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Experts Talk Turkey about Climate Change at Sierra Nevada Conservancy Symposium

Action needed now to avoid dire consequences


By: Susan Lauer, YubaNet

That climate change is occurring now is indisputable, and we need to take action now to avoid dire consequences in the future. That was the message delivered during the first annual symposium on "Climate Change in the Sierra" hosted by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) on Wednesday, Dec. 5 in Nevada City.

Up to 300 representatives of government agencies, businesses, non-profits and concerned citizens from across the region were on hand to hear about the potential impacts of climate change in discussion sessions moderated by the state's foremost experts from the academic, government, business and non-profit fields.

"We want you to take away ideas for action as a region, community and as individuals," SNC Executive Officer Jim Branham told the audience. "What can we do to address the important issue of climate change?"

Global temperatures have jumped on average 1.1 degrees in recent decades and will increase another 2 to 10 degrees or more in coming decades, depending on how successful we are at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Even today, said a number of experts, residents can see the effects of climate change by simply returning to a favorite local spot and noticing the different scenery from years past.

"It's about recognition that climate change is happening. The question now is to what extent are we behind this and what can we do to address it?" said California Secretary of Resources Mike Chrisman. "How do we balance the goals of habitat conservation and protect biodiversity? We have to adapt. This is a big challenge in the Sierra."

Speakers provided in-depth explanations of how climate change can affect the Sierra Nevada, including:

- Runoff from winter snow is beginning up to three to four weeks earlier than normal. This poses a problem for much of the state, which relies on the Sierra for 60 percent of its freshwater supply.

- More frequent wildfires of greater than 1,000 acres will threaten mountain and foothill communities, which will face longer summertime fire seasons.

- Ice on mountain lakes will melt earlier and produce algae blooms that cloud up the water and harm fish.

- Plants will bloom earlier and there will be a shift in species plants and trees will grow in different locations as they adapt to warmer conditions.

As individuals and in our communities, we must be diligent, said Jonas Minton, a water policy advisor to the Planning and Conservation League and former deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources. He emphasized three points:

"We need to question the way that we are thinking about climate change. We need to change faster. Don't plan or act for 2100. It's an issue now."

"The kinds of actions and sacrifices needed are of the magnitude our parents and grandparents faced during World War II. We must look to regional self-reliance."

"We need to find ways we can maintain our spirits."

The symposium focused on two main areas with specific tracts on each topic:

Climate change implications for the Sierra

1) Impacts of snow and water - panel discussion on the effects of climate change on water management, supply, recreation, and fisheries and other economic and social issues.

2) Impacts on Sierra landscapes - panel discussion on the effects of climate change on vegetation, fire, habitat and other economic and social issues.

How the Sierra can be part of the solution: The unique tools within the Sierra for dealing with these issues

1) Carbon and Beyond - panel discussion regarding forests, biomass, carbon sequestration, potential markets, and forest management practices.

2) Community Adaptation - panel discussion on federal land management, development/building, transportation/air quality.

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) is a state agency within the Resources Agency founded in 2004 to provide strategic direction for the environmental, economic and social well-being of the Sierra Nevada and its communities.

Read the speaker bios at http://sierranevadaconservancy.ca.gov/docs/speakerbios.pdf

Related article:

Sierra Nevada Conservancy Approves First Round of Grants


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