Forest ecologist Jim McGinnis presents a slide show to schools, churches and civic organizations around Southern Oregon, hoping to raise awareness that we may face a temperature increase of 1.4 degrees to 4.9 degrees — which could mean warmer winters, thinner mountain snowpack, hotter, drier summers and serious water shortages.

For Jim McGinnis of Ashland, life changed last year when he saw the documentary film, "An Inconvenient Truth."

He couldn't stop talking about it with his wife. He heard the call from Al Gore's Climate Project for 1,000 trainers to spread awareness about climate change, and he went to Nashville, Tenn., last December to study with Gore and climate scientists.

Now McGinnis, a forest ecologist, presents a slide show to schools, churches and civic organizations around Southern Oregon, hoping to raise awareness that we may face a temperature increase of 1.4 degrees to 4.9 degrees — which could mean warmer winters, thinner mountain snowpack, hotter, drier summers and serious water shortages.

McGinnis has given his free presentation about 20 times, and he localizes the latest scientific research on climate change to show how warmer temperatures will affect Southern Oregon and the Northwest.

He's lectured mainly in the Rogue Valley and plans to expand this fall to Klamath Falls, Roseburg, and coastal communities as well as California's Siskiyou County.

He recently joined forces with the Ashland YMCA and the city's conservation, parks and electric department to offer energy audits and sustainability strategies, which can be performed for any group, agency or business. He hopes in time to involve a broader range of the region's energy users, including schools and businesses.

McGinnis said he got "angry, sad and overwhelmed," like many people, with the social, environmental and political problems of the nation and world.

"I asked myself, how can I make a difference?" he said. "I saw I could act locally. It could have a ripple effect."

As part of the "Inconvenient Truth" team, McGinnis also has set up the Climate Change Project for the West Coast, organizing an online blog for participants to share speaking tips, slides and new science.

McGinnis said we know with "99.9 percent certainty" that human-produced greenhouse gases lead to temperature increases, but people have personal obligations that make it difficult for them to see the immediate need to change.

Even so, he said, "critical mass happens in people, like it happened in me, and now you see Congress a lot more interested (in climate issues). Al Gore is correct that climate change is going to be one of the top issues by the election next year," he said.

McGinnis said he became involved because "the world is going to go from 6.2 billion (people) now to 9.2 billion by 2050. Our impacts are so great. We can't afford not to do this. I've got a daughter and a grandchild and I believe they should have the same kind of world I did."

On the Web: www.theclimateproject.org.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.