Terra in Print: Winter 2012

Click to download the PDF

Click to download the PDF

Climate Roulette

I’m lousy at poker, but that doesn’t keep me from participating in the worldwide gamble we call climate change. It’s a game of chance with deadly consequences. With each passing year, we up the ante by adding more greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere and tipping the scales in favor of a drastically different future.

Some of the cards are already on the table: receding glaciers, rising sea levels, rampant forest pests, eroding coastlines, intense storms and spreading drought. By themselves, such trends are not the definitive signature of a changing climate. Taken together, however, they demonstrate that we are indeed living on a new planet, as author Bill McKibben argues. Here, the chances are diminishing that future generations will be able to grow enough food, keep people healthy, ensure public safety and enjoy our rich ecological heritage.

This issue of Terra shows what some Oregon scientists, foresters, farmers, public health officials and planners are doing to prepare. They face a moving target, because as they work, knowledge continues to evolve. Two recent examples from OSU suggest the scale of the challenge. A 2011 report in the journal Science by OSU professor Andreas Schmittner and colleagues concluded that the most drastic climate scenario posed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is less likely than had previously been judged. Contrary to some criticism, they did not rule out major consequences from small changes in climate.

Earlier, Alan Mix, one of Schmittner’s colleagues on the Science paper, co-authored a report in Nature Geoscience that throws cold water on a hypothesis involving the source of atmospheric carbon that ballooned after the last Ice Age. The evidence from a deep-ocean site about 70 miles off southwest Oregon was conclusive: The carbon came from some place other than the northeast Pacific, which scientists had considered the most likely location. The findings, said Mix, left them puzzled.

These might seem like arcane footnotes to arguments among specialists, but on them and other details rest our understanding of how the planet works. Much of that knowledge is in hand, but while scientists have reached wide agreement about the outlines of a changing climate, the picture is still coming into focus.

What do current trends mean for the rest of us? Here’s a view from writers and scientists assembled last fall by OSU’s Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word. In the Blue River Declaration, they wrote: “A truly adaptive civilization will align its ethics with the ways of the Earth. A civilization that ignores the deep constraints of its world will find itself in exactly the situation we face now, on the threshold of making the planet inhospitable to humankind and other species.”

If you like to gamble, you might think that nature is bluffing or that we’ve got the rules all wrong and we can go on changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans. With every passing year, it appears that nature is serious. We might not have every rule nailed down yet, but this is a game in which the losers are likely to be our children.

— Nick Houtman
Editor

Climate roulette

Climate roulette

Healthy Planet, Terra Blog, Winter 2012

If you like to gamble, you might think that nature is bluffing. With each passing year, it appears she is not.


Taking stock of wave energy

Taking stock of wave energy

Healthy Economy, Healthy Planet, Innovation, Multimedia, New Terrain, Winter 2012

These are the formative years of a West Coast wave energy industry, and scientists are working with businesses, communities and policymakers to gather environmental data, test new technologies and consider the options. Their work is coordinated through the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC), a partnership between Oregon State University and the University of […]


Quartet for the Earth

Quartet for the Earth

Healthy Planet, Multimedia, Stewardship, Student Research, Winter 2012

A mountaineer, a world traveler, an athlete and a Chinese scholar pursue answers to climate change questions.


Reality check on climate

Reality check on climate

Healthy Planet, Terra Blog, Winter 2012

Climate science is moving from “what if” to “when,” “how,” and “with what practical consequences.”


Green Evolution

Green Evolution

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

East Africa’s farms feed millions, but production is likely to fall if temperatures rise and droughts become more common.


River of change

River of change

Healthy Planet, Perspectives, Stewardship, Terra Blog, Winter 2012

Although population growth and development will add stress to the Willamette River, environmental restoration projects are already under way.


Learning to think like a planet

Learning to think like a planet

Healthy Planet, Inquiry, Stewardship, Terra Blog, Winter 2012

In a rapidly changing environment that will challenge human relationships, how can we maintain a respectful and ethical culture?


State of Change

State of Change

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

To learn how Oregon is coping with climate change, Terra magazine’s Lee Sherman and OSU Extension photographer Lynn Ketchum traveled across the state talking to stakeholders in seven sectors identified in the Oregon Climate Assessment Report. See how people from Ashland and Florence to Bend, Portland, Pendleton and Salem are using research to meet needs in public health, the environment and the economy.


State of Change: Building Our Shells

State of Change: Building Our Shells

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

“The attitudes of Oregonians toward climate change are somewhat unknown, but small-scale surveys indicate that many residents of our state would consider it a problem worth attention by policymakers.”
– Oregon Climate Assessment Report


State of Change: A Shuffling of Species

State of Change: A Shuffling of Species

Earth, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

“Resilient ecosystems on land and in the sea provide ‘stepping stones’ where species can find refuge as they shift their geographic distributions due to climate change. … Management and natural-resource policies that protect intact ecosystems are a tool for adaptation.”
– Oregon Climate Assessment Report


State of Change: A Capacity for Health

State of Change: A Capacity for Health

Healthy People, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Vitality, Winter 2012

“The best means of fending off any changes for the worse due to climate change are similar to those already in place: ensuring that changes in disease patterns can be detected, investigating as needed, and mounting an appropriate public health response as soon as possible.”
–Oregon Climate Assessment Report


State of Change: Lifeblood of a Region

State of Change: Lifeblood of a Region

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

“Understanding the complex interactions among climate systems, terrestrial systems, and human systems is essential to predicting future changes in water resources and implementing sustainable water resource management in Oregon.”
–Oregon Climate Assessment Report


State of Change: Against the Grain

State of Change: Against the Grain

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

“Typically, agriculture producers are an adaptable group; however, increased heat and water stress, changes in pest and disease pressures, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for many crop and livestock production systems.”
– Oregon Climate Assessment Report


State of Change: Nursery of the Sea

State of Change: Nursery of the Sea

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

“The changing climate will likely have significant impacts along the coast and estuarine shorelines of Oregon. Changes associated with global climate change include rising sea levels, storminess, rising water temperatures and ocean acidification.”
– Oregon Climate Assessment Report


State of Change: Seedlings for Evergreens

State of Change: Seedlings for Evergreens

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

“Adaptive management strategies may assist plants in adapting to future climate changes, but will be challenged by the long life-cycles of many Oregon tree species.”
– Oregon Climate Assessment Report


Communicating about climate change

Communicating about climate change

Earth, Healthy Planet, Inquiry, Stewardship, Terra Blog, Winter 2012

I remember when I felt that the climate change workshop would go well. After a period of planning and preparation, our Oregon Sea Grant team arrived in Port Orford not knowing how the diverse community group would respond to the issue of a changing local climate when we were all actually face to face. So, […]


Surf’s Up!

Surf’s Up!

Features, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

If you love big surf, go to Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast during a winter storm. As swells rise and break offshore, winds whip ocean spray high into the air, but the waves move inexorably toward the harbor (the “world’s smallest navigable harbor,” reads a road sign), channel through rocks and, with a resounding […]


Advocate for the planet

Advocate for the planet

Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2012

What we’ve come to understand in recent years is the scale of change and the pace of change that we’re now kicking off. We’re not going to be able to adapt past a certain point.


Mapmaker for the climate

Mapmaker for the climate

Earth, Healthy Planet, Innovation, Student Research, Terra Blog, Winter 2012

If you love 3-D graphics, the daily TV weather maps just keep getting better. With the sweep of an arm, an announcer can set winds and weather systems in motion like the master of ceremonies in a three-ring circus. We can sit back and watch clouds, rain and snow swirl over landscapes from local to […]