By BRANDON LOOMIS
The Adirondacks are warming faster than much of the world, and species including coldwater fish will face increasing stress because of it, researchers say.
Earth has warmed 1 degree Celsius in the industrial age, but the weather stations around the Adirondack Park show warming of nearly double the planet’s, at 1.8 degrees on average, a team from State University of New York Plattsburgh told attendees at a North Country Climate Reality conference for the Adirondacks on Saturday.
Most of the warming has occurred in winters, which average 2.5 degrees Celsius—4.5 degrees Fahrenheit—warmer than historic norms, the SUNY researchers said. And most of that warming has come since 1980.
“I have witnessed this change in my lifetime, which is pretty horrifying because I remember winters were colder and had a lot more snow,” said SUNY environmental science student Alexandria Elliott, who compiled the NASA climate data for Prof. Eric Leibensperger’s presentation.
Elliott grew up in Gabriels.
This warming is now set to accelerate, both on land and in the region’s lakes and streams, said Leibensperger, a climate scientist who uses buoy sensors to track water temperatures in Lake Champlain.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s models suggest another 2 degrees Celsius warming in the Adirondacks by the 2050s if current energy trends persist, Leibensperger said. That’s as much local warming in three decades as world leaders who signed the 2015 Paris climate agreement hope to limit all warming on a global average since the Industrial Revolution.
Some parts of the world, including much of North America, outpace the global average in large part because much of the planet is covered by water and it takes more energy to warm oceans than land. That explains how the Adirondacks can be so far ahead of global change.
But in lakes, Leibensperger finds, the water is warming surprisingly fast. Lake Champlain waters measured 3 feet below the surface in summer have warmed 1 degree Celsius since the 1990s, he said. Winter surface waters are also warming, and could rise more than 3 degrees Celsius in this century, he said, preventing the lake from churning and oxygenating its depths.
“That’s going to be downright devastating for species in Lake Champlain,” Leibensperger said.
Across the Adirondack Park, he said, climate change is starting to favor explosions in disease-carrying ticks and incidences of harmful algal blooms. But it is also extending the growing seasons for farms.
“There are these tiny silver linings,” he said.
Environmental advocates attending the conference brainstormed ways to convince local, state and national leaders to address global warming. One, retired United Nations crisis official Lance Craig, of Hague, said they could win over more skeptics by noting that U.S. military and Homeland Security officials have concluded climate change is a top threat to national security.
Climate change will intensify competition for resources such as water, and will send refugees toward places with those resources, he said. All three candidates in the North Country’s congressional race agreed on this point in a debate, he said.
“It’s making the world a more dangerous place,” Clark said.
Saratoga Springs environmentalist Julie Wash rejected the idea that advocates should use military arguments to find middle ground with skeptics or political opponents. After a workshop in which attendees discussed the most effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, she noted that two of the top 10 recommended by a coalition called Project Drawdown involved women: educating girls and enabling family planning.
Gender equality belongs at the debate’s forefront, Wash said, and not military considerations.
“Maybe toxic masculinity is the more important problem,” she said.