Recap of our 2018 State of the Waters Conference
Elizabeth Burakowski, UNH
Our keynote speaker was Elizabeth Burakowski, an assistant research professor at the University of New Hampshire. UNH has been collecting significant data on how our local environment is already changing, and has been using that data to project how our local area will change in the coming years.
Port Media, Newburyport’s non-profit public access station, filmed the entire event and edited it down to three of the five presentations. At the top of this post you’ll find a link to Professor Burakowski’s presentation.
Professor Burakowski noted there are a variety of scenarios, each based on how humankind reacts globally to climate change in the coming years. Our local sea levels will rise from 1.5 to 2 feet by 2100, and our temperatures will increase 4.4 to 7.7 farenheit. New England’s snowy winters will disappear, and our climate will be similar to what Virginia’s climate is like today. The region will also experience more intense rainfall events — tropical downpours.
“This means a very warm climate,” she said. “This means temperate forests growing in Canada where we now have tundra.”
Currently, New England is already experience a significant change in its climate. UNH has been documenting key indicators at a test site in central New Hampshire, and has found a general depletion of the ice pack and a lengthening of the so-called “mud season.” This has significant impact on native species.
Professor Burakowski also presented several solutions that can be applied at the local level to mitigate climate change, such as promoting energy efficiency and renewables, conserving ecosystems, and transitioning to food sources that have lower carbon footprints.
Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday
Newburyport has one of the region’s leaders in tackling climate change and promoting conservation and sustainability. Mayor Holaday detailed the city’s efforts over the past 8 years to lower the city’s carbon footprint and prepare itself for rising sea levels.
She also gave an impassioned speech on what needs to be done to tackle some of the issues that plague the Merrimack River today — chief among them the frequent release of sewage into the river by municipal plants that serve Haverhill, greater Lawrence, greater Lowell, Nashua and Manchester NH.
Mayor Holaday recommended that Merrimack River data collection be vastly upgraded, the EPA revisit the consent orders that allow sewage plants to dump into the river, a coalition of Merrimack Valley committees be formed to work together on river-related issues, and cooperation between New Hampshire and Massachusetts be strengthened.