"Climate Change Impacts in the Pacific Northwest"
Eric Shen updated us on what we can expect locally from climate change. He noted that projections are for a 3.3F-9.7F temperature rise by 2070-2099. The low-end projection is based on pulling out all the stops to reduce emissions; the high-end projection reflects business as usual. Water will be a big problem for our area. Winter precipitation will be much more likely to fall as rain, as is happening this year (less than 50% of normal snowpack so far in the mountains - if that trend continues, it will be the lowest in 66 years). Decreased snowpack points to drier summers, which can bring a number of problems: more and worse wildfires, impacts on salmon (scouring of stream beds when salmon eggs are hatching; flooding young salmon out to the ocean before they're ready, which can lead to a huge mortality rate; warm streamflows for a cold-water fish).
Sea level rise (SLR) will be highest in So. Puget Sound (SLR for various areas differs when the rebound from land masses once depressed by a mile of ice is factored in). Scientists estimate that a 2-5 feet rise is the most likely range by 2100 (right now we're trending at the models' highest simulations). SLR in our area is exacerbated by how much surge we get in a storm event; these storms will cause greater damage by erosion, landslides in bluff areas, damage to coastal train routes. For a good review of what is expected with SLR/storm surge in our area, Eric suggested reviewing the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative. Other water issues here include ocean acidification, which compromises the shell-building capacity of saltwater creatures that form the base of the oceanic food chain, and of shellfish, which are the base of local industry; the appearance of new, warm-water species, such as the giant sunfishes that appeared off our coast last summer; and more toxic algal blooms.
Eric stressed that climate change is human-driven and that the extent of the impacts we'll be forced to contend with depend on our behavior. He noted that many scientists feel that it is still possible to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and it is our responsibility to pass on a survivable planet to future generations. We grew up in a time of abundance, when the population was only about 2.5 billion. We're now at 7.2 billion people and heading toward 11 billion. Eric feels that by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and overuse of resources, we can buy time to develop technological solutions to the climate crisis. He said there are many possibilities on the horizon, and that it's critical to avoid the "point of no return" by drastically cutting emissions to give those possibilities a chance to bear fruit. He cited a few things people can do: green use of electricity and transportation (carpool, walk, bike, use public transit, and don't fly - there is nothing you can do that emits more CO2 faster and more directly into the atmosphere than flying).
submitted by E. Adams
Next month's Supper: See you Tuesday, March 31, when Lee First of RE Sources will speak about the impacts of urban stormwater and proposed solutions.