The Wild Center and Climate Disruption

The Wild Center is deeply committed to understanding and helping all of us appreciate the gravity of current changes in the Earth’s climate, and our potential responses.

For many years, scientists studying climate have told us a story that is not easy to hear. There is a disruption taking place. That disruption will have a profound impact on the Adirondacks. The entire natural system that we work to describe is already undergoing changes.

As a science center we have an absolute charge to monitor and understand our subject. We believe that a wider understanding of climate disruption is the best way we can foster informed decisions that have the potential to reduce the scale of the damage to the Adirondacks.

Share o

A Matter of Degrees

The Wild Center produced and distributed a film narrated by Sigourney Weaver looking at current and projected climate disruptions in relation to the last Ice Age. The movie shows how a few degrees of climate change will have massive impacts. The film, now with a classroom discussion guide, and distributed to schools around New York State, is the winner of numerous national and international film prizes. You can watch the film here

To order a free classroom version of the film, including the classroom guide, please email us here.

The film's free distribution was made with generous seed support from the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation.

Matter of Degrees Facilitator's Guide

Exploring how climate change will change us

As climate change comes to the Adirondacks, how will it change people's lives?

A $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and a Pennsylvania-based science-education center will help Paul Smith's College and The Wild Center answer that question by putting it to groups and individuals likely to see the change first.

Curt Stager of Paul Smith's and Rob Carr of The Wild Center are collaborating on a new class this spring, Communicating Climate Science, that will ask members of fish and game clubs, medical experts, musicians and other North Country residents to project what current and future changes in local climate may mean to their communities.

By the end of the project, students in the class will use that input to suggest how climate change may be most relevant to each group – giving them the tools to make informed decisions about handling changes that some scientists consider inevitable.

Stager, a natural science professor who specializes in Adirondack climate and climate history, said change could be good, bad or neutral. "The point isn't to indoctrinate people into a particular point of view or sow fear, but to empower people to make their own informed decisions about how to deal with changes that are already under way in the North Country," Stager said. "Each group can ask, 'What is really happening here? And what, if anything, does it mean for us?'"

"This class is an extension of The Wild Center's core beliefs about presenting ideas to people and letting them decide for themselves," said Stephanie Ratcliffe, executive director of The Wild Center. "Curt, Rob and the students are not telling each group what to think, but providing them the information that they can decide how to use. Everyone involved is working together in that uniquely Adirondack way to move forward with a difficult and complex issue."

The three-year NSF grant was awarded through the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement and its Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities – Informal Science Education (SENCER-ISE) initiative.

The 16 students in Carr and Stager's class met for the first time this semester. After reviewing the effects of observed and expected climate change in the Adirondack Park, studying the principles of interpretive education and learning about recommended communication strategies, the students will sit down with the different groups to get an on-the-ground feel for how each expects to be affected.

Ultimately, the project aims to foster a conversation about where the Adirondacks may be headed, and how we can better prepare for changes to come. Students will put together presentations based on what they learn that can be used in front of other groups in the future.

After completing the course, most of the students are opting to become Certified Interpretive Guides through the National Association of Interpretation.

William David Burns, executive director of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement, said the SENCER-ISE program plays a critical role in helping science educators to grapple with compelling civic questions. "The issues the partnerships will explore are important for all citizens to understand and will engage pre-college, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the general public, in efforts to develop solutions to these issues of national, regional and local importance."

NCSCE's mission is to inspire, support, and disseminate campus-based science education reform strategies that strengthen learning and build civic accountability among students in colleges and universities. SENCER, the NCSCE's signature program, began in 2001 with NSF support. It has since grown to include more than 2,700 educators and 500 colleges, universities, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and community-based groups in the United States and abroad. NCSCE is affiliated with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania.

NASA | A Year in the Life of Earth's CO2

The World in Three Minutes

New imaging technology and new sensors have made possible this beautiful image of Earth, showing how carbon dioxide and monoxide flow around the planet, and shift as plants bloom in the spring in each hemisphere. 

The Book on Adirondack Climate Disruption

The Wild Center provided seed funding support for a book documenting current and projected impacts of climate disruption for the region. The book, Climate Change in the Adirondacks The Path to Sustainability, is authored by Jerry Jenkins with a forward by Bill McKibben, published in association with the Wildlife Conservation Society and is available online.

"If you care about the future of the Adirondacks, you must read this book." Phillip Terrie


Order the book from Cornell University Press

Snow Cover Diagram

The illustration at the top of this page is reprinted from Jerry Jenkins, Climate Change in the Adirondacks: The Path to Sustainability (Forward by Bill McKibben), Copyright 2010 by Wildlife Conservation Society. Used by permission of the publisher, Cornell University Press.

The image shows predicted loss of snow cover. Most life in the Adirondacks is oriented around winter snow, and this kind of change will impact virtually every life form in the region.

Launching ADKCAP

ADKCAP was launched at The Wild Center after the American Response to Climate Change conferences held in 2008. The consortium started what is now a widespread effort to draft and enact the region’s climate action plan. Six task forces, in buildings and energy efficiency, renewable energy and biomass heat, transportation, tourism, municipalities, and lands and forests led the work. ADKCAP continues to sponsor public and targeted programs, workshops, and learning opportunities about green building and sustainable economic approaches with local support and with national and regional grants administered by The Wild Center.

The Youth Summits

Every fall The Wild Center organizes and hosts a tremendous gathering of regional college and high school students who come to the Center to develop energy strategies for their schools and universities. The summits have spawned major changes in area school operations. 

Learn more about the Youth Summits

How Energy Waste Drains the Adirondack Economy

Every year more than $1.5 billion is spent on energy in the Adirondacks. That's a bigger sum than the total money that comes into our biggest industry, tourism. Almost every cent goes somewhere else, and fast. The Wild Center is actively involved in working to help the economy of the Adirondacks by finding the best ways to decrease waste in energy, decrease our use of carbon fuels, and invest the money we save in the long-term economic health of our region.



You can read the comprehensive Baseline research on Adirondack energy use here

Sponsoring Energy Savings

The Wild Center is working on a program to help local communities help their economies by cutting wasteful energy practices.

Launched in 2011, the program works in partnership with four pilot communities. The goal is to inventory energy use in buildings and transportation. the program identifies waste, prioritizes saving plans and helps communities identify funding sources to make need changes.

The pilot communities are Long Lake, Schroon, Moriah and the Village of Tupper Lake.

Sustainable Building Demonstrations

Our facilities provide a modern, year-round example  of sustainable design.

The Wild Center is the first museum in the state of New York to earn LEED certification. The entire green building system is interpreted and used as part of the Center experience, as an inspiring setting for conferences and as a demonstration site for green building education programs.

The image above is a detail from the Bio Building's green roof.


Working in Finland

The Wild Center partners with the Heureka Science Center in Finland to look at climate responses and impacts on two similar ecosystems and winter cultures. The exchanges bring leaders from both regions together. In 2012 Heureka launched its own Youth Climate Summit in Finland based on the model developed by the Wild Center for successful action-oriented summits designed by The Wild Center.

Much of populated Finland is close to sea level. The boots in the picture above were part of an exhibit to get visitors to feel one of the changes climate disruption will deliver to Finland.

Baseline Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the Adirondacks

Every plan to solve a problem starts with defining the problem. The Wild Center commissioned one of the largest regional carbon audits in the United States, covering the entire 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers) of the Adirondack region. The numbers are startling, and show where solutions lie. Leaky buildings lose billions, and renewable options are all around us.

Click here to read the report