2008 Conservators Annual Dinner Meeting

Jeffrey Dukes: Heat Wave Coming

The atmosphere is heating up, we all know. The question is how much. Professor Jeffrey Dukes of UMass Boston, speaking at the Newton Conservators’ annual meeting on May 28, discussed global temperature trends, 50- and 100-year forecasts, the causes of global warming, some potential cures, and the likely damages to New England along the way. He answered the question: how fast is global warming happening? Faster, he says, than was forecast in even the worst-case projections.

Professor Dukes, the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant for his current experimental field work in Waltham, cited statistics from the Union of Concerned Scientists and others. The most startling of these was the track record of the projections themselves. Scientists make best- and worst-case scenarios for temperature trends, given the amounts of heat-trapping gases that are expected to be emitted. The best-case scenario shows a gradual warming. The worst-case scenario shows a steeply climbing temperature trend. And in each of the two most recent years for which data are available, actual temperatures have exceeded the temperatures predicted in even the worst-case scenarios.

Carbon dioxide is the most important of the heat-trapping, or greenhouse, gases. Methane is emitted from cattle, and nitrous oxide is produced in wet environments such as rice paddies and cattle waste lagoons. Human activity, including farming and the burning of fossil fuels, has resulted in an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere of roughly 50% in the past 10,000 years. The amount of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere annually is relatively small in comparison to emissions from natural sources. But it is enough to tip the scales in favor of greatly increased warming.

Warming can be expected to be greatest at the poles and least near the equator, with an average annual temperature increase of 7 degrees at the poles. Winters will become wetter in the northern hemisphere. New England can expect an increase in precipitation of 10% to 20% in 50 to 100 years. Egypt, already dry, will become dryer. Along with the increased rain will come greater extremes, with rain falling in larger storms, separated by longer periods of drought.

Massachusetts can expect an average annual temperature increase of 5 to 11 degrees by 2100. The climate of Massachusetts will become more like today’s climate in Maryland or Georgia. Our winters will see much less snow cover. Growing seasons will be a month or more longer. Species that today are prevented from surviving in New England because of extreme cold temperatures will enter the region. The woolly adelgid, kept in check throughout much of New England because of its inability to survive deep freezes, will no longer be frozen out, and hemlocks, the adelgid’s favorite food, are likely to die off. The same goes for sugar maples. The bright colors of fall will become dull.

Professor Dukes has established the Boston Area Climate Experiment at a field station in Waltham. There, he and a group of volunteers subject small patches of ground to the climate conditions that are projected for New England’s near future. The station could use additional volunteers.

Can we stop climate change? Professor Dukes’ answer is “yes.” But to do so takes will. His advice: eat less meat. And elect leaders who will take on the challenge, rather than put it off to another day.

– Eric Reenstierna

President’s Report

Awards Presented

Environmentalists of the Year:
Ted Kuklinski, Harvey Epstein, & Bill Shaevel

Open Space Preservation & Habitat for Humanity Buildings

The text of President Hagar’s award at the annual meeting follows:

“Ted Kuklinski, Harvey Epstein, and Bill Shaevel are awarded our 2008 Environmentalist of the Year award for their activities with three major happenings in the City: (1) preservation of additional open space at Dolan Pond, (2) preservation of a historical house, and (3) the first Habitat for Humanity buildings in Newton. It was a cooperative effort including input from several public and private sources in cooperation with the Newton Conservators. Each of you played a major role in this happening: Ted Kuklinski for your extraordinary interest in the environment and your ability to make things happen in Newton; Harvey Epstein for your work as Special Projects Coordinator for the Newton Housing Authority, where you helped coordinate the buildings; and Bill Shaevel, for your superb legal advice and assistance with numerous tasks for the Conservators, including the recent transfer of property at 76 Webster Park and the Habitat for Humanity. None of this could have been accomplished without all of your skillful and tireless efforts.

“We remember the groundbreaking ceremonies that had all of the participants beginning the process for the building of the Habitat duplex. It was a central event in Newton that was attended by nearly one hundred residents and supporters. The sound of a Scarlet Tanager from Ted’s tape recorder enlivened the morning activity. It was a wonderful day for the Newton community as it was the first Habitat for Humanity building in Newton.”

This was the 27th Environmentalist of the Year Award presented by the Newton Conservators to an individual or group who has made a distinguished environmental contribution to our community.

Charles Johnson Maynard Award:
Eddy Street /Cheesecake Brook CDBG Citizen Group: Chair Charles Wagner

The Charles Johnson Maynard Award is given each year to recognize efforts to improve biodiversity, habitat reclamation, and natural resource protection.

Charles Wagner and the Cheesecake Brook/Eddy Street Project Committee were selected to receive the Charles Johnson Maynard Award for their efforts to improve and preserve Cheesecake Brook. The Board of Directors selected this project for the Charles Johnson Maynard Award for many special reasons. The major reason was the environmental interest of the group, and their energy and success in protecting this stream. Charles Maynard, a 19th century resident of Newton, was an avid birder and naturalist. He lived near Cheesecake Brook on property now occupied in part by the Fessenden School. Maynard was a popular lecturer on nature and for 40 years taught classes in Newton on birding. The banks of Cheesecake Brook would have been well-known to Maynard, and we believe he would have heartily approved of the project which you and your committee have shepherded through the long CDBG process.

Directors’ Awards: Marc Welch & Anne Pearson

Marc Welch was selected for his work on numerous levels that has kept Newton as green as possible with a careful selection of trees and overall maintenance of flora in general. You helped convert Newton’s Forestry Department to a GIS based tree management system with cooperative overlap with the City’s GIS efforts. Throughout all these activities, Marc worked long days and even came in on weekends to run pruning sessions, or deal with pressing tree issues. Marc has a natural talent for converting complainers into allies and a talent for stretching ever-diminishing budget dollars. He has helped us with checking the status of vegetation on the city-owned stretch of land adjacent to our Dexter Road property, and also helped us by removing damaged trees in that area. The Conservator members find you to be a great pleasure to work with and the City is very lucky to have you in your current position.

Anne Pearson was selected for a Directors’ Award for her interest in the environment, her knowledge of environmental activities, her work on the Grants Committee, and her tireless efforts in maintaining our membership lists. Anne has been an essential member of the Newton Conservators’ Board of Directors for a long time. Her knowledge of the environmental area and computer networks helped make the conservators a major environmental group in Massachusetts. Your fellow Conservators find you to be a great pleasure to work with and we wish you well in all your future endeavors- hoping that you will still participate in some of our events with your grandchildren.