TUPPER LAKE - The Wild Center hosted its first-ever conference on climate change in the Adirondacks Tuesday.
About 200 stakeholders from around the Adirondack Park attended the two-day event.
In the morning, three speakers talked about climate change. Carter Bales, former director for McKinsey and Company, who has worked on national reports such as "Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost?" and Peter C. Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, both spoke of the consequences of climate change on a national level.
Adirondack ecologist and author Jerry Jenkins spoke about local ramifications. Jenkins is the author of the "Adirondack Atlas," "Acid Rain in the Adirondacks" and a not-yet-available book, titled "Climate Change in the Adirondacks."
Since 1970, average temperatures across the Northeast have risen more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, Frumhoff said. In winter, temperatures have gone up 4 degrees since 1970. Most scientists blame greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide emitted by human industry and automobiles for this temperature increase.
If that temperature trend continues, by 2099 seasonal average temperatures could rise a projected 8 to 12 degrees above historic winter levels and 6 to 14 degrees in summer, Frumoff said.
The consequences of that could be that the Adirondacks see more sporadic weather. The Adirondack snow season could be cut in half and replaced by wetter winters and drier summers.
The rise in temperature could mean the end for healthy boreal communities, ecosystems that consist of spruce and fir forest at the top of the High Peaks and bogs, home to insect-eating pitcher plants and tamarack trees, in the lower elevations.
The northern forests are home to birds such as gray jays and Bicknell's thrush and mammals such as moose.
"The things that make the Adirondacks the Adirondacks are the boreal communities based around spruce and firs," said Jenkins. "Otherwise, we'd be no different from West Virginia."
The Adirondack are at the southern edge of where these kind of communities are found. Jenkins said he didn't necessarily think the boreal communities would disappear but would instead be stressed, making them susceptible to diseases and invasive species.
The likely scenario would be an extended period of decline and a loss of forests. The forests wouldn't suddenly consist of oak and hickory trees like West Virginia.
"The migration of whole biological communities northward and southward is a myth," Jenkins said. "How far do trees ever move in history? About 20 miles a century."
During the afternoon, participants broke into four groups: energy efficiency building and contractor preparedness; alternative fuels and biofuels; local "green" economic development and the role of local governments and natural ecosystems; and the role of Adirondack lands and forests in carbon mitigation.
The groups are scheduled to put together a list of recommendations for combating climate change at the local level.
"I think what you are seeing today is the global coming down to the local and building a local plan at the community level," Lake Placid Mayor Jamie Rogers said. "Hopefully we can show the rest of the country how you can deal with greenhouse case issues."
One of the groups discussed potential values of carbon mitigation. The Adirondack Park consists of six million acres of protected land and contains large tracts of forests that absorb the leading greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, in their plants and soil. Such ecosystems are known as carbon sinks.
The question that remains is how to best utilize that resource.
"That's the trick here," said Ross Whaley, senior advisor for the Adirondack Land Owners Association. "How does dealing with carbon issues also become a solution to our economic problems?"
Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28 or email@example.com.