2017: The Year In Climate – New York Times

The Big Picture

Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016 – BBC

The question that comes from all of this is “at what point do we make the planet uninhabitable for humans? “ And as many scientists have thought, the unintended consequences of not doing enough for CO2 is that we are finding that methane is suddenly exploding in the atmosphere.  One likely source could be the exposure of tundra as the permafrost melts.

Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.

Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years.


Governor’s Results Washington Initiative – Environment and Puget Sound Recovery

Governor Inslee has as program called “Results Washington” One of it’s goals is to restore Puget Sound. Here’s a very good video on the reporting on September 27, 2017 to the Governor on progress and areas where we need to improve. Worth the watch if you are involved in work to help restore the Sound.

Sustainable Energy/Clean Environment — Welcome and agenda review, Governor’s opening remarks, Alignment of Puget Sound Recovery & Results Washington (protection/recovery of shellfish beds/habitat, pollution prevention from storm water runoff), Strategies and challenges for collective, cross-sector efforts to recover the Puget Sound ecosystem, closing comments.

Watch it here:   https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2017091075

Click to access G3%20Agenda%202017-09-27%20%28Governor%27s%20Results%20Review%29.pdf

Global warming made real

Over the last month, we have had a full taste of global warming. We are breathing it. It’s no longer just some abstract event impacting people in some far away third world country like Bangladesh or  even heat waves and droughts in Australia, on the other side of the planet.

Scientists (perhaps now fired by the current administration in Washington D.C) have been warning for decades that the effects of global warming will be much larger, more frequent storms. With the oceans being heated up, the normal storms will get even greater strength. And that is exactly what is happening with Irma and Harvey. There are still thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, that have never recovered from Sandy or Katrina, or any of the other storms we now have forgotten in the last ten years.

In the western U.S. a heavy drought with intense heat has laid in from California to British Columbia. Hundreds of fires are raging across the west, destroying Southern Oregon forests, the north side of the Columbia Gorge, the Cascades and into central British Columbia. Many of these fires are being described as the largest ever witnessed in these areas. Thousands have been displaced while the smoke from these fires are being breathed by millions for weeks on end, including us here on the Olympic Peninsula. The outcome of that will be greater lung cancers in years to come.

Snow packs in this heat continue to melt and rise. I drove north from San Francisco to Seattle last week, driving through Arizona desert like temperatures of 112 degrees F.  in Redding California. It was over 100 at the summit of Shasta’s I5 pass.

If this kind of heat continues, it will make farming in California very difficult. Along with the physical stress of trying to expect humans to farm in  112 heat, is the question of whether there will be snow pack for drinking and agriculture in 20 years. California produces a huge amount of our vegetables. Adapting farming for this kind of scenario is going to cost all of us a lot more at the grocery store.

The Americans who have willfully ignored the warnings of scientists now are part of the refugee pool in Houston and much of Southern Texas’ coast. We can look at that outcome and say, well, you asked for it by continuing to elect politicians that want to tell you that all is well.  But this country is not red or blue. It’s purple everywhere, with people supporting each side in elections, or no side at all.  Unfortunately, the neighbors of these ignorant climate change deniers  voted for people who wanted us to pay attention, had their candidates lose and also find themselves in the same, literal and physical boat.

This emerging crisis needs leadership. We unfortunately now find ourselves turning to local and state politics as the Presidency and Congress seem, for reasons harder and harder to comprehend, to willfully want to ignore the alarm bells of climate change. What is it going to take? A hurricane to level Washington D.C.?

Locally we need to continue to talk about where Port Townsend is going to get it’s water if drought continues for decades and snow packs continue to recede.  I don’t hear much about that issue at all.

Time to get serious and act as if every decision by our local and state governments is going to have to take global warming into consideration. Now.

Sudden Oak Disease Arrives in Washington State – KUOW

Very disturbing news given that the disease can attack rhododendrons, Douglas firs, and western larches. 

A Disease That’s Felled Forests in California and Oregon Shows up in Washington http://www.opb.org/news/article/a-disease-thats-felled-forests-in-california-and-oregon-shows-up-in-washington/

It’s a sunny spring morning at the Bloedel Reserve, a public garden on Puget Sound’s Bainbridge Island. Roads lead to paths lined with blossoming bushes and trees. Darren Strenge, the reserve’s plant health manager, is showing me the rhododendron glen. That’s where a gardener first spotted a problem back in 2015: a plant that wasn’t healthy…. Strenge took a sample and sent it into a lab. The answer came back: the plant had the pathogen that causes sudden oak death. The disease has decimated forests in California and infected forests in southwestern Oregon. And now it’s made a return to Western Washington, where rhododendrons, Douglas firs, and western larches are most susceptible. It has the potential for such disastrous effects that agencies, scientists, and citizens are working together to try to keep it under control. Eilís O’Neill reports. (KUOW/EarthFix)

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations – Guardian

Very disturbing news about what is happening to our base of science from the incredibly malicious Trump Administration. We saw similar  wanton destruction of science to validate a political point of view from the Harper Administration in Canada about three years ago. We can only hope that they are simply deleting web pages and not the actual data, which, in case I have to remind anyone, is data that we, the taxpayers, paid for. It is not theirs to delete. Perhaps a lawsuit is in order?

