Partly sunny

PD Editorial: Redwoods and a giant challenge

  • Stephanie Holmes, left, Emmett Hanlon and Judy Holmes walk along a trail in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, in Guerneville, on Tuesday, August 13, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Like the thick fog that frequently shrouds the far North Coast, climate change stories can be awfully gloomy.

Let this week's news about thriving redwoods be a respite — a sunny afternoon before the inevitable return of cold reality.

These 1,000-year-old giants are growing faster than they ever have, according to research commissioned by the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. Why? It may be that coastal fog is dissipating because of rising temperatures, giving the huge trees greater access to nourishing sunlight.

"The fact that redwoods grow faster rather than slower as fog decreases, that surprised us," Bill Libby, a UC Berkeley forestry professor who participated in the research, told Staff Writer Matt Brown.

This unexpected growth spurt is promising because trees, like all plants, soak up carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases fueling global climate change.

But — yes, like the fog rolling back in, our respite is ending — trees alone won't save us from the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Another new report, this one issued by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, a branch of the state Environmental Protection Agency, offers a picture of changes already occurring.

The report reflects the work of scientists from UC, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other leading institutions.

Among their findings: sea level is rising, glaciers are shrinking, lakes are warming, so is the ocean. Temperatures, especially overnight lows, are higher. Snowmelt is producing less runoff, putting water supplies at risk. Wildfires are spreading, growing season is shorter, and plants and animals are migrating to higher elevations.

For far too long, fringe scientists and their enablers in the commentariat insisted that climate change is a hoax. But the evidence is irrefutable: Climate change is real, and it's here. To say otherwise is delusional.

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