Climate change poses a huge threat to the West. The current mountain pine beetle epidemic with over 50 million acres of dying trees in western North America has created a powerful “teachable moment” across the region.
A primary goal of the Forests At Risk symposium was to reframe the nation’s climate change dialogue by making the issue both personal and real to many who may not appreciate its connection to the immediate world around them. While some may have difficulty relating to rising sea levels, falling water tables, imperiled polar bears and melting glaciers in far-off places, they are still shocked by the sight of vast dying forests around their homes. The Forests At Risk symposium explored the statement by Andy Jacobson, a carbon cycle scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, that “this is the kind of feedback we're all very worried about in the carbon cycle ... a warming planet leading to, in this case, an insect outbreak that increases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which can increase warming.”
The overwhelming scientific consensus holds that climate change is one of the most serious threats facing humankind today. We have a soberingly short time in which to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases if we are to preserve our quality of life and environment. In addition to the global urgency, the American West is deeply dependent on the health of its forests, mountains and streams for both its quality of life and its economy. Put simply, if global warming shortens our winters, diminishes our recreation, and unleashes wildfires, diseases and insect epidemics that devastate our forests, the regional damage would be incalculable.
NOW is the perfect time to learn more in this ebook. The Forests At Risk symposium represented the first substantial public forum focused directly on the connection between climate change and forest health in the American West. In the wake of millions of acres of pine beetle devastation across our continent, this is the ideal moment to highlight the climate change connection and focus on the question of what happens when our forests transform from carbon sinks into carbon sources.