The Power of Denial

Today in the New York Times, a story about the washing away of homes on the Carolina Outer Banks. The article points out that some of these homeowners, climate change believers bought their homes as recently as last fall! What kind of denial needs to exist to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in homes within yards of the ocean? What kind of denial are all of us in regarding the effects of climate change?

Here on the Olympic Peninsula, we all suffer from denial. For the majority of us, the denial of a major earthquake of such magnitude that only struck here 322 years ago, is our biggest. Then, tsunamis 33 feet high wiped out many native villages on the shore. Many modern Olympic Peninsula people were woke to this issue for the first time when the New Yorker published a sobering article about just how unprepared we are for this. The Seattle Times followed up with this piece a few years later.

As humans, we all live with denial. Denial that our health will not hold long into older age is one that many of our old population is familiar with and engaged in on a daily basis. And here on the Peninsula, as climate change wreaks havoc across the globe, we deny we are at risk. Let’s count the ways:

  • Forest Fire – Clearly, living on a tree farm with most of us at close proximity to timber, this is the most likely short term issue. We have seen the east side of the Cascades burn in massive wildfires, as well as B.C., Oregon and California. How many years do we have before the forests around us are on fire?
  • Sea Level Rise – Cities, from what I’ve seen, are simply kicking this can down the road. PA and PT especially are at sea level. Water Street is at, yes water level. Are there any serious plans to the business district uptown. Nope. Are there mitigation plans at work? Not that I’ve seen.
    • At Point Hudson, there are houses literally at sea level. A good friend owned one that faced out to the Strait, until they woke up to waves crashing on their front window panes. They sold and now live high on the hill above the Fort.
    • Beckett Point – A disaster waiting to happen, Beckett Point will likely be the first place you see houses washed away as in the NY Times article above.
    • Cliff dwellers like Seaview Drive – Our county development foolishly allowed houses to be built within 50 feet of the cliff edge in the 70s and 80s. Even trying to change this rule has been a struggle with home and land owners fighting being pushed back from the cliffs even 50 feet for future construction to be a very hard issue to convince them of supporting. Unfortunately, we have seen cliffs sluff over 100 feet back on Whidbey Island. The bottom line is that scientifically, cliffs sluff. That is the nature of a cliff. Putting thousands of pounds of concrete weight, water in the form of lawn watering, and septic tanks only helps destabilize the cliff more. Want to see a cliff sluff in action? Walk from North Beach to the Fort on the beach. That is an active sluffing cliff.
  • River course change – The Dungeness has reclaimed many homes over the decades from folks denying the ability of the river to do that. Now the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe and Clallam County are working to give the river the room to “breathe” as one biologist once called it. The floodplains, he said, “are the lungs of the river. If you dyke them, you give them emphysema.”
  • That certain business activity won’t destroy our natural resources – The DNR decision to allow a commercial aquaculture farm inside a wildlife refuge is another case of denial that your decisions won’t destroy what you claim you love.

You can do your bit, by asking yourself “what am I in denial over?” Are there direct things you can do now to protect yourself from being the next to find that “you can’t fool Mother Nature.” That may mean much harder decisions than you ever thought. Just ask the folks on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

No increased WA gas tax in ‘unprecedented’ $16.8B transportation budget – Crosscut

So Cap and Trade fees have helped us put an extra $3B into public transit along with good news for pedestrians and bicycles. But is it actually reducing CO2? To be determined.


Washington legislators keep calling this year’s $16.8 billion transportation budget proposal “unprecedented.” And in many ways it is. There’s $3 billion for public transit, a huge increase over previous packages. And a lot more money for pedestrian and bicycle improvements — $1.3 billion— all paid for by the carbon cap-and-trade fee approved last session, also unprecedented for the state. But what’s missing from the budget is perhaps the most unusual of all. This year’s transportation budget does not include an increase in the state’s gas tax. Liz Giordano reports. (Crosscut)

No increased WA gas tax in ‘unprecedented’ $16.8B transportation budget

Model of heatwave ‘blob’ shows unexpected effects in the Salish Sea – Salish Sea Currents

Science on the 2013 Pacific Ocean heatwave.


The marine heatwave that struck the Pacific Ocean in late 2013 also caused large changes in temperature in the Salish Sea, but scientists are still puzzling over the impacts of those changes on Puget Sound’s food web. The so-called “blob” of warmer than average water was thought to have increased the production of plankton, which potentially benefits creatures like herring and salmon that feed on the tiny organisms. A new paper in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science calls that interpretation into question pointing to a computer model that links the cause to higher than normal river flows in the region. Eric Wagner reports. (Salish Sea Currents Magazine)

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/salish-sea-model-the-blob

What new projections of sea level rise mean for Puget Sound and WA Coast – Seattle Times

Solid reporting on our future along the Salish Sea. 10 to 12 inches of sea level rise in a place like Port Townsend could put large areas under water much of the time. Think the boatyard, Lincoln Beach, Point Hudson, and other places at sea level now.


