KEENE, N.H. - Waffles and maple syrup brighten even the darkest corners of cabin fever as days get longer and spring slowly emerges. With the start of New Hampshire Maple Sugaring Month just a few days away, the Climate Impacts Maple Syrup Breakfast highlighted the impacts of climate change on a favorite Granite State tradition. Some 75 people came to enjoy New Hampshire maple syrup, a treat that the panel of speakers warned could disappear because of climate change.
Maple syrup may be a local springtime favorite but it is a quiet economic engine that involves over $200 million in revenue and employs over 1,000 people in New Hampshire. The economic ripple effects shine in the tourism businesses as every time a full bus of "leaf peepers" travels to New Hampshire for the spectacular fall foliage and the movie cameras find the special light for the perfect backdrop.
Keene Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Phil Suter told attendees "The production of maple syrup - throughout NH, and in the Monadnock Region - is an important part of our economy. But is more than that - it's an important part of who we are. For hundreds of years, those who do this work have been innovative business people. And that continues. We want to do whatever we can to support them."
Speaker Steven Roberge, a forester and the statewide maple specialist at University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, discussed the weather conditions needed for sap flow and how rising temperatures are challenging the resilience of the sugar maple population. The long-term health and endurance of this species is essential for the maple syrup tradition to continue into the future.
The tone of the event was squarely focused on solutions and innovation to help preserve the traditional coming of spring in New England--maple syrup. One such solution is the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan that will help reduce climate changing pollution from power plants, the largest source of carbon and greenhouse gases. The Clean Power Plan allows states to adjust the most effective technologies and methods to best reduce pollution to the emissions standards for their state. Flexibility and planning are the hallmarks of the Clean Power Plan, but the breakfast event comes in the wake of the Supreme Court's stay of the plan.
"The Clean Power Plan still is our best defense to save our syrup in New Hampshire, and we are confident that ultimately it will survive polluter attacks in the courts. One of the things we can do in the meantime is strengthen the already successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative," stated Sharon Solomon, Global Warming Solutions Organizer with Environment New Hampshire.
Through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative New Hampshire and eight other participating states have cut carbon pollution from power plants by almost 50 percent in 10 years. The program is up for review this year. Solomon says "by limiting global warming pollution now, we can protect maple syrup for generations to come."
The forum was hosted by the Keene State College Ecology Club with sponsors Environment New Hampshire, Moms Clean Air Force, Union of Concerned Scientists, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation and New Hampshire Sierra Club.