CMC Speaker Series in Breckenridge presents ‘Deep Trouble: Ocean impacts of Climate Change’
If you go
What: “Deep Trouble: Ocean impacts of Climate Change,” presented by Chuck Dayton as part of the Colorado Mountain College Speaker Series
When: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday Dec. 19
Where: The Eileen and Paul Finkel Auditorium at CMC Breckenridge, 107 Denison Placer Road
More information: Visit http://www.cmcbreck.com
Chuck Dayton knows that Earth’s spectacular coral reefs are victims of climate change — and some of the most amazing reefs have already disappeared.
Dayton, a retired environmental lawyer, sailed across the central Pacific Ocean this summer, visiting islands we dream of as paradise, only to be hit hard with the realization that we are one of the last generations that will experience the Earth as we now know it.
Dayton will speak of his 3,000-mile voyage and his observations of the impacts of climate change on our ocean ecosystems as part of the Colorado Mountain College Speaker Series in Breckenridge on Thursday, Dec. 19.
A world away, close to home
The topic of climate change is an important one for residents of Summit County because what is happening to the ocean coral and to other oceanic life, particularly plankton, which produce half the oxygen on the planet and are the base of the ocean food chain, is a warning that the Earth is changing fast, Dayton said.
“The ocean is a metaphor for the planet,” he said. “People in Summit County will be interested in the conclusion of the report of the National Research Council, ‘Abrupt Climate Change, Anticipating Surprises,’ published this month, that links climate change and the infestation of the pine bark beetle that killed so many thousands of acres of pines.”
Climate change is not just about animals and trees, Dayton said. It’s about people.
“Credible world leaders and organizations are sounding the alarm,” he said.
From a love of nature
Dayton’s original interest in environmental law arose from his love of nature, particularly the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in northern Minnesota, where his family guided canoe trips for many years.
“My interests led to climate change, the mother of all environmental and social justice issues,” he said. “I have been lucky to be able to crew on more than a dozen long ocean voyages, so when I learned of a New England family that was crossing the Pacific and doing reef surveys on the way, it was a natural fit.”
We are one of the last generations that will get to see the coral reefs, Dayton said, because ocean temperatures are rising at the rate of 1 degree centigrade every 30 years.
“If the temperature goes up by 2 degrees centigrade for one week or 1 degree centigrade for two weeks, above max, the coral bleaches and dies,” he said.
Fifty percent of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia has already died, Dayton said.
“We sailed 800 miles to a remote and tiny atoll, Suwarrow Atoll, which we had expected to be pristine, with very healthy coral, but it was dying, either because of temperature or ocean acidification or some combination,” he said.
Dayton referenced a recent guest commentary he wrote for the Minneapolis StarTribune that describes the impact this voyage had upon him.
“We have known for a long time that the Earth is changing as the climate is disrupted by our fossil-fuel emissions,” he wrote. “But I had never so viscerally understood that we are seeing the end of an era in the Earth’s history, the end of conditions that have prevailed since the last ice age. This brief shining moment of our lifetime, and a little time thereafter, seems to be the last, best time on Earth for humans and many other species as we slide into a new and different ecological age.”
For anyone in love with and in awe of nature, there is grief in this realization, Dayton said.
“People who revere the Earth — and especially those working to build public support for measures that will reduce greenhouse gases — need ways of dealing with the anguish-producing news of worsening climate impacts and the absence of remedial action,” he said.
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