Just over 1% of US Arctic waters have been surveyed to modern standards. In truth, some of the maps we use today haven’t been updated since the second world war. Navigating uncharted waters can prove difficult, but it comes with the territory of working in such a remote part of the world.

Over the past two months though, I’ve been navigating a different type of uncharted territory: the deleting of what little data we have by the Trump administration.


Sea Ice at Poles Exhibiting “Crazy” behavior – Scientific American

It does not matter one iota whether Donald Trump’s regime believes in global warming or not. It’s happening, now, and far faster than our scientists hoped. Often these kinds of changes grow exponential, and there are some signs that it may be true. Trump is not going to ignore it, he will have to deal with it, no matter what he calls it. And so will we. Port Townsend is already having to deal with emergency jetty and break water repairs to have them last the winter. These costs are millions of dollars at a moment in time when our taxing authority has been limited due to Tim Eyman’s misguided initiatives.

“There are some really crazy things going on,” said Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, saying temperatures in parts of the Arctic were 20 degrees Celsius (36°F) above normal some days in November.


Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate – NY Times

It really doesn’t matter in some ways what the Trump administration does or does not do on the issue of global warming and sea level rise. The planet is going to react to CO2 regardless of what we do. It has existed without politics for billions of years. It doesn’t care who we elect, it works on chemical, geological and biological factors. While it would be nice to have an administration that took it seriously and provided funding to help communities mitigate the effects of what we continue to do globally, this article points out that the real estate market and insurance companies, along with the effected communities, are already  dealing with the issue. People that live on the coast and  own property there, are on the front of the wave, so to speak. They will pay the costs first. It will only get worse, as we are too far along with global warming to reverse all the trends even if we stopped using fossil fuel tomorrow. The lag time of the effect is longer than one lifetime.

That’s why I’m pushing the notion that we should continue to focus on the local, state and regional levels to make meaningful changes, while we wait out the Trump administration. Your personal decisions will matter more than ever. What you eat, what you decide to drive, will be part of how we craft this part of the US to survive four years of inaction at the federal level. If you own property at sea level, you should be pondering what you are going to do. Don’t expect help from the Feds. America has voted in an administration that does not even believe your problem exists. No amount of deregulation is going to help you. As Roger Miller said, “You can’t roller skate in an buffalo herd.”

Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing: how close the home is to the water’s edge. But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline. How many feet above sea level? Is it fortified against storm surges? Does it have emergency power and sump pumps? Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Ian Urbina reports. (NY Times)


Youth Activists Demand Tougher Limits On Climate Pollution – KNKX

The first news we’ve posted from the new KNKX (formerly KPLU!). So happy that they were able to stay independent. I’ve stopped all donations to KUOW this year to protest their underhanded way of attempting to buy out the competition, and their endless repetitive news stories. As to this news, all I can say is, “Go Kids! Don’t Stop! It’s your future.”

The Washington kids who filed suit against the state Department of Ecology to get tougher limits on carbon pollution say current policies don’t go far enough. Together with their backers, they’ve unveiled more aggressive legislation they say would protect their constitutional right to clean air.  In April, a King County Superior Court judge ordered the state Department of Ecology to issue an emissions reduction rule by the end of the year and to consult with the young plaintiffs about the latest science before making recommendations to the legislature in 2017.  This was after eight youngsters filed suit in cooperation with the national group, Our Children’s Trust, which has brought similar cases across the country. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)


From mountain forests to city parks, trees are stressed and dying – Seattle Times

While this story highlights problems in Seattle, the article also points to problems statewide. Climate change is here, and we are going to have to roll with it’s  its punches. A small thought out of this article, is for those of you with birch trees (I’m one of them ). Hold off on any tree trimming until later in the fall. The birch beetles noted in this article are active until about August (so the historical data tells us). I’m unclear as to whether they are going to be active longer into the year, but I’m planning on doing my annual trimming after the leaves fall. Trimming causes stress to the tree, which is what the borers are looking for.

