Turning up the heat on climate change | TheUnion.com

Turning up the heat on climate change

Laura Brown

Dying trees, decreased snow pack and their economic consequences for Sierra Nevada communities will be discussed at two workshops on Wednesday.

Two organizations will host separate presentations in Nevada City to address climate change in the region.

“The focus is how to mitigate and reduce future impacts,” said Kerri Timmer of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. “We really want to spark dialogue.”

Government and business leaders from around the globe have begun to respond to concerns that climate change could threaten people economically.

This week, representatives from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which handles one of the country’s largest pension-fund investment programs, called for various world diplomats to take swift and decisive action during a United Nations climate change conference.

In the Sierra Nevada, where many small towns depend on snow-based recreation, climate change could be devastating, activists warn.

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The Sierra Nevada Conservancy – a state-financed organization created by the Legislature in 2004 – will host an all-day “Symposium on Climate Change” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City. Registration for the event has reached capacity.

For those unable to attend the symposium, the Yuba Watershed Institute will present a discussion of how the changing climate is affecting the Yuba watershed Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Hall at 212 Spring St., in downtown Nevada City.

Ecologist Dr. Patrick Gonzalez, of the Nature Conservancy, will discuss results of the field research he has been conducting in the North Fork Yuba River watershed with the Tahoe National Forest. Gonzalez has been studying the effects of climate change on trees and the ability of old growth forests to reduce global warming naturally through carbon sequestration.

If rain replaces snowfall in the mountains, reservoirs would drain earlier than water agencies are accustomed to. Melting snow from the Sierra Nevada supplies 65 percent of the state’s water needs, Timmer said.

“It’s going to be critical what happens here,” Timmer added.

Drier conditions already have begun killing trees in the Sierra, a U.S. Geological Survey found in a study released in August. The tree death rate has been rising over the past two decades and poses a higher risk of wildfire in Sierra Nevada forests.

“Climate is going to affect systems as it hasn’t in the past,” said Kim Taylor, a board member of the Yuba Watershed Institute.

While reversing the effects of climate change would take 150 years if all carbon emissions were stopped today, people can help slow down the process by lowering their energy consumption, Taylor said.

Some skeptics argue climate change is a hoax, but to take no action would be a big gamble, Taylor said.

“If they’re wrong, what have we lost?” Taylor added.

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To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@the union.com or call 477-4231.

KNOW & GO

What: The Yuba Water

Where: Odd Fel-

lows Hall, 212 Spring St., downtown Nevada Cityshed Institute presents: “Impacts of Climate Change on the Yuba Water-

shed”

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Who: Patrick Gonzalez, climate change scientist with the Nature Conservancy

Admission: $5 for non-members, $3 for members

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