The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly due in large part to significantly increased emissions of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other so-called “greenhouse gases” that trap solar radiation. Overall warming of the Earth is causing significant disruptions in planetary weather patterns. In the Northeastern United States, the manifestations of climate instability are likely to include more frequent and severe ice storms, tornadoes, droughts, fires, floods and other “extreme” weather events.
We don’t know how exactly climate change will affect forests and wildlife in the Northeast. We do know things will be different—probably very different—especially if significant steps are not taken soon to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Climate scientists project that the best-case scenario is to retain a forest ecosystem that continues to be shaped by cold winters, similar to what we see today in Pennsylvania rather than New England. The more likely prospect is for our forest ecosystems to become like what we see today in the Carolinas.
Climatic change will continue to happen on a broad scale with profound results for wild Nature and humans. Mitigation and adaptation are the key principles for action. We need to mitigate—make less bad—the severity of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And, we must adapt—adjust to the inevitable new conditions caused by climate change.
The Northeast Wilderness Trust, in partnership with other organizations, is embarking on ambitious efforts to help our region both mitigate and adapt to climate change for the benefit of wild Nature and humans.