The killing effects of the long, hot drought of 2015 are showing up in dying tree tops, thinning needles, burgeoning beetles and an unprecedented number of dead trees in city parks.


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The Siege of Miami – New Yorker

What does Miami have to do with the Olympic Peninsula? It’s all about a ring side seat to the real story of global warming that isn’t being told by the mainstream press, because of fear of panic in high value real estate locales like Miami.This is a clear picture of how bad things are going to get, real fast. Miami is going under water, now, and other than it’s mayor, no one wants to admit it. Read this fascinating story from the front lines of a major American city about to be returned to the sea,perhaps in our life times.

 In November, researchers reported that, owing to the loss of an ice shelf off northeastern Greenland, a new “floodgate” on the ice sheet had opened. All told, Greenland’s ice holds enough water to raise global sea levels by twenty feet……..Of all the world’s cities, Miami ranks second in terms of assets vulnerable to rising seas—No. 1 is Guangzhou—and in terms of population it ranks fourth, after Guangzhou, Mumbai, and Shanghai. A recent report on storm surges in the United States listed four Florida cities among the eight most at risk. (On that list, Tampa came in at No. 1.) For the past several years, the daily high-water mark in the Miami area has been racing up at the rate of almost an inch a year, nearly ten times the rate of average global sea-level rise. 


New Puget Sound climate study: Older projections coming true, more changes ahead – Tacoma News Tribune

More local updates on climate change science and it’s impacts. We are now entering a period where the first waves of local data and predictions are behind us, and we can start to compare those predictions with real data. The problems we are going to have with river flows, snowpack and salmon are going to take very hard work to mitigate, if they can be at all.  Anyone wishing to jump in can contact me about opportunities. Many exist. A lot of us have been spending years of our lives contributing to prioritization of issues, and meetings to debate those priorities. It’s a small group that rotates through, due to lack of interest by the general public in participating and we are always willing to have new people contribute as they can.

If you are in a hurry, simply go to the link of the report and read the Executive Summary.

Closer to home than the thousands of world leaders in Paris to discuss how to limit the scale of human-caused global warming, the consequences of climate change underway around Puget Sound have been detailed in an in-depth scientific study. The report, issued in November [https://cig.uw.edu/resources/special-reports/ps-sok/] by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, found projections in a 2005 study on potential warming effects have come to pass, its authors said. The consequences threaten cornerstones of South Sound life from worsening floods and droughts to diminishing salmon stocks and snowpacks. Derrick Nunnally reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)


First EPA chief accuses Republicans of ignoring science for political gain – The Guardian

William Ruckelshaus, who this week will receive the presidential medal of freedom, says candidates are harming US’s reputation ahead of Paris climate talks

The man considered the father figure of environmental protection in the US has attacked Republicans for “going through all the stages of denial” over climate change, accusing leading presidential contenders Donald Trump and Marco Rubio of ignoring science for political gain.


Washington Tribe Confronts Climate Change, Sea Level Rise – Earthfix KUOW

Climate change adaptation strikes home here on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula. The Quinault Indian Nation is struggling sea level rise and the loss of the Anderson Glacier, which feeds the Quinault River.

TAHOLAH, Wash. – A big question will confront international leaders in the next round of climate talks in Paris: How do they help poor, island and coastal nations threatened by rising oceans, extreme weather and other climate change-related risks?

In the Northwest, sea-level rise is forcing a Native American tribe to consider abandoning lands it has inhabited for thousands of years. – Ashley Ahearn reports.


July 2015 was warmest month ever recorded for the globe – NOAA

The data is in from NOAA, and it’s not good.  In addition, January-July 2015 also had record warm temperatures and globally the oceans heated up. From South America, through Africa, the data points to the highest temperatures recorded since record keeping in 1880.

(graphic from NOAA)
These numbers simply belie the fact that moving to clean energy is crucial to having any success in reversing this trend, or mitigating it. The numbers however, don’t show the facts on the ground, where drought, massive and unprecedented wildfires, and ocean destruction are impacting us now, and into the future. There is no time left to push solutions into the future.

Here in Jefferson County, there appears to be no backup plan if we get another winter without snowpack. I have heard nothing from County or City leaders, on what will be done if the water from the rivers is not present. That situation is happening now, and will not likely break until midwinter. Lots of talk about September through November water rationing, but scientists are predicting a very dry winter.


Washington businesses unite on climate action – Crosscut

Ultimately, it is probably going to have to be the business community that gets the politicians to act. Insurance companies and groups like this will be the kind of influencers that the political hacks that have just been elected will need to hear.

