'We're Running Out of Time' 

Leading atmospheric scientist unveils latest numbers on climate change

Dr. Philip Mote is a rare combination: One of the nation's leading atmospheric scientists, he's also a superb public speaker--tempering often mind-blowing research on climate change with reasoned engagement.

When the Idaho Environmental Forum announced that Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, would be its guest at its Dec. 8 forum, the event was a quick sell-out. But even veteran IEF attendees were taken aback by the fact that the filled-to-the-gills Crystal Ballroom in Boise's Hoff building included dozens of people wedged into a standing-room-only gallery.

"Either you're extremely curious or you have nothing better to do," joked Mote, knowing full well that it was the former.

"It looks like 2014 is going to end up in the top 10 of all-time warmest years," he said, referring to the World Meteorological Organization's Dec. 3 report that stated 14 of the 15 warmest years on record will have been in the 21st century.

Mote was keenly aware that his Boise audience was particularly interested in his latest research ("Seasonal Climate Variability and Change in the Pacific Northwest"), which includes some dire news for Idaho.

"The three main climate risks for the region are, No. 1 the loss of snowmelt, No. 2 coastal effects and No. 3 our forests mortality and transformation, something you in Idaho know all too well," said Mote, pointing to a map of the Gem State that revealed a wide swath of Central Idaho with staggering changes in frequency of high fire dangers.

"A 2.2 percentdegree increase in warming increases the median areas burned in Central Idaho by 500 to 600 percent," he said.

Mote pointed to still another map of Idaho that tracked the coldest days of the year for each year since the beginning of the 1920s.

"You'll see that some of these locations warmed by as much as 10 degrees. And keep in mind, this was on their coldest day," he said to a hushed audience.

Mote's plain-spoken summation further chilled the event.

"We're running out of time to control dangerous climate change," he said.

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