The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 26th

UNC researcher explores the real-world effects of climate change

This is a photo of Mike Bryant preparing to be interviewed for a Climate Stories NC video
Buy Photos This is a photo of Mike Bryant preparing to be interviewed for a Climate Stories NC video

To David Salvesen, director of the Sustainable Triangle Field Site at the UNC Institute for the Environment, showing the public the threat presented by climate change takes more than explaining the science behind it. It takes real people talking about the real impact they’ve already experienced.

“So I had this idea that if people who aren’t scientists, who are just ordinary people, talked about the changes they’ve seen in the climate, how it’s affected them, maybe that would be a more effective way of helping inform people about climate change,” Salvesen said. “So I sought people who spent a lot of time outdoors and whose livelihood is affected by the climate.”

Salvesen developed the Climate Stories NC video project with this mindset over two years ago. Backed by the Institute for the Environment, he and various contributors from the University and the Triangle have produced 17 videos documenting unique perspectives on the way climate change has altered our world.

From meteorologists to beekeepers to hunters, each video explores individuals in important societal roles and the ways they have seen climate change create challenges in their work. Along with getting to know people he may never have otherwise met, Salvesen said this project motivated him to further his own environmental efforts.

“To see that there are quite a few people all over the state that are saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve seen climate change and we need to do something about it,’ that helps motivate me to continue my work, and I’m hoping it motivates others in a similar fashion,” said Salvesen.

One Climate Stories NC video highlights Mike Bryant, a regional representative for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Bryant works to protect and promote the conservation of wildlife refuges in the Carolinas. He said one of the biggest effects stemming from climate change in this area is a rise in sea levels, which has caused a loss of habitat for animals and plants.

“As the seas rise, you lose shoreline,” Bryant said. “If you’re losing shoreline, you’re losing terrestrial habitat. And you have terrestrial animals, animals that depend on terrestrial ecosystems. Well, when that land is lost, they don’t have as much habitat.”

Bryant also noted that these rising sea levels result in flooding of salt water further inland. When  salt water begins to influence forests that have mostly been exposed to fresh water in the past, those forests deteriorate and die out. In turn, the wildlife that live in these forests lose the vegetation necessary for food and nesting areas.

Willy Phillips, fisher and owner of Full Circle Crab Company, features in another video. He said rising water temperatures have taken a toll on his industry by reducing the ability of many fish to breed and survive during summer months, which leads to many fish migrating farther north in the winter. Phillips said the resulting loss in supply and markets for fisherman in his area has created a competitive disadvantage.

“The costs are gonna be emotionally devastating for people that are impacted when they’re no longer able to make a livelihood as they used to with either farming, forestry or fishing,” Phillips said.


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