climate change

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Coral is more than a pretty color, it is an ecosystem that represents a tiny fraction of the planet, but a huge proportion of its marine life. 

Oregon State University's marine science efforts include studies of coral, even though the closest reef is thousands of miles from Oregon. 

OSU is a partner in the creation of the documentary film "Saving Atlantis," which puts the