A Charleston-based nonprofit organization will present a climate change impact report to members of the  West Virginia Board of Education Wednesday during the board’s January meeting at the West Virginia State Capitol.

Friends of Blackwater representatives plan to present “On the Chopping Block,” a peer-reviewed evaluation of the impact of climate change on the state’s mountainous regions, according to a press release.

According to the website, Friends of Blackwater was established in 2000 to protect the Blackwater Canyon in West Virginia and to move 3,000 acres threatened with logging and development into protected private ownership.

The report is the first comprehensive look at the impact of climate change on the Allegheny Highlands, said Tom Rodd, director of FOB Allegheny Highlands Climate Change Impacts Initiative. 

“Human-caused climate change is real, and the impacts are already being felt in the Highlands — and they are getting worse,” warned Rodd. “We could lose our spruce and hardwood forests, our ski industry and many important wildlife and plant species, including ‘Ginny,’ the West Virginia flying squirrel.

“We have to start reigning in global warming before it’s too late.”

School board members approved controversial changes to the state science curriculum at the December meeting. The alterations to the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives for science in 2015-2016 omitted references on climate change. Proponents of the move said the changes were made to encourage debate about whether climate change is caused by human activity.

Board President Gayle Manchin said the discussion is a response to “several concerns” that have been brought to members’ attention following curriculum alterations.

The move made national headlines last week.

“The revision to ... Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives for Science in West Virginia schools were placed on public comment for 30 days,” Manchin said Jan. 6. “No comments were made specific to the standards in question. 

“As a result, the board approved the standards in December,” she continued. “Nonetheless, since that time, several concerns have come to our attention so the board expects to have further discussions on the policy (at the January BOE meeting).”

Alterations to the curriculum were proposed by WVBE member Wade Linger.

One alteration changed a ninth-grade requirement from reading, “Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems,” to reading, “Analyze geoscience data and the predictions made by computer climate models to assess their creditability [sic] for predicting future impacts on the Earth System.”

Similar changes were made to additional sections of the curriculum.

Summarizing the presentations of more than a dozen scientists at a June 2014 conference at Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, “On the Chopping Block” states that the historic climate, ecology and economy of the Allegheny Highlands region, which includes Canaan Valley, Dolly Sods and the Blackwater Canyon, is currently being damaged by the impacts of climate change and that the threat of “much greater damage” is rapidly growing, as global warming accelerates.

The report is based on dozens of peer-reviewed scientific journals, said Rodd. It cites U.S. Geologic Survey and University of Virginia studies that report that rising temperatures are damaging habitat for the Eastern brook trout, which is the state fish of West Virginia and a Pennsylvania State University study that says the regional ski industry is at risk.

“On the Chopping Block” was released Tuesday in the governor’s conference room at the Capitol. It’s available on the FOB website (www.alleghenyclimate.org).

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