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If we're to protect the environment, we have to take action now.
That was the plea Saturday when Capt. Dan Kipnis spoke on global warming to members and guests at the Annual Open House of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge and Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Refuge.
Kipnis, of Miami, shared his love of Florida's nature as he expressed concern for changes he's seen in a lifetime spent enjoying Florida's waterways. Kipnis spoke how global warming will affect fishing and wildlife in our area and he offered practical suggestions that will enable each household to have a positive affect.
Kipnis has all the credentials necessary to qualify him to give a knowledgeable and informative presentation on the current state of our environment and scientists' projection of what is to come at the rate in which our earth is now changing.
Aside from being an ardent fisherman and having owned charter boats, commercial fish markets, with many IGFA world records, running or working for several offshore fishing tournaments, Kipnis is currently a board member of the Florida Wildlife Federation that is having him spread the word about the impact of global warming. He has also served as a Florida Marine Fisheries Commissioner and a Biscayne Bay Management Committee member.
Kipnis began by commending those at the meeting of the fine work that they are doing in our local wildlife refuges and informing them of his decision to donate back to them-the stipend he was given for his expenses in coming to speak.
Oceans drive the weather, Kipnis said, as he encouraged people to get into the water and the oceans and not just above the surface.
Kipnis presented a slide show that also featured fishing pictures and underwater video, diagrams and other charts illustrated the impact that global warming has had now and more severe results that future generations will see. Kipnis explained the greenhouse effect and how more and more carbon is being released into the six- mile deep, livable atmosphere. He used the illustration of the earth being the size of a beach ball and the atmosphere like the varnish on the ball and also in climbing Mt. Everest and being at certain altitudes in an airplane and how oxygen is needed, then posed the question of whether or not it is possible to fill our atmosphere with these greenhouse gases.
After explaining the basics, Kipnis began on what he called, "the greatest threat-acidification and temperature rise" that directly affects coral and plankton that 99 percent of ocean species depend upon at some point in their lives.
Too much CO2 reacts with ocean water to increase acidity which creates carbonic acid that has a detrimental effect on plankton. Phytoplankton play a role much like that of trees and greenery found on land, creating 70 percent of our atmosphere and earth's oxygen.
"They're the major driver in the ocean and the major driver in our atmosphere," he said. Then as a result of loss of plankton like zooplankton that bait fish depend on, the bait species is strained and then that of larger fish that depend upon them for food.
"People are smart, they can adapt," Kipnis said and explained his concern for sea creatures with global warming having such a drastic effect so quickly saying, "sea creatures can't adjust, adapt so quickly."
He said the steady process of cool water upwelling from the poles that plankton near the equator depend on to reproduce and the fact that surface water temperatures are increasing so that the cold water is not making it to the surface.
Kipnis showed moving pictures of coral bleaching and red tides that have had such a damaging effect on marine life and spoke about the sea levels rising caused by arctic melting from the bottom due to water temperatures and the effect that it will have, altering the habitat of many aquatic creatures, changing the salinity levels in the water which would make it difficult and impossible for things like clams and shrimp, that now depend on the perfect mix of fresh and salt water, to survive, and also the effect on our planet, with some land being submersed along with decreases in water sources and of course, changing fishing as many locals and others in the state of Florida have enjoyed it for so long.
Kipnis acknowledged how some might view his stand regarding global warming and went on to explain the root of his passion.
"To protect what we care about, we must take action now," he said, adding the practical suggestions he gave are "the easiest things people can do to have the most effect right now."
He said politics and government would have to change from thinking that it's something we have to do over a long period of time and stop thinking that it's not pressing.
"I'm a concerned person," he said. "I've been on the water my whole life and seen changes. This is too important for mankind to say it's wrong." If we're wrong about this, then we've really messed up."
He explained that this is a global issue that affects all of mankind and our whole planet. Kipnis said things that have developed since 1935 have added to the problem of global warming and back then people didn't know and said, "Now we're smart enough to know. We can't leave this to the younger generations. We must try to mitigate and adapt."
People usually don't match his enthusiasm, Kipnis said after the meeting.
"People are usually stunned," he said. "People won't get the enthusiasm until they've had a chance to think about it and do their own research."
He said there are many readily available resources. "If people don't get motivated by this, what is there to motivate them?" He said.