In May, the White House released the National Climate Assessment Report - the most comprehensive analysis ever done on the effects of climate change. The report details the many ways climate change is already affecting our nation as well as its possible future effects, including additional extreme weather and sea level rise.
We have begun to experience firsthand the impacts of climate change in New York state's Adirondack Park, the largest state park in the contiguous United States. Ice forms later each winter on lakes and ponds, and we've seen an increase in the number of extreme weather events: Heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and Tropical Storm Irene caused millions of dollars in damage.
Considering the wide range of risks that accompany climate change, it is imperative that colleges and universities help their campuses and surrounding communities adapt to these changes. The need for this type of support has never been more pressing.
With that, we are pleased to announce that as of May 2014, Paul Smith's College became a founding signatory of the Alliance for Resilient Campuses. As founding members of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents' Climate commitment since 2007, we have long understood the important role colleges and universities play in mitigating climate change. But we also understand that we must respond to the inevitable disruptive changes that are coming.
The Alliance for Resilient Campuses is partnering with the Resilient Communities for America - communities that pledge to create more resilient cities, towns and counties to overcome our nation's extreme weather, energy and economic challenges. Both groups have pledged to support regional nodes of cooperation between community organizations, municipal governments and regional educational institutions.
As part of that agreement, Paul Smith's College has committed to helping communities do the following:
-Assess vulnerability and risk.
-Develop adaptation and resilience plans and goals.
-Evaluate progress and success.
Currently, only four New York communities have signed on to the Resilient Communities for America, for a total of 170 nationwide. None of these are in the North Country, however. Since the Adirondack North Country will not escape the impacts of climate change, it is critical that area communities acknowledge the risks and take action to develop a plan.
As our mission statement points out, we are committed to promoting economic, social and environmental sustainability. Recent research at the Adirondack Watershed Institute of Paul Smith's College has been focused on ecosystem responses to environmental change. Their invasive species and water quality monitoring programs provide our region with invaluable data to inform resource management and adaptation strategies.
And that's not all: Our own Professor Curt Stager's research on climate change, along with his book "Deep Future," has focused on the possible long-term effects of climate change. And just this spring, Paul Smith's College initiated the Adirondack Center for Working Landscapes, an essential part of building resilient communities through diversifying land use, forest and agricultural products and management strategies. We also launched the North Country Sustainability Speaker Series, featuring several renewable energy speakers who provided information on small-scale hydro, biomass and solar development in the North Country. The sustainability office in also currently in the process of updating our own Climate Action Plan, an essential document as we move forward with our carbon neutrality goal.
Communities need a venue for addressing climate change as they become apparent, and Paul Smith's College is in a unique position to help with those issues. We're offering our services and pledging to support those communities that wish to develop these critical resiliency plans. We encourage Adirondack communities to join the alliance. For those that do, we'll contribute our scientific expertise, serving as a convening entity for interested partners and working to help the public embrace this challenge. We look forward to working with our North Country neighbors to address this critical need.
-Curt Stager: www.curtstager.com/
-Campus Sustainability Office: www.paulsmiths.edu/about/green
-Alliance for Resilient Campuses : secondnature.org/programs/resilience/alliance
-President's Climate Assessment Report: www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/05/06/what-climate-change-means-regions-across-america