Oral Statement By
DR. JOHN T. EVERETT
WILDLIFE AND OCEANS IN A CHANGING CLIMATE
COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES, WILDLIFE AND OCEANS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
April 17, 2007
Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me.
My written statement presents the results of the work I led for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from 1988 to 2000. This is still the most thorough, comprehensive, and broadly reviewed work on the oceans and fisheries subjects that has been published. I led IPCC work on five impact analyses: Fisheries (Convening Lead Author), Polar Regions (Co-Chair), Oceans (Lead Author), and Oceans and Coastal Zones (Co-Chair/2 reports).
In 1996 I received the NOAA Administrator’s Award for “accomplishments in assessing the impacts of climate change on global oceans and fisheries.”
Since leaving NOAA, I have been an IPCC reviewer and have talked to many individuals and groups and have maintained these subjects on the UN Atlas of the Oceans (http://www.OceansAtlas.org), where I am the Chief Editor and Project Manager.
Professionally, I am also President of Ocean Associates, Inc. (http://www.OceanAssoc.com), an oceans and fisheries consulting business, and two web-based businesses: http://www.OceansArt.us sells and shares ocean-related photos, while http://www.TechnologySite.org provides information and photos about inventions. Lastly, I have a website where I try to keep track of all the latest information about the soldiers in the climate change wars: http://www.ClimateChangeFacts.info.
Madam Chairwoman, It is time for a reality check.
The oceans and coastal zones have been far warmer and colder than is projected in the present scenarios of climate change. Over millennia, marine life have endured and responded to CO2 levels well beyond anything projected, and temperature changes that put coral reefs and tropical plants closer to the poles or had much of our land covered by ice more than a mile thick. The memory of these events is built into the genetic plasticity of the species on this planet. Biological impacts will be determined by this plasticity and the resiliency of organisms to find suitable habitats. In the oceans, major climate warming and cooling is a fact of life, whether it is over a few years as in an El Niño or over decades as in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or the North Atlantic Oscillation. Currents, temperatures, salinity, and biology changes rapidly to the new state in months or a couple years. These changes far exceed those expected with global warming and occur much faster. The one degree F. rise since about 1860, indeed since the year 1000, has brought the global average temperature from 56.5 to 57.5 degrees. This is at the level of noise in this rapidly changing system.
Sea level has been rising since the last glaciation lost its grip, and temperatures rose by 10-20 degrees, a mere 10,000 years ago. It is only some few thousand years since Georges Bank was part of the mainland. It is now 60 miles offshore of Provincetown. Its trees and the shells of its oysters that flourished on its shores still come up in dredges and trawls in now deep water, with the oysters looking like they were shucked yesterday. In the face of all these natural changes, and those we are here to consider, some species flourish while others diminish. These considerations were well understood in all the IPCC groups in which I participated.
I have some concerns about some few species near the margins of their suitable habitat range, such as polar bears. But I would much rather have the present warm climate, and even further warming, than the next ice age that will bring temperatures much colder than even today.
The NOAA PaleoClimate Program shows us that when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, the earth was much warmer, the CO2 levels were 2 to 4 times higher, and coral reefs were much more expansive. The earth was so productive then that we are still using the oil, coal, and gas it generated.
More of the warming, if it comes, will be during winters and at night and toward the poles. For most life in the oceans, warming means faster growth, reduced energy requirements to stay warm, lower winter mortalities, and wider ranges of distribution.
Warming is not a big deal and is not a bad thing.
No one knows whether the Earth is going to keep warming, or since reaching a peak in 1998, we are at the start of a cooling cycle that will last several decades or more. Whichever it is, our actions should be prudent. Our fishing and maritime industries compete in a world market and are vulnerable to government actions to reduce CO2 emissions. We already import most of our seafood and our competitors do not need further advantages. Our ocean research should focus on things we need to know to wisely manage our resources, industries, and coastal areas, no matter which way the wind blows in the years to come.
I would be pleased to answer questions.
This page updated or reviewed in April 2010