Commentary

Ron Krupp: Climate change is here to stay

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Ron Krupp, who is the author of “The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening.” A version of this commentary originally aired on Vermont Public Radio.

Ever since Tropical Storm Irene flooded the slopes and valleys of Vermont in late August of 2011, we’ve been much more aware of how climate change is affecting our lives.

Since then, we’ve learned that the storm was made worse by the warming of the Atlantic Ocean – which most experts agree was caused by climate change. But if you’ll excuse the pun – and I don’t mean to suggest that climate change is at all funny — Irene was just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s projected that by 2050 the projected mean annual temperature increases for Vermont will be 3 degrees Fahrenheit and by late century 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

By 2080, Vermont’s summer climate will feel similar to the climate of northwest Georgia from 1961 to 1990.

Precipitation by the end of the century is projected to increase by 15 percent in winter, 10 percent in spring and 5 percent in summer.

We’re already experiencing snowstorms with a Mid-Atlantic feel that do more damage that most nor’easters.

 

Evaporation escalates with temperature; therefore in regions where precipitation decreases, an increase in drought frequency is likely. In New England, a combination of earlier snowmelt, more runoff from heavier summer rainfall, and faster rates of evaporation, are expected to increase the frequency of summer droughts.

And while all that may still be decades away, we’re already experiencing snowstorms with a Mid-Atlantic feel that do more damage that most nor’easters. Many barn and shed roofs can’t take the load from warmer, heavier snows — and come down.

USDA winter hardiness zones are also affected. They’re determined by average minimum temperatures and are used to tell what plants, shrubs and trees can survive a typical winter. As the climate has warmed in winter across the whole of the Northeast, between 1990 and 2006, Vermont has gone from mostly Zone 4 to mostly Zone 5. I’ve noticed these changes myself at the Tommy Thompson Community Garden in the Intervale in Burlington. I can now grow sweet potatoes with ease.

The Adirondacks is one of the best protected and one of the most intact temperate-forest landscapes in the world. Jerry Jenkins, an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Adirondacks, has been tracking the effects of global warming in the park for decades. Changes might include die-offs of trees such as the red oak, white pine and sugar maple. The area’s wildlife species, including the moose, spruce grouse, and common loon, may migrate north to cooler climes.

Jenkins said, “We may be the last generation to see the big bogs and boreal creatures as well as a decline and eventual loss of the spruce-fir forests and alpine tundra in the Adirondacks.”

He went on to say, “Hard frosts that a generation ago came in mid-September now arrive in October. Ornithologists have recorded recent declines in northern bird species like the black-backed woodpecker, olive-sided flycatcher and rusty blackbird.”

Jenkins spends many days camping alone. He said, “I’ve never had an intense experience in a motel.”

He speaks of the Adirondack landscape with a certain wistfulness, waxing lyrical about the conifers and sedges, long vistas and light on water, peacefulness and oldness. That may end sooner than we think.

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  • Kim Fried

    It’s such a shame that Vermont has decided to fight climate change by turning our lives and environment over to profiteers and corporations that ignore the citizens of our state. Until our laws and agencies of state involve Vermont’s citizens and communities in fighting this problem nothing of any real value will be achieved except the profiteers making money on our backs.

  • James Rude

    Climate change has always been here, will always be here. So, what’s new other than it is now used as a leverage point to raise money for a growing climate change industrial complex, and increase the ever expanding role of government. All of the doom and gloom scenarios are based on models that been very poor predictors of our very complex climate system.

  • fred moss

    Climate change is here to stay???

    Somebody tell this guy the plant is bigger than his tiny interpretation of events.

    The Champlain Valley was carved out by glaciers. Pretty sure climate change never left.

  • John McClaughry

    I can appreciate the writer’s concern for the environment and his expertise in gardening, but he shows no competence whatever in climate science.
    For instance, he rests his case on “It’s projected that by 2050 the projected mean annual temperature increases for Vermont will be 3 degrees Fahrenheit and by late century 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
    By 2080, Vermont’s summer climate will feel similar to the climate of northwest Georgia from 1961 to 1990.”
    Says who? Anyone can throw out a “projection”. Interestingly the UN’s IPCC revised its AR5 report (2014) to change “prediction” to “projection”, because the outputs of their computer models can’t be validated as a prediction (and have completely failed to “predict” the past 17 years of non-warming).
    This article raises a “projected” scenario and tries mightily to alarm us – but it doesn’t add any real information to the debate. If he can’t do that, he ought to stick with gardening.

    • Steve Comeau

      The temperature trends in northern New England region from 1955 to 2013 show an average increase of 0.47 degrees Fahrenheit per decade in the north. That is based on actual temperature data from Burlington; St. Johnsbury; First Connecticut Lake, NH; and Millinocket, ME.

