Climate Change

Greenhouse Gases

Wilderness is not—and should not be—a past and vanishing force in life. It is, as far as anyone can see into the future in our rapidly changing world, an abiding value. —George Marshall

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 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.  A report released by the UN in 2019 states that human actions now “threaten more species with extinction than ever before.”

Recent projections show that the best-case scenario for our region 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. Recent peer-reviewed science demonstrates that there is perhaps no better solution for combating climate change than setting aside wildlands.  From the global Half-Earth effort of E.O. Wilson to the regional work of Northeast Wilderness Trust – wild forests offer hope.  Why? A study completed in 2014 found that the largest and oldest trees, like those found in wilderness and rewilding areas, may sequester as much carbon in one year as growing an entire medium-sized tree. The path to averting complete climate chaos can be aided by increased protection of wildlands as laid out in a paper published in Science Advances in 2019.

Northeast Wilderness Trust, in partnership with other organizations, is embarking on an ambitious effort to combat climate change using a three-pronged approach: rewild, mitigate, and adapt.

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