Report: Olympic Peninsula's rain forest appears doomed

02/08/2002
King 5 News

The Associated Press

SEATTLE, WA The Olympic Peninsula's rain forest is likely doomed by global warming, a new report says.

The report was released by the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Toronto on Thursday as city government officials from around the country took part in an environmental workshop in Seattle.

It focused on 113 biologically rich parts of the world, including three in the Pacific Northwest: the Olympic Peninsula, the Washington Cascades and the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southern Oregon and Northern California.

As the globe warms, ecosystems will migrate north, scientists say. If plants and animals can't adapt to new conditions which could include higher temperatures and less water, for example or migrate fast enough to keep up with its old climate, they'll die.

But the Olympic Peninsula's rain forest has nowhere to migrate to.

"That's what makes it an even more potentially critical situation," wildlife fund spokeswoman Kathleen Sullivan said Friday.

The peninsula is likely to undergo a drastic change, she said, although scientists say it's difficult to determine how quickly that change will occur.

"Under a wide range of assumptions about future global warming and its effect on major vegetation types, species losses can be expected in most of the planet's globally significant eco-regions," the report concludes.

The authors used a fairly conservative prediction about the expected rate of global warming, basing it on the estimate that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will double in the next century.

Many scientists predict that the concentration will double within the next 70 years.

"It means we're probably in trouble," Sullivan said.

But, she said, people can improve the situation. The report urges governments to sign on to the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which calls on about 40 industrialized nations to cut to fixed levels the carbon dioxide emissions that are believed to cause global warming.

The Bush administration is urging a go-slow approach which would allow goals for emissions reductions to change depending on rates of economic growth. That would allow for greater emissions, primarily by the United States.

At the environmental conference Thursday, officials from other cities praised Seattle for vowing to cut its emissions of greenhouse gasses by one-fifth over the next eight years. Seattle City Light aims to make its operations completely climate-friendly by next year.

"At the local level, we can take actions that are unthinkable at the state or national level," Mayor Greg Nickels told the ninth National Cities for Climate Protection Workshop. "Our utilities are not fundamentally a business, but a legacy."

No matter what happens, people can look forward to hundreds of years of global warming based on the greenhouse gases already put into the atmosphere, University of Washington climate scientist Phillip Mote told the conference.

"We've bought a one-way ticket to a new climate," Mote said.

Related stories: Kyoto: The Remedy by Henry Lamb

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