting pressure to convert useless snowmobile trails into roads for all-terrain vehicles and other erosion-causing mechanized recreation.

What We're Doing to Fight Climate Change

The Adirondack Council is currently working on a number of measures that will help reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and help our region slow the progression of global climate change.

Our advocacy work has supported the creation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for the Northeast and the federal Clean Power Plan, a national carbon reduction program for commercial power plants. Both programs face stiff opposition from industry lobbyists and legal challenges. The Council will continue to press public officials to authorize, fully fund and improve these programs in the years ahead.

How You Can Help

There are several ways you can play an active role in fighting the harmful impacts of climate change on the Adirondack Park. You can take direct action to reduce total carbon emissions by purchasing a Carbon Reduction Certificate from our Cool Farms/Healthy Park Program, which helps the Adirondack Council fight climate change while curbing pollution under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. You can help us support the federal Clean Power Plan, which mandates carbon reductions from power plants nationwide. And, you can help us support vigorous implementation of New York’s Community Risk and Resiliency Act.

Click HERE for other ways that you can reduce your contribution to climate change.

Cool Farms/Healthy Park Program

The Cool Farms/Healthy Park Program is designed to reduce regional carbon emissions, educate the public about global climate change and provide grants to local farmers so they remain a vital and sustainable part of the Adirondack Park’s landscape.

The Cool Farms/Healthy Park program reduces regional carbon emissions by purchasing and retiring carbon allowances from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which keeps them from power plants so they can never be used as permission to emit carbon dioxide.

For each $25 Carbon Reduction Certificate purchased by donors, the Adirondack Council will obtain and retire one carbon allowance from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Each RGGI allowance represents government authorization to emit one ton of carbon pollution. Only a limited number are issued each year, and each year the number is reduced until the region’s carbon-reduction goals are met. Every allowance that is retired instead of being used equals an additional one-ton reduction in the regional pollution cap.

The proceeds of these certificate sales would be used two ways: to buy more allowances, and to help replenish the Cool Farms/Healthy Park farmland micro-grants fund.

Donors will receive a certificate explaining how the donation is helping to protect public health, clean water, wildlife and ecologically sensitive places like the Adirondack Park. Donors have the option of receiving a certificate suitable for framing, made out to whomever they wish, recognizing support for cool farms, healthy park, climate smart farming and carbon reduction.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

In 2008, New York and other Northeast states created the nation’s first government-mandated carbon emissions control program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The program’s goal was to reduce carbon emissions throughout the region by 50 percent by 2030. In 2015, New York further committed to reduce carbon emissions to less than two tons per person annually, or an 85- to 90-percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

RGGI is one of the most important tools New York will use to reduce its carbon impact. The initiative established an effective cap-and-trade program to set limits on power plant carbon emissions.

The program requires plant owners to purchase one government-issued “carbon allowance” for every ton of carbon they emit each year. Each year, the number of allowances offered for sale decreases, reducing the pollution cap by 5 percent.

New York has committed to reduce its carbon emissions 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 – the most aggressive schedule set by any state. RGGI will help to get us there.

The Adirondack Council’s Cool Farms/Healthy Park program can get us there even faster.

The Adirondack Council was the nation’s first environmental organization to purchase RGGI carbon allowances. We have purchased thousands of allowances with the intention of retiring them – withholding them from power plants forever. Because we won’t resell them, every allowance we buy and retire means one less ton of carbon in the air. In short, the regional emissions cap is reduced by another ton for every allowance we buy and retire.

Proceeds from the purchase of Adirondack Cool Farms/Healthy Park Carbon Reduction Certificates support micro-grants for local farms and the acquisition and retirement of additional emission allowances.

Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants is known as the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 (based on 2005 emission levels), in an effort to curb climate change. The EPA proposed the rule using its authority to protect public health under the Clean Air Act, after Congress refused to take action to curb carbon emissions.

In order to achieve its goals, many coal-fired power plants are expected to stop burning coal. In addition to slowing the rate of climate change, that would help curb acid rain in the Adirondacks and reduce smog in New York’s cities.

The Adirondack Council supports the plan and New York State officials have spoken in favor of it.

In 2015, coal producers filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asking the court to overturn the Clean Power Plan. Plaintiffs also asked the appeals court to delay the compliance deadlines, saying they would harm the coal business. The appeals court ruled that no delay was warranted. Plaintiffs appealed that refusal to the Supreme Court, which granted a stay on a 5 to 4 vote. At the time, this indicated that a majority on the Supreme Court would be willing to hear an appeal if the lower court allowed the plan to remain intact.

However, one of the five majority members – Justice Antonin Scalia – passed away shortly after the stay was granted, leaving a divided court to review the matter after the lower court acts. It is possible, but unlikely, that a new justice will be sworn in before the Supreme Court must decide whether it will consider a final appeal. Five justices’ votes would be needed to overturn the Clean Power Plan.