Tonight in Portola Valley: How climate change affects birds


Every morning, songbirds greet the sun with a dawn chorus. Might this timeless phenomenon be changing as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and affect the climate? Can anything be done?

These questions intrigue Portola Valley residents Brook Coffee and Kristi Patterson, who have arranged a two-hour panel discussion on the topic. The free event, open to the public, starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, in the Portola Valley Community Hall at 765 Portola Road.

On the panel will be Terry L. Root, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment; Nicole Ardoin, also of the Woods Institute and an assistant professor in Stanford's school of education; and Joe Ryan, the Audubon Society's vice-president for climate and strategic initiatives.

In the fall of 2014, Ms. Root spoke in a private gathering in Portola Valley, noting that climate change threatens extinction to 170 bird species. The threatened species local to Portola Valley, she says, include the purple finch, the Western bluebird, the white-breasted nuthatch and the Western screech owl.

"We've invited some of the leaders in the field of climate science to help the group understand the depth of the problem, but we're not stopping there," Ms. Coffee said. "We want the people attending to hear from the scientists, and then have a real conversation about what we can do as a community to address this problem."

The setting will include round tables where people can sit and "brainstorm local solutions" to key questions, including: What should Portola Valley look like in 2020 and 2050? What can residents do at home and elsewhere to get there? How can Portola Valley lead in dealing with climate change in California?

Ms. Root has a bachelor's degree in math and statistics from the University of New Mexico, a master's in biology from the University of Colorado, and a doctorate in biology from Princeton University. Her current focus is mass extinction as a result of global warming. Her web page includes links to news stories quoting her on the dilemma that climate change presents for birds.

Ms. Ardoin's degrees include a bachelor's in international business and French from James Madison University, and a master's and a doctorate in forestry and environmental studies from Yale University. Her current interests include studying what motivates people to adopt or reject behaviors related to the environment, engaging people around the management of natural resources, and whether green buildings impact environmental attitudes, knowledge and behaviors, according to her web page at Stanford's Graduate School of Education.

Mr. Ryan has a master's degree in Latin American studies and a doctorate in economic history, both from the University of California at Los Angeles, according to an Audubon bio. He will be leading Audubon's climate initiative. As an executive for ClimateWorks, he moved forward measures to reduce carbon emissions in Mexico and Brazil, the bio said. And he has managed a $15 million portfolio to support clean transportation in Europe, the Americas and South Asia.

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