Climate Change and Fishing
Warmer Waters Take a Bite out of One of America’s Favorite Pastimes
Worried about climate change? Time to take a vacation? Get your mind off the troubles of the world for a while? Maybe a nice fly-fishing trip would help you relax. Drop a line. Catch a fish? Good luck on that one. Warmer water temperatures and a shifting seasonal calendar are causing a crisis in the sport fishing industry.
Fish tend to be temperature specific. While some fish can tolerate warmer water temperatures, fish like trout, walleye and salmon need cooler water in order to survive. The warming water associated with climate change, along with the changes in river flow patterns have resulted in a sharp decline in certain fish populations. It’s harder to catch a fish, because there aren’t as many.
Scientists from the National Wildlife Federation point out as the water warms, the distribution of freshwater species will shift northward. There will be less areas in which to fish and you’ll have to drive a lot farther to find them. One of the reasons why the waters of rivers and lakes are warming is from a phenomenon known as a “calendar shift.” Spring is arriving earlier. Summer is lasting longer. These warmer temperatures are changing habitats. And it’s making the water in rivers and lakes warmer and more saline. A loss of habitat equals a loss of fish.
Trout and salmon are especially vulnerable to climate change. As the flow rate of rivers change, so does the ability of these fish to spawn. In addition, climate change disrupts the life cycle of aquatic insects. The loss of these insects affects the entire food chain. No insects. No fish. As rivers warm, invasive species more tolerant to higher temperatures move in and use up the remaining resources, effectively pushing out the trout.
The effects of climate change on sport fishing are being felt across the U.S. In Montana, the snow is melting earlier each year. The springs and summers are hotter. Thus, not enough cool water is flowing into streams. This has resulted in a sharp decline in the number of trout and bass. The combination of droughts and low-stream flows have caused officials to close many streams off to fishing. The ecosystems have become too fragile to endure any added stress. In the Appalachian region, the eastern brook trout is in peril. An 8% temperature increase will eliminate 50% of the brook trout’s habitat. Area anglers will have to drive farther to fish. The drive from cities in the Appalachian region to area trout streams varies from 4 to 87 miles. As climate change destroys habitats, scientists predict that the distance to these trout streams will increase by 164 miles.
In New Mexico, trout are especially sensitive to temperature and habitat changes. Wildfires, caused by climate change, are destroying the area vegetation. As a result of this loss of plant life, run-off is dumping sediment into streams and causing the water to become even warmer. Cutthroat and brook trout can’t tolerate the warmer water temperatures. By 2080, Jack Williams, a scientist at Trout Unlimited, predicts there will be a 77% decline in brook trout. And it isn’t just cold-water fish that are being affected by climate change. Warmer lake waters across the United States are causing bacterial disease. This results in massive native fish kills, allowing invasive species to move in. Increased water temperatures can also contribute to algae bloom. These toxic algae blooms choke off the oxygen in a lake, causing large-scale fish die-offs.
The National Wildlife Federation projects that climate change will cause the angling industry to lose 6.4 billion dollars per year by the end of the century. But these losses are nothing in comparison to the loss of habitat and species. If climate change is not curtailed, 50% of the habitat suitable for cold-water fish like trout will be gone in our children’s lifetimes. Fishing isn’t just about throwing in a line; it’s part of our social fabric. Fishing is about sitting down in a comfortable chair, listening to the sounds of the river and enjoying time spent with family. It’s about making memories with our children and grandchildren. It’s time to “reel in” climate change.
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Allergies? Itchy eyes? Scratchy throat? Runny nose? Think it’s getting worse every year? You’re right. Climate change is making us sick. As our climate changes, pollen and mold spores are increasing by an alarming rate each year. By 2020, scientists expect pollen levels to rise by 30%. These increased pollen levels make allergies and asthma worse. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more plants grow. Increased plant growth means more pollen.