Sea level rise will affect each area of the planet in a unique way, but new projections are helping researchers and lawmakers in Washington state identify which coastal communities are most vulnerable. A new report published earlier this month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says sea levels will rise 10 to 12 inches in the contiguous U.S. by 2050 — with regional variations — which scientists say would trigger a “profound increase” in coastal flooding. Nicholas Turner reports.(Seattle Times)

What new projections of sea level rise mean for Puget Sound and the WA coast

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the Seattle Times.

Hottest ocean temperatures in history recorded last year – The Guardian

Not great news for those hoping to protect our oceans from the ravages of humankind. Sixth consecutive year. Whatever can be done to slow this must. While we are a small island of calm in the midst of this, nevertheless we cannot escape it. Forest fires, smoke, heat waves like last summer, acidifying oceans affecting sea food output etc. are all ahead.

“Last year saw a heat record for the top 2,000 meters of all oceans around the world, despite an ongoing La Niña event, a periodic climatic feature that cools waters in the Pacific. The 2021 record tops a stretch of modern record-keeping that goes back to 1955. The second hottest year for oceans was 2020, while the third hottest was 2019.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/11/oceans-hottest-temperatures-research-climate-crisis

Extreme Weather Threatens Salmon Recovery – NWTT Newsletter

More data coming in on the toll on salmon of last summer’s record hot weather.

After last summer’s record high temperatures and low water flow, Lummi Natural Resources staff discovered about 2,500 dead adult chinook in the South Fork Nooksack River.

Northwest Treaty Tribes Winter 2002

The NWTT newsletter is a great resource for stories on salmon recovery and other Salish Sea marine issues. This month, they include:

  • How do we stop tire debris from killing salmon?
  • Tribal Hatchery story
  • European Green Crab update
  • How beach restoration benefits Salmon and the Public
  • And the article on Climate Change Threatens Salmon Recovery

Check it out and sign up to get it yourself! Or keep reading here on the Olympic Peninsula Environmental News and we’ll give you the short story.

Welcome to 2022 – King tides takes out shoreline homes and businesses in the Salish Sea

In a grand “Climate Change” welcome to 2022 King tides moved into the Salish Sea along with a major storm front. The outcome was widespread destruction across a huge swath of the shorelines, from the South Sound up through British Columbia. This is just a taste of what’s ahead, as we await the break off of a huge glacier in Antarctica, and it’s subsequent melt down, which will add to sea level rise. If you have a home or business on the shoreline, now is a good time to reconsider your long term options.

Let’s do a quick overview. If there is only one thing to see, watch this video that was posted by a homeowner from Blaine on Twitter.

And KUOW coverage opens with a scary photo of a neighborhood built on the “wrong side of the tracks”.

KUOW – Sea level on steroids: Record tides flood Washington coastlines

The CBC covered the British Columbia story.

B.C. coastal communities assess damage, look to future after king tides, extreme weather wreak havoc | CBC News

This does not even begin to cover the amount of businesses that have docks that may have been destroyed, nor the simple flooding that may have occurred.

I have watched with disbelief over the last decades as more and more luxury homes have been built on spits in Puget Sound. Some examples? Three Tree Point in South King County. A more recent one in is Miller Bay near Indianola. Let’s look! These houses are really expensive and right at sea level!

Image by Google Earth

Or how about our own Beckett Point in Jefferson County?

Image by Google Earth

Beckett Point is no stranger to flooding. It was wiped out in the 1930s by a massive wind storm. Back then it was just fishing shacks but those were replaced by homes. Bottom line, these people are living on a sandspit, at sea level, and likely their home owners insurance is provided by the Federal Government because there is no way they could afford to pay for private insurance, even if it’s available. Choosing to live here, while incredibly beautiful and usually no problem, is and will continue to be challenging.

Want to add your own and track more vulnerable communities on the Sound? Go to my little project on Google Earth. https://earth.google.com/earth/d/1ZiX9tu1nnWs16-Lwnm4CORazbgPMJJ5H?usp=sharing

It is worth remembering that these homeowners get federal insurance to live here, so our tax dollars go to help continue this behavior. Please make sure that you let our elected officials know that with rising costs due to sea level rise, we cannot continue to subsidize everyone who lives on the shore. Now is the time to end this practice and let these homeowners bear the full cost of their decision (and it is also the decision of the local land use officials and county officials).

