climate change | KUOW News and Information

climate change

c
Jason Margolis

Barack Obama carried the state of North Carolina in 2008 by just 14,000 votes. Four years later, the state flipped back to the Republicans and Mitt Romney, also in a tight election. So, to say that every vote matters in North Carolina — it’s not hyperbole.

Ramone Rushing, 32, knows this. He lives in Georgia, but recently loaded up his car and drove six hours northeast to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Ben Silesky, 26, and Sydney Allen, 21, go door to door to raise awareness and support for ballot Initiative 732, which would put a tax on carbon emissions in Washington.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

If you could make energy companies pay $25 for every ton of CO2 they emitted, would you?

What if that tax increased your electric bill and the cost of gasoline by 25 cents per gallon – but the revenue from that tax reduced sales taxes and gave money back to low-income families in the form of a rebate?

The European Parliament voted Tuesday to ratify the landmark Paris climate accord, paving the way for the international plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions to become binding as soon as the end of this week.

It has been a common belief that low-emissions vehicles, like hybrids and electric cars, are more expensive than other choices. But a new study finds that when operating and maintenance costs are included in a vehicle's price, cleaner cars may actually be a better bet.

The cars and trucks we drive are responsible for about a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions in this country. That's why Jessika Trancik, an energy scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, decided it was time to take a closer look at vehicle emissions.

The Washington state Department of Ecology says the fastest erosion on the West Coast is happening at aptly named Washaway Beach -- located between the southwest Washington towns of Grayland and Tokeland.

Most places threatened by erosion try to fight back. But the erosion at Washaway Beach is so rapid, the question now is to fight -- or retreat.

The floods that hit Louisiana last month were caused by rainfall that was unlike anything seen there in centuries. Most of the southern part of the state was drenched with up to 2 or 3 inches in an hour. A total of 31 inches fell just northeast of Baton Rouge in about three days; 20 parishes were declared federal disaster areas.

Climate scientists and flood managers suspect there could more like that to come — in Louisiana and in other parts of the country.

From anthrax outbreaks in thawing permafrost to rice farms flooded with salty water, climate change seems to play a bigger and bigger role in global health each year.

This November, Washington voters must decide how to vote on the nation’s first ever carbon tax. Initiative 732 would increase taxes on fossil fuel consumption to fight climate change, but cut business and sales taxes.


American white pelicans are conspicuous birds. With their long orange bills and their nine-foot wingspan, they stand out, even at a distance.

Sue Ehler easily spots a squadron of them through her binoculars from over a mile away, coming in for a landing on Puget Sound’s Padilla Bay.

“They’ve got that pure white. It just shines like a bright light out there. More than the other white birds,” Ehler says.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 20 counties mostly on the dry side of the Cascades, an area vulnerable to wildfire. Resources are stretched thin in the battle to save homes and property.

Rising sea levels have eroded an Inupiat Eskimo village for decades. Now, residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, have officially voted to relocate.

The island community, located near the Bering Strait, opted to move rather than remain in place with added safety measures to protect against the rising waters. The city clerk's office told NPR that 94 votes favored relocating and 78 votes wanted to protect in place.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, warning that “we are the last generation” that can combat climate change, is featured in a video produced by filmmaker James Cameron for airing Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention.

The 5 1/2-minute video portrays climate change as a slow-moving disaster movie, replete with scenes of devastation from hurricanes, floods, drought and wildfires.

There was a time when Sandra Gologergen's freezer never ran out. Packed with traditional Inuit foods like whale, walrus, seal and fish, her freezer has been an essential lifeline, ensuring her husband, three kids and grandson make it through the long harsh winters of Savoonga, Alaska.

"Then that changed," she says.

Just as the U.S. is battling diet-related diseases, obesity and climate change, so, too, is China.

And among the proposed strategies to combat these problems is this: Eat less meat.

Climate change is a global issue. But for Betty Barkha, it's personal.

The 25-year-old grew up in the city of Lautoka in Fiji, a couple of minutes from the Pacific, amid the fish markets and flocks of tourists roasting on the beach.

People in India know the Sundarbans as a beautiful and dangerous patchwork of mangrove islands covering nearly 4,000 square miles extending into Bangladesh. It is also home to a variety of rare and endangered species and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now, this watery landscape is getting international attention for a different reason.

