Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Climate Crisis Rally

This morning and afternoon there was a climate crisis rally on the west lawn of the Capitol. The rally was attended by several hundred people, three bipedal polar bears, and one six-foot-tall bipedal raccoon. I attended and stayed for most of it.

The rally was organized by a coalition of organizations to encourage passage of legislation on two issues: preserving the Arctic NWR as wilderness and reducing carbon emissions. The chief sponsors of the bills introduced to address those issues were present at the rally to speak. Rep. Edward Markey is sponsoring legislation to address the ANWR issue (H.R. 39). Senators Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders were there to talk about their emissions bill, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 (S. 309). Rep. Henry Waxman, sponsor of its House equivalent (Safe Climate Act), spoke in support of stricter emissions limits. John Kerry and a few other politicians also spoke, and they were joined by several scientists, schoolchildren, and members of the native Gwich'in people. The various speakers were very well received. Barbara Boxer, in particular, was the subject of loud ovations when she took the stage and when she began to speak.

The Post has more coverage of the event.

There are pictures from the rally here and here.

Addendum (3/21): Al Gore was in town today to testify on climate change.

Climate change has been a big topic of discussion among local birders because of fears of what it might entail for the bird species we love to watch. The topic comes up in discussions of dwindling waterfowl in the Chesapeake watershed; it also appears when fall migration seems to be behind schedule. While some of those phenomena may not be completely due to long-term climate change, we can expect changes to the local animal populations in the next few decades. Sometimes I see the problem dismissed as only a change of a few degrees, but it is worth keeping in mind that those few degrees can make a big difference:

"We certainly know that we've been experiencing climate change impacts," said Bill Dennison, a vice president at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. He added that even a seemingly slight warming trend can be significant in the interdependent world of nature.

"What's a degree? Well, think about if you ran a couple degrees' temperature," Dennison said. "We're already a couple degrees elevated. That's affecting our health."

"All it takes is a couple of degrees to lose those fish," said Don Cosden, a state fisheries official.

The local trout prefer water colder than 68 degrees, he said. Already, streams such as this one can get that hot on summer days. State officials estimate that the fish might be gone from central Maryland in less than a century -- although they would probably survive in the cooler western mountains and in states farther north.
Given that many birds are as sensitive to temperature changes as the fish, we can probably expect some species to disappear from the area. The Post article cites brown pelicans and Baltimore orioles in particular, but range changes may go well beyond that.

Cited article.