I’ve left out the massive flooding all over western Washington and British Columbia in the last 60 days, along with wildfires in December in Colorado, and massive super tornadoes in Kentucky (can you picture a tornado 250 miles long? with winds of 94 MPH sustained over four hours and 24 minutes?). Global warming is upon us and our best situation is to begin making changes to issues like insurance and infrastructure to mitigate the worse that is yet to come in future decades.

For the Northwest, climate change was hard to ignore in 2021 -KUOW

A good wrap up of the Northwest climate change in 2021. The photo in the article is a great example of what a flood plain is and why so many restoration projects (i.e. the Dungeness) are working to recover old flood plains. So many of them were used for farming (as in the Nooksack pictured) or just putting in housing, like on the Dungeness. Building dykes is a long term failure strategy for salmon and the people trying to live on the flood plain. As shown, the dykes just won’t protect you from climate change as we are seeing it unfold.

From heat domes to record-breaking rainfall, climate change was hard to ignore in Washington.As temperature records were shattered around the state in late June, the 911 calls poured in.

https://kuow.org/stories/climate-change-was-hard-to-ignore-for-the-northwest-in-2021

Seagrass wasting disease is fueled by climate change -Earth.com

Seagrass – Photo by WA State DNR

More bad news for our waters. Eelgrass is incredibly important as a nursery for many species, including salmon. This is yet another reason to do all we can to move us towards a fossil fuel free future as fast as possible. Without eelgrass, it would be very hard to imagine a functioning marine ecosystem as we have had for at least the last 10,000 years.

Seagrass is suffering from a wasting disease across the Pacific Northwest, and climate change is driving the destructive outbreak, according to a new study from Cornell University.

https://www.earth.com/news/seagrass-wasting-disease-is-fueled-by-climate-change/

Evaluating targets for reducing carbon emissions. NY Times

An interesting series in the New York Times called Hindsight has been evaluating business and government pledges on various social issues such as global warming, deforestation, drinking water availability and other social crisis’ that have brought attention and demands for change.

This week, they looked at promises made in the 2010 timeframe to lower carbon emissions in the EU. What did they find that’s interesting to us on the Peninsula? That Biomass was thrown in with the mix of “solutions” and that it is not a solution at all.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/climate/europe-climate-pledge-carbon-emissions.html?referringSource=articleShare

Back in around 2010, this blog covered the efforts of then State Representative Kevin Van De Wege to promote biomass as a solution to lowering energy costs and protecting the environment. His work was based on research by WSU that resulted in a paper that was heralded as as a reason to promote using clear cut slash (also known as ‘hog fuel’) to burn to create electricity. No environmental organizations at that time bought the idea, though it was passed using a special designation of calling it “experimental” in the bill. It never was taken off experimental status.

Rep Van de Wege understandably promoted it because it gave more jobs to out of work loggers here on the Peninsula and incentivized pulp plants in P.A., Port Townsend and Shelton to experiment with burning hog fuel. Concerns by environmental organizations were ignored in order to allow the companies to build the plants and start using the fuel. Ultimately, all attempts to make this source of energy failed. Additionally, as the NY Times article points out, it actually made things worse.

As one drives around 101 on the Peninsula these days, it is impossible not to notice the enormous amounts of clear cuts going on, from west of the Hood Canal Bridge to Port Angeles. The stacks of slash are sitting in massive piles, some burning, some just rotting. With them go any hope of using the vast forest resources of the Peninsula to sequester carbon for reasons documented in the article above.

Northern Washington Tribes fear devastation of salmon by extreme floodwaters – KUOW

While this story is not specifically about the Peninsula, it is about issues that we faced along with the Bellingham and B.C. environment in the last month. Our rivers flooded also, just not quite as bad. As we all know, the salmon of this region are on the brink of extinction, along with our Orcas. Every year our human induced climate brings 500 year floods to already destroyed ecosystems the fish become more threatened. The Salish Sea is an ecosystem itself, what is happening to the east and north of us is tied to us by the water.

When a month’s worth of rain hit northern Washington and southern British Columbia in just a couple of days in mid-November, the resulting extreme flows scoured streams and riverbeds. They flushed away gravel and the salmon eggs incubating just below the surface, likely by the millions.

KUOW

https://kuow.org/stories/northern-washington-tribes-fear-devastation-of-salmon-by-extreme-floodwaters-ffcd

How heat waves warp ecosystems – High Country News

Just this week I was in an online discussion with a noted wildlife journalist here on the Peninsula who wanted to blame a series of environmental horrors he had recently seen on a certain restoration project, because the project was close to the area he was viewing. I tried to explain that the last few years had seen a variety of shocks to our ecosystem, and what he was seeing was far more widespread than just the area in question. Fish kills, algae blooms, massive die offs of shellfish, are easily observed but hard to map to a single root cause. But today in my inbox was this story and so I share it to help all of us understand that what is happening is anything but a local issue. The effects are widespread and causing destruction across an enormous range of wildlife. Welcome to the new world of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem under global warming.

