Judith Lavoie's blog

Alaskan Coalition Calls on U.S. to Investigate B.C. Mines

Mount Polley Mine Spill

Six B.C. mines pose threats to Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers and should be investigated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, according to a coalition of conservation groups and Alaskan First Nations who are invoking legislation that says it is the Interior Department’s duty to investigate when foreign nationals may be affecting U.S conservation treaties.

A petition presented to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell suggests that B.C. mines close to the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds diminish the effectiveness of two treaties that protect Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, grizzly bears and woodland caribou.

The treaties are the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere.

The coalition of U.S. and Canadian groups, including Earthjustice, the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, Sierra Club of B.C., Craig Tribal Association, Friends of the Stikine Society and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, are echoing a previous call by Alaska’s congressional delegation to refer the transboundary mines controversy to the International Joint Commission.

Unimpeded Rivers Crucial as Climate Changes: New Study

Flathead Basin

Gravel-bed rivers and their floodplains are the lifeblood of ecosystems and need to be allowed to run and flood unimpeded if species are to be protected and communities are to cope with climate change, a ground-breaking scientific study has found.

The broad valleys formed by rivers flowing from glaciated mountains, such as those found throughout B.C. and Alberta, are some of the most ecologically important habitats in North America, according to the team of scientists who have done the first extensive study of the full range of species that rely on gravel-bed rivers, ranging from microbes to bears. The paper was published online Friday in Science Advances.

In the region that stretches from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the northern Yukon, gravel-bed river flood plains support more than half the plant life. About 70 per cent of the area’s bird species use the floodplain, while deer, elk, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears use the plains for food, habitat and as important migration corridors.

While everyone knows that fish rely on rivers, the scientists found that species such as cottonwood trees need the river flood to reproduce and the ever-changing landscape of changing channels and shifting gravel and rocks supports a complex food web.

Temperatures Could Rise Far More Than Previously Thought If Fossil Fuel Reserves Burned

Flooding in south Yorkshire, England.

Imagine a world where average temperatures are almost 10 degrees Celsius higher than today, an Arctic with temperatures almost 20 degrees warmer and some regions deluged with four times more rain.

That is the dramatic scenario predicted by a team of climate scientists led by the University of Victoria’s Katarzyna Tokarska, who looked at what would happen if the Earth’s remaining untapped fossil fuel reserves are burned.

Tokarska, a PhD student at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, used simulations from climate models looking at the relationship between carbon emissions and warming — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — and concluded that known fossil fuel reserves would emit the equivalent of five trillion tonnes of carbon emissions if burned.

That would result in average global temperature increases between 6.4 degrees and 9.5 degrees Celsius, with Arctic temperatures warming between 14.7 degrees and 19.5 degrees, says the paper published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

These results indicate that the unregulated exploitation of the fossil fuel resource could ultimately result in considerably more profound climate changes than previously suggested,” says the study.

Republican Senators from Alaska Ask John Kerry to Help Protect Rivers, Salmon from B.C.’s Dangerous Mining Practices

High-level international action is needed to ensure that southeast Alaskan rivers and fisheries are protected from B.C. mines along the B.C./Alaska border, say Alaska’s federal representatives.

Concerns about the environmental safety of mines in the transboundary region have escalated since the province’s auditor general issued a scathing report earlier this month on B.C.’s mining practices and Alaska’s Congressional Delegation is now pushing for Secretary of State John Kerry to step in.

We write to express our continuing concerns about the development of several hardrock mines in British Columbia and their potential effects on water quality in the transboundary rivers that flow from Canada into Southeast Alaska,” says a letter to Kerry from the congressional delegation, made up of Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young, all of whom are Republicans.

The group points out that, like most Alaskans, they support responsible mining.

But Alaskans need to have every confidence that mining activity in Canada is carried out just as safely as it is in our state. Yet, today, that confidence does not exist,” says the letter.

Immediate Action Needed to Save Pacific Northwest from Ocean Acidification: Scientists

The Pacific coast of North America is becoming more acidic as human-produced carbon dioxide emissions dissolve into the water and communities from B.C. to California must take action now to offset changes that are already affecting West Coast marine life, say leading ocean scientists.
 
The panel of 20 scientists from B.C., California, Oregon and Washington have spent three years studying changes in ocean chemistry along the West Coast and a report released Monday says regional strategies are urgently needed to combat changes that are coming and, where possible, reduce the impacts.
 
“Ocean acidification is a global problem that is having a disproportionate impact on productive West Coast ecosystems,” Francis Chan, an Oregon State University marine ecologist, said. Chan is the co-chair of the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science panel.
 
“There has been an attitude that there is not much we can do about this locally, but that just isn’t true. A lot of the solutions will come locally and through coordinated regional efforts,” he said.

'The Blob' Disrupts What We Think We Know About Climate Change, Oceans Scientist Says

Deep in the northeast Pacific Ocean, The Blob is acting strangely.

When the abnormally warm patch of water first appeared in 2013, fascinated scientists watched disrupted weather patterns, from drought in California to almost snowless winters in Alaska and record cold winters in the northeast.

The anomalously warm water, with temperatures three degrees Centigrade above normal, was nicknamed The Blob by U.S climatologist Nick Bond. It stretched over one million square kilometres of the Gulf of Alaska — more than the surface area of B.C. and Alberta combined — stretching down 100-metres into the ocean.

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