Climate Change

Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is a change in regional or global climate patterns from average weather in the form of temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity, and seasons. Globally, the earth has risen in temperature by 1.5 degrees fahrenheit in the past century and is expected to rise another 0.5- 8.6 degrees fahrenheit over the next century. While these increases in average temperatures sound small, they can cause global consequences.

The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat. However, the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years. In fact, scientific evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster.

Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the "greenhouse effect"— warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.

Over the last century, the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry and other human activities has increased concentrations of greenhouse gases as well.

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted,trees are flowering sooner, sea level are rising, and we have longer, more intense heat waves.

The Impact of Climate Change on the Adirondacks

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. Droughts and flooding threaten local farms and recreation based businesses. A lack of snowfall could be catastrophic for Adirondack towns that rely on thrive on winter snow sport tourism.

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 and providing grants for energy efficiency to small farms and businesses. 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.

You can also help reduce your contribution to climate change by purchasing energy efficient appliances, CFL lightbulbs, limiting travel, shopping for locally sourced groceries, saving water, and recycling.

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