Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Emerging Threat to the Bay: Climate Change

What does climate change have to do with Narragansett Bay? Everything!

Changing climate conditions are adversely affecting the health and resilience of Narragansett Bay now, and the pace of climate change is expected to accelerate in years to come. Looking ahead, it poses profound threats to natural habitats, native species and human use of our coastal waters. For example:
  • Higher temperatures and changing weather patterns may increase the frequency, severity and duration of harmful algal blooms, low oxygen levels, loss of native species and increased presence of non-native species.
  • Rising sea levels will degrade the health of coastal wetlands and cause accelerated rates of coastal erosion, resulting in habitat loss, beach erosion and an associated loss of public access along the shoreline.
  • Public and private infrastructure — roads, sewer systems, onsite wastewater treatment, electric utilities, port facilities, and real estate — will become increasingly vulnerable to coastal and riverine flooding and storm surges.
  • Changing climate conditions may undermine the important progress in the cleanup of the Bay in recent decades and cause loss of many of the commercial and recreational benefits of the Bay.
Rapid climate change is now an underlying condition that we must factor into our strategic efforts. Every aspect of our work, from education and habitat protection to public policy and government oversight, is impacted by climate change.

In our role as steward of Narragansett Bay, we recognize that our primary focus must be on both the immediate and long-term impacts of changing climate conditions on the natural systems and native species that exist in the Narragansett Bay region. As an organization our priorities are:
  • Strengthening the resilience of the Narragansett Bay ecosystem;
  • Promoting adaptation to changing climate conditions;
  • Enhancing public understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change;
  • Supporting public policies, investments, and initiatives that will lead to reductions in pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions.
When Save The Bay was founded in 1970, climate change was not widely understood, let alone a part of our strategy to protect and improve Narragansett Bay. Today, saving the Bay is more complex than ever before, because conditions are changing so rapidly and in such a profound way. As you will see in this edition of Tides, climate change has heightened the urgency of our mission.