Global climate change topic of 350.org eventsPublished on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 12:12 am | Last updated on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 6:06 pm
FARMINGTON — Maine, along with the rest of the world, is due to get some big ecological changes in the future due to man and nature's influence on global warming, a professor told a gathering at the University of Maine at Farmington on Friday.
“There is still lots of uncertainty but we still have choices to make,” Drew Barton, UMF biology professor said during a presentation on the science of climate change.
The event, including a flash mob, was one of several 350.org events planned around the state and the world, Greg Kimber, an organizer and community member, said. Most events take place Saturday, May 5, Climate Impact Day: connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather.
The worldwide events are held to draw attention to the world's rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
A small group of community members gathered outside in the rain after Barton's presentation and lined up to hold orange circles representing the increasing level of carbon dioxide over time. Before the industrial revolution, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide were at 280 parts per million. The number 350 parts per million is the recommendation for a livable planet. Currently the number is 394 and continues to rise.
Barton said temperatures have risen over the last five decades.
“The 10 hottest years on record have occurred in the past 15 years,” he said.
Some glaciers are melting and the Arctic is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world.
While normal glacial cycles control the temperature of the earth, the invention of chlorofluorocarbons in 1930 have played a role in the thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer, Barton said.
Burning oil, coal and natural gas, along with deforestation of parts of the earth coupled with natural causes, have resulted in global warming.
“The more greenhouse gas, the more heat is trapped (in the earth's atmosphere),” he said.
Expected ecological changes include more severe weather, more fires, species moving toward the poles and earlier springs.
Maine has already seen changes from warming, he said. The number of days for plant growth has expanded since the 1950s and the Department of Agriculture has changed their “plant hardiness zones.”
Maine has warmer winter temperatures with ice-outs on lakes occurring earlier.
“Rangeley had the earliest ice-out on record this year,” Barton said.
Temperatures are projected to go up a lot over the next 100 years, particularly in northern Maine. More rainfall is expected and bigger storms.
“That's already begun to happen. Maine has more big storms than we used to have,” he said.
Changes in plant and animal life in Maine are also expected because of warming. In the future, the number of red spruce trees are expected to decline while more white oak and white pine are expected, Barton said. Also there should be less black-capped chickadees, loons and moose but more deer.
There will be changes. Maine will just be different, he said.
“What we shouldn't do is give up,” he added.
Reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can mean a lower growth of climate change.
For Barton, it's now a moral issue. Maine will change, parts of the United States will change but not as much as other, poorer countries.
It's the people of these poor countries who will suffer most because they don't have the resources to mitigate the problem, he said.
For more information about 350.org events, visit climatedots.org