Initial reports were sobering: A billion shellfish and other intertidal animals baked to death on the coast of British Columbia. The Portland Audubon Society declared a “hawkpocalypse” as it tended to scores of sick and injured birds. And in eastern Oregon, state officials estimated that tens of thousands of sculpin, a bottom-dwelling fish, perished in streams already throttled by drought.

High Country News

Don’t Be So Quick to Doubt China’s Climate Change Dedication -NY Times

While watching the COPS-26 Circus in Glasgow over the last couple weeks it’s easy to get dismayed especially about China’s commitments to solving global warming. However this interesting article in the New York Times today has a different perspective on it from someone who has followed the Chinese environmental stories for the last 20 years. Well worth a read if you’re feeling down about what happened in Glasgow. some of you might have also missed that China announced about a month ago or so the largest solar farm in the world to be constructed in the deserts in eastern China. I think that China takes global warming far more seriously than we do in some cases. They are a leader in electric bike and car production and have ambitious goals to produce vastly more of them. It’s just that, given their behavior on the world stage, it’s very hard to know what it all really means.

www.nytimes.com/2021/11/07/opinion/cop26-china-climate.html

Recycling Wind Turbines

Local Port Townsend resident and ex-New York Times writer Larry Fisher has published a very well researched article in the Milken Review on the recycling of wind turbines titled, “Anyone Want to Buy A Very Used Wind Turbine?” As we see the rush to put in large wind farms off the coast of Washington, promoted by the Department of Energy and the Quinault Nation, it’s worth reviewing that this green technology is still working out the pains of recycling it’s waste.

Turbine blades’ “biggest problem is they are gigantic, and there are not many groups that can cut them into pieces that a general recycler can handle. There’s no furnace you can just feed one into because it’s so huge.”

https://www.milkenreview.org/articles/anyone-want-to-buy-a-very-used-wind-turbine

Valuable crab populations are in a ‘very scary’ decline in warming Bering Sea

The latest from the Alaska seafood front. The warming planet is now severely impacting Alaskan crab.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/valuable-crab-populations-crash-in-a-warming-bering-sea/

B.C. Sea Stars approaching extinction?

Seems hard to fathom, that we may be losing the entire species.

A new study published by the Royal Society said sea stars are getting close to extinction as waters along the west coast. Sea stars in the waters off British Columbia that died off in the billions about a decade ago are not recovering as expected, an expert says. Hina Alam reports. (The Canadian Press)

Expert says B.C. sea stars melting away because of wasting disease

Taking the Temperature of Salmon -Salish Sea Currents

Good overview of one of the most critical issues facing recovery of endangered salmon. Rising temperatures in streams.

In the Puget Sound region, elevated stream temperatures are believed to be one of the great downfalls for salmon, especially in areas where streamside vegetation has been removed by farming, forestry or development.

https://www.eopugetsound.org/magazine/taking-temperature-salmon

Hydrogen Fuel may not be the salvation we have been told.

New studies show the dangers in betting on hydrogen fuel. By the way, who has been promoting it’s use? The oil and gas industry, of course.

www.nytimes.com/2021/08/12/climate/hydrogen-fuel-natural-gas-pollution.html

Secretary of Interior visits Quinault Indian Nation to deliver support for moving them to higher ground.

It’s great to see our first Native American Secretary of the Interior visit a local tribe to reinforce the issue of the U.N. Climate Change report, which is a grim warning to all of us that time is running out to do dramatic changes to save ourselves from truly catastrophic climate change. The Quinault are on the front lines, as this story points out.

The visit, Haaland’s first to Washington state since her appointment to the Biden Administration, coincided with the release of a dire report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predicting global havoc due to human-caused climate warming.

Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/this-tribe-has-lived-on-the-coast-of-washington-for-thousands-of-years-now-climate-change-is-forcing-it-uphill/

How extreme is this year’s extreme weather? Here’s a closer look – AP

An analysis of the spread of extreme heat as we sit back and do nothing to stop the climate catastrophe moving across the globe like a shroud. Canada had over 230 fires burning in B.C. alone last month. We are in for a very rough ride, and at the present, it seems the Olympic Peninsula is holding it’s own. There’s no telling how long it will be before we are also impacted.

As the world staggers through another summer of extreme weather, experts are noticing something different: 2021’s onslaught is hitting harder and in places that have been spared global warming’s wrath in the past. Wealthy countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany and Belgium are joining poorer and more vulnerable nations on a growing list of extreme weather events that scientists say have some connection to human-caused climate change. (Associated Press)

How extreme is this year’s extreme weather? Here’s a closer look

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