Climate change will impact birds, too

The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high, trees were growing at the South Pole. A shocking line, but is it true A recent National Geographic article reports on these facts and more.

And what does it all mean? Well, unless something is done to reverse the course of greenhouse gas emissions, many birds of the northern hemisphere are marked for extinction, according to the National Audubon Society. And humans? More on that later.

There are facts that almost all climate scientists agree on: the planet is warming, and humans are primarily the cause. Atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane are the primary greenhouse gasses creating the rise in global average temperatures, and our use of fossil fuels increases that concentration. Generalized predictions are now fact — extreme weather is common worldwide, sea levels are rising, sea ice is disappearing from the arctic and glaciers are shrinking on mountaintops.

Carbon dioxide levels are akin to setting the thermostat — eventually the average earth temperature will get to that setting. And if trees return to Antarctica, the ocean will be over 200 feet deeper and Florida won’t exist.

There is vocal opposition from a small minority, but facts are not on their side. To whom should we listen? The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change utilized regiments of scientists to develop their latest report. Over 11,000 scientists from around the world and many disciplines urged action to forestall “untold human suffering” as a result of climate change. I would choose the scientist.

What can be done to avoid this crisis? Many favor putting a price on the emission of carbon dioxide. As a pollutant, reducing carbon dioxide this way seems fair and is a market-driven means of reducing pollution. What do experts say? In January of 2019 renowned economists published an op/ed in The Wall Street Journal making a five-point policy recommendation. Their policy is cost effective, revenue neutral, non-regulatory, with border adjustments and the return of carbon dividends to U.S. citizens. I think a current House Bill, HR 763, achieves all of these fine points, I just wish it would get more bipartisan attention. I’m no economist, so I defer to them.

So why are many still opposed to doing something? There could certainly be changes, and some people will be disadvantaged. Coal mining is already being displaced by natural gas, and alternative energy companies such as solar panel manufacturing and wind turbine installation offer good-paying jobs. Financial institutions see climate change as a negative impact, choosing to invest less on fossil fuels and far more on alternative energy sources.

There is a cost to every endeavor. There will be costs associated with controlling climate change, and by some estimates a full one percent of GDP. However, in 2018, 13 federal agencies issued a report stating that climate change is also a threat to Americans’ health and the country’s economic well-being. The report spelled out a litany of impacts. These include death and property damage due to increased severity of storms, lower crop yields due to flooding, increased fire intensity, seafood impacts due to warming oceans, deaths due to extreme heat, a drop in dairy production caused by heat stress, and more. Actuaries may put a value on a person’s life, but what if we are talking about your child?

I am convinced the costs of doing nothing to stem climate change are far more significant than taking decisive action. If we don’t act to save the birds, can we act to save the future for our grandchildren?


Dan Alters, of Bellefonte, has been active in Lycoming Audubon Society for many years and is a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He holds a BS in biology and a masters in Environmental Pollution Control.

BIRD LORE is produced by the Lycoming Audubon Society (serving Lycoming and Clinton Counties) and Seven Mountains Audubon (serving Union, Snyder, Northumberland and Columbia Counties). Information about these National Audubon Society chapters can be found at http://lycomingaudubon.blogspot.com and http://sevenmountainsaudubon.org


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