Some of these islands are disappearing, swallowed up by rising tides. Tens of thousands of people who live in the Sundarbans have lost their homes in recent decades.

It’s the kind of foggy day you’d expect at Redwood National Park on the Northern California coast. The headlands are shrouded in mist and the gray-blue ocean churns against the shore.

“This place is called Shin-yvslh-sri~ – the Summer Place,” says Suntayea Steinruck a member of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation and Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer for Smith River Rancheria.

Part 6 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Case For Optimism

About Al Gore's TED Talk

Vice President Al Gore explains how human ingenuity can solve our climate crisis.

About Al Gore

Thomas Merton Center dinner honoring Bill McKibben, 11/4/2013
Flickr Photo/Mark Dixon (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/hkccL6

On his recent visit to Seattle, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben apologized for his “life’s work of bumming people out” about climate change. He continued with that sobering work in this talk at Town Hall Seattle, but not without sharing his optimism about the successes and the future of the environmental movement.

Old-growth forests in the Northwest have the potential to make the extremes of climate change less damaging for wildlife. New research out of Oregon State University shows complex forests do a surprisingly good job of regulating temperature on the ground – even compared to fully mature tree plantations.

“On a sunny day, if you were sitting underneath them, you’d get a similar amount of shade,” says study co-author Matt Betts, an Ecologist at OSU.

Courtesy of David Haldeman

This Humanities Washington Think & Drink conversation addresses the effects of climate change in the Northwest. It features Amy Snover, director of the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and KUOW environment reporter Ashley Ahearn. They spoke at Naked City Brewery and Taphouse on March 30. Anna Tatistcheff recorded their talk.

On Friday, most of the world's governments are set to sign the most sweeping climate agreement in history. Their signatures will codify promises they made in Paris last December to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The two largest sources of those gases are the U.S. and China. Whether they keep their promises will in large part determine whether the Paris deal succeeds. And it is by no means clear that they'll be able to keep their promises.

What These Dead Whalers Tell Us About Climate Change

Feb 24, 2016
The U.S.S. Bear, a cutter that was dispatched by President McKinley to rescue the Belvedere and other ice-bound whaling ships. The Bear wasn’t able to break through the ice to Point Barrow until July 28, 1898. Today, there is no ice.
U.S. Library of Congress

Audio Pending...

When the steamship Belvedere left San Francisco in the spring of 1897, its crew members couldn’t have known what a treacherous voyage awaited them.

Many middle and high school science teachers are getting climate change wrong.

That's according to the results of a new, national teacher survey backed by the National Center for Science Education and published in the journal Science.

Before we get to those results, a quick, climate science refresher is in order.

NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce says the world's major scientific organizations are now clear on global warming:

NOAA

Last month was easily the warmest January the world has ever recorded, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

his is a shot from 2008 referred to many as Surprise Glacier during a trip to Alaska to catalog glacial melt and other climate-related research.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Geological Survey (Public Domain)/https://flic.kr/p/nwi9ox

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle psychologist Dr. Laura Brown about how we should deal with the trauma of climate change and how fear shuts us down. 

The Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, one of Washington's top 10 sources of greenhouse gases.
Flickr Photo/Scott Butner (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e4EJ5B

The biggest climate polluters in Washington have been identified, according to numbers out this week: the TransAlta coal-burning power plant in Centralia, the BP oil refinery at Cherry Point and the Shell Oil refinery in Anacortes.

As the state gears up to regulate climate-harming pollution, the Washington Department of Ecology has been tracking emissions from the state's biggest sources.

 A fashion faux pas could be the worst consequence if you wear the wrong color for the season. But a new scientific paper finds much higher stakes when it comes to mismatched coat colors in the animal world.

Warm ocean temps could be starving Alaskan seabirds

Jan 14, 2016
c
Nigel Roddis/Reuters 

An estimated 8,000 black and white seabirds, called murres, were found dead on a beach in Alaska earlier this month.

Their bodies were found floating in the surf and washed ashore in the Prince William Sound community of Whittier. Wildlife ecologist Dan Grear said this is the biggest die off of the common murre in Alaska this season, but not the first.  

"Carcasses started to be noticed this fall in Alaska, and as the winter has progressed into December and early January, observers ... have started to find thousands of dead murres on specific beaches,” Grear said.

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