With a snow-capped Mount Rainier as their poster child, Washington businesses have joined forces to take a stand on climate change. More than 100 businesses — from REI and Virginia Mason to Taylor Shellfish and Microsoft — launched a declaration calling for “climate action.” While they didn’t know what the outcome of the November election would be when they came together, their message remains the same. “Tackling climate change,” a declaration from the group says, “is one of Washington’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century. And it’s simply the right thing to do.” Martha Baskin reports. (Crosscut)


The Mother Nature of climate protests comes Sunday with offspring here – Seattle PI.com

If you are concerned about getting the attention of the general population, who are vaguely aware of the issue of the issue of Climate Change, you might want to take part in one of these two ‘super protests’ or look into the various other local ones being planned around the Peninsula.

….An estimated 1,000 organizations are working to mount the mother of all environmental demonstrations this Sunday in Manhattan.  Its aim, along with other events worldwide, is the biggest impact on public consciousness since the first Earth Day in 1970…. The Puget Sound area will see two offshoot demonstrations. The first will take place Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.at the Peace Arch in Blaine, with a heavy emphasis on protecting the Salish Sea — inland waters of Washington and British Columbia through which millions of salmon pass en route to the Fraser river…. The second event will be a Peoples Climate March in Seattle, slated for Westlake Park at 1 p.m.  Joel Connelly reports. (SeattlePI.Com)


Report from the Climate Change Front – State Senator Kevin Ranker at the NW Straits Conference

Washington State is in the forefront of the impacts of climate change around the world. In addition to actually feeling the effects, in alarming problems emerging in our waters that are impacting shellfish, we have a state legislature and governor that have demanded and funded serious scientific study along with  a feedback loop to the lawmakers from the Governor’s directives, as well as State law.

It is difficult to collate all the scientific efforts of this funding into a neat package, but once or twice a year, we get a window into that work. The Northwest Straits Initiative, which for over 15 years has brought together scientists, business interests, tribes  and volunteer citizens, holds their annual conference.  These people belong to the Marine Resource Committees  (MRCs) of seven counties, from Snohomish to the Canadian border, and west through the Strait of Juan de Fuca (along with non-NW Straits Initiative managed counties along the Coast). The MRC  representatives  come together to share the stories of their work, and hear a unified program of science efforts that support or influence that work.

This year, the conference attendees, were treated to an update on many of the various climate change issues that they face. As part of our coverage of this important conference, and because the NW Straits does not have the financial capabilities to hold a large public forum, we  at the Olympic Peninsula Environmental News present a series of presentations to you over the next few weeks, to allow the general public to hear what was told to the attendees. Given that the attendees are mainly volunteers (there are a few part time staff members in each jurisdiction to help in project management and grant writing), and come forward from the local communities, for those who are interested in volunteering, or cannot afford the time and money to attend the conference, we will post audio of all the presentations we were able to cover, which was all but two, and in addition, as time allows, we will also post the powerpoint presentations of those speakers who used it.

Washington State Senator Kevin leads off the presentations. Hailing from  San Juan County,  Senator Ranker has been instrumental in providing support with funding and legislation to scientific research and policy guidance on ocean acidification (OA). OA research is a critical to fund, as the effects of the increased acidification, in even small degrees, appears to have serious outcomes on shellfish, which provides over $270 million dollars a year (2010 number), and over 3200 direct jobs, most of them in rural and lower income communities around the Sea.  These jobs also support the wider communities they live in with indirect jobs, in supporting industries.

Senator Ranker’s presentation can be found at the following link. You can listen to it right here, or download it for later listening on any MP3 player, or your tablet or PC. The presentation is 38 minutes long, and Senator Ranker’s slides will likely be available later. It is our opinion that not immediately having his slides will not detract from his message. The Senator is a very humorous and off the cuff speaker.

If you wish to attend any of the monthly MRC meetings in your area, check their local web sites. All meetings are open to the public and are advertised in advance. You can also support the work of the NW Straits Initiative, by donating to the NW Straits Foundation. Their web site is http://www.nwstraits.org and http://www.nwstraits.org/Foundation/About.aspx.

What Climate Change Means For Northwest’s Rivers, Coasts and Forests – Earthfix

The science continues to come in on this. A good luck at the economic factors that will be affected.

Northwest residents from Idaho farmers to Puget Sound tribes will be impacted by climate change, according to a new report written by scientists at Oregon State University and the University of Washington. The report was issued Monday. It’s based on models that predict average temperatures in the Northwest will rise over the next fifty years. Amelia Templeton reports.



Scientific report raises possibilty of massive ocean rise NY Times

New evidence points to what has happened before when the earth warms up.


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