      If this trend continues, then the increase in average temperature increase from 1955 will be 4.1degrees F. This is a simple projection based on what has been happening and not a climate model. But, if the climate models are correct that warming will continue, then the projection will not be far off. Mr Krupp is not being alarmist, he is just describing observations on the ground that have resulted from the average temperature increase.

  • John Zuppa

    “It’s projected that by 2050 the projected mean annual temperature increases for Vermont will be 3 degrees Fahrenheit and by late century 5 degrees Fahrenheit.”

    Ron, that is a computer generated model projection…It’s worse…(I’ve seen as much as 1.5 degrees predicted by 2020, as Al Gore would have it)… than the others I have seen…AND…they have all been proven wrong in their projections.

    Climate change IS happening…AND mankind IS exacerbating it….BUT…these “projections” and “models” have been built and designed by Corporate interests to cause enough panic to make well meaning citizens jump to the wrong conclusions…ABOUT HOW we can BEST deal with it.

    Thanks for spreading incredibly “IFFY” science…YOU have now exacerbated the problem even more.

    The Corporate solutions are Tactical band-aids on a SERIOUS over-use of energy, by an over-polluting and overpopulating species….US..!!

    I thought that you would know better.

  • Gary Murdock

    Oh if only the wooly mammoths had Prius’, solar panels, and those state of the art planet saving devices perfected in 18th century Holland: windmills: they would still be romping amongst us today.

  • Don Dalton

    I agree with some comments that the science behind climate change is by no means settled, yet many of us proclaim that “the science is settled” and we should all get on board. I’m suspicious, myself, maybe because I’m past 60 years old and getting to be a crank. Or maybe because there are parties out there that want to “geoengineer” the climate (i.e., seed chemicals into the atmosphere) for fun and profit, and a good way to do that is to get us all to buy into the notion of climate change with no questions asked.

  • Kathy Blume

    I think it’s important to not conflate the science of climate change with the question of whether the solutions are grassroots or corporate solutions.

    The science is settled. This round of climate change is happening. It’s primarily caused by humans burning fossil fuels and exacerbated by massive global deforestation. But let’s also not omit the impact of industrial agriculture. And cow farts.

    But let’s step away from the quibbling over scientific models and projections and look at the reality of the situation.

    People around the world are already suffering and dying because of climate change.

    – Coastal villages in Alaska are crumbling into the sea.
    – Coastal cities like Miami and Bangkok are flooding repeatedly due to rising sea levels.
    – The drinking water of millions of people in Asia is threatened because of melting Himalayan glaciers.
    – Communities in low-lying Pacific island nations are already making plans to relocate due to rising sea levels.
    – Pine forests across the Western US are dying due to infestations of Pine Beatles thriving because of warmer winters.
    – Those dying pine forests combined with fierce drought contribute to the epic wildfires which now repeatedly rage across the West.
    – Lyme Disease is now a huge problem in Vermont because climatic zones have moved northward.
    – Indigenous farmers in Bolivia can no longer use traditional methods because weather has gotten so unpredictable.
    – The world’s average temperature keeps breaking records.

    This is the planet’s new reality. And it’s actually progressing much faster than most scientists originally predicted.

    The only thing scientists didn’t predict was the United States being the only country in the world where all this information is treated as dubious speculation rather than scientific fact.

    So what are we, as individuals and community members, going to do about it? We have tools of individual behavior change and systems transformation. We have tools of public policy, clean energy generation, and technological advancement. We also have enormous creative and innovative powers.

    So how are we going to respond? Argue about what’s not possible, why the solution are wrong/suspect/corrupt or dig in, build locally-based solutions, and do something about it?

    • Don Dalton

      The science is rarely settled on anything. Whenever we say this, we imply there’s no debate among “real,” honest scientists. I think this is a pernicious aspect of all sorts of debate: we claim the science is settled and the authority of science is on our side. Things are rarely so clear-cut. This is not to say that we shouldn’t do everything we can to minimize human impacts on climate, at the very least as a precaution. I’m not against action or caring for the planet or organic farming or electric cars. I am against assuming that what we’re seeing is man-made “climate change” as generally understood. For example, are we really seeing some of the effects of deliberate geoengineering– a different animal altogether?

  • Kathy Leonard

    I hear you, Ron Krupp.
    For those who are connected to the earth, this is a time of deep grief. In the end, we are all just walking each other home, as nature bats last.

    Squeeze the day..

  • “Argue about what’s not possible…?”

    THANK YOU!!!

    Probable even; to the open minded skeptic.