FRISCO — Secretary of State John Kerry probably expressed what many people feel about climate change when he took to the podium at the GLACIER conference in Alaska Monday, describing the helplessness that can take hold when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem.
“I have struggled for years, as I’m sure many of you have, with how you adequately take an issue of this magnitude, this kind of challenge, and put it in terms that average folks can really grab onto, where it isn’t so intimidating,” Kerry said.
But that can’t be an excuse to do nothing, Kerry continued, describing the Alaska conference as an important stepping stone on the way to critical climate talk in Paris coming up in December.
“Everywhere I travel, leaders and average folks talk to me about the impacts of climate change and what they feel and see is happening to their lives in one particular part of the world or another. And the Arctic is so important for us to visit and understand because the Arctic is in many ways a thermostat … and yet we already see is having a profound impact on the rest of the planet,” he said.
Kerry also referred to concerns about melting permafrost, which could release heat-trapping gases in such great volumes that it could trigger runaway global warming far beyond and scenario currently represented in climate models.
“The bottom line is that climate is not a distant threat for our children and their children to worry about. It is now. It is happening now. And I think anybody running for any high office in any nation in the word should come to Alaska or to any other place where it is happening and inform themselves about this. It is a seismic challenge that is affecting millions of people today,” Kerry said, describing how Alaska is a poster child for those challenges.
“And unless the global community comes together to address this challenge, the dramatic climate impacts that we’re seeing in this part of the world will be a harbinger for every part of the world,” he said.
‘Fragile and unraveling’ ecosystems need protection
FRISCO — With President Barack Obama highlighting climate change during a visit to Alaska, conservation activists are renewing their call for the designation of Marine National Monuments in Alaskan waters.
Alaska communities seek international review of Canadian projects that will affect their rivers
FRISCO — Mining and energy development in western Canada is making some Alaskans uneasy, as they eye potential impacts to pristine salmon streams in the region.
Citing a bilateral environmental treaty, activists this week will meet with British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, when he visits Juneau and will ask him to support an international review of mine developments in northwest B.C.
FRISCO — Federal biologists said they’re launching an investigation into the cause of an unusually high number of whale deaths in the western Gulf of Alaska. In the past year, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula.
As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declared a formal unusual mortality event, which triggers a focused, expert investigation. An unusual mortality event is a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of a marine mammal population, and demands immediate response. The number of large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average for any comparable timespan. Continue reading “Scientists to investigate spate of Alaska whale strandings”→
New USGS study measures North Slope shoreline losses
FRISCO — In the eternal battle between land and sea, the sea appears to be winning in northern Alaska, where much of the coastline is retreating at a rate of more than three feet per year, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The region has some of the highest shoreline erosion rates in the world, according to the research, which analyzed more than 50 years worth of measurements.
Nationally, fires have scorched more than 2.5 million acres
FRISCO — U.S. Wildfire activity has surged above the 10-year average in the past few weeks, primarily because of what will be a record-breaking fire season in Alaska.
After months of mostly above-average temperatures, Alaska’s vast forests and brushlands were primed, and the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center is reporting that more 600 fires have burned across more than 1.8 million acres in the state.
Fires have caused evacuations, highway closures, and rail and flight disruptions. More than 350 structures have been damaged, including about 70 homes.
Above-average temperatures and a longstanding drought in the western U.S. are big factors in the wildfires burning in parts of Washington, Oregon and California.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently 26 major fires burning in Alaska. Nationally, the NIFC is reporting that about 26,000 fires have burned across more than 2.5 million acres for the year to-date, the highest number since 2011, when fires had already scorched more than 4.8 million acres by this time of year.
FRISCO — Ocean water around parts of Alaska is acidifying so fast that shellfish hatcheries may soon have to use costly treatment systems to continue commercial operations.
“Our research shows there could be significant effects from ocean acidification on Alaska’s emerging shellfish hatchery industry in a matter of two and half decades,” said Jeremy Mathis, Ph.D., an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and a co-author of the study, published this week in PLOS ONE.