It isn’t just the amount of pollen that’s causing concern among scientists, it’s the length of the pollen season. Since 1995, our pollen season has increased by 16 days. Plants are starting their pollination season earlier and it lasts longer. So not only are we subjected to more pollen, we’re also having to endure it for longer periods of time. Some plants, like ragweed, thrive with increased carbon dioxide levels. If you’re a ragweed allergy sufferer, you’re not imagining a worsening of your symptoms. Today’s ragweed plants are likely to produce twice as much pollen as those of 100 years ago.
Mold levels are also on the rise in areas hit by unusual rainfall. As climate change causes an increase in the amount and intensity of precipitation in certain areas, mold spores have wreaked havoc on allergy sufferers. Areas hit by drought have been plagued by airborne dust particles, sometimes fine enough to cause respiratory distress. Changing weather patterns, caused by increased temperatures have resulted in more wind. The wind makes the dispersal of the pollen, dust and mold even worse. As climate change worsens, so will its effects on our health.
Health professionals are especially concerned about climate change and asthma. Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways that affects the bronchial tubes in the lungs. When pollen and other particulates inflame the bronchioles, the tubes swell and make breathing difficult. Asthma affects one in every 12 people. Unfortunately, due to increased pollen, dust, mold and ozone, there has been a 17% rise in asthma diagnoses since 2001. Pollen is a trigger for asthma. Increased pollen levels caused by climate change can result in a medical emergency for an asthmatic.
As serious as the effects of climate change on America’s air quality are, there are some areas of the world in which climate change has caused the air quality to become toxic. Residents of Beijing are subjected to a “toxic haze.” Because of the effects of this toxic haze, China’s government joined the Paris Climate Agreement and has pushed for changes in air quality. Beijing’s toxic haze consists of ozone, fine particles and dust. The temperature increases from pollution have caused more wind. This wind causes the airborne particles to become health hazards. These (PM 2.5) dust particles can penetrate the blood stream. In some areas of the world, air pollution from climate change can be deadly.
Although, the Trump administration has pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, air pollution and climate change aren’t going to magically disappear. As air pollution due to climate change worsens, so will the health of our citizens. Allergies and asthma cost the U.S. nearly $33 billion dollars annually in direct health costs and lost productivity. Until the United States government re-enters the Paris Agreement, let us hope individual states continue to tackle climate change. Our health depends upon it.
It was dawn when the tornado hit my street. We had no warning sirens. The rain-wrapped tornado was missed by forecasters and slammed into the apartment complex at the end of the road. The apartment was destroyed, but thankfully, there were no deaths. As a retired science teacher, I have long-known that climate change increases the frequency and intensity of storms, but there’s nothing like a tornado on your block to drive that point home.
Tornadoes aren’t new to Texas. When I lived in West Texas and someone mentioned that a tornado had hit the area, the first comment was usually, “Well, was it a big one or a little one?” Tornadoes happen-especially in Texas. But climate change is affecting how they happen, when they happen and how often they happen. Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado is an expert in how climate change affects the severity of weather. In an interview with Scientific American, Trenberth explained how climate change can affect the intensity and frequency of supercell storms.
Climate change causes low-level air to become more unstable. Warmer and moister air increases the creation of convection and thunderstorms. The heating of the atmosphere from climate change starts a dangerous chain of events. The first link of that chain is buoyancy. Buoyancy is the upward force of air. The warmer the air, the more buoyant it becomes. The more buoyant the air, the greater the likelihood of supercell storms or tornadoes. According to Trenberth, the effects are “nonlinear.” Just a 5% to 10% increase in air instability (buoyancy) from climate change can cause a 33% increase in storm damage. Some climate change skeptics might point out that the increase in air instability is just 5%. Climate scientists point out that the effect is 33% more damage from severe storms.
Texans can no longer view climate change as some type of distant global problem. Climate change hits home every day. As temperatures continue to rise, our air quality becomes poor. Heat-related deaths increase. Storm-related losses cause our insurance rates to rise. Droughts affect the prices that we pay for meat and produce. The leaders of 194 countries have agreed that climate change is a global crisis. But it’s also a home town crisis. It’s all around us. It’s in your own backyard. It’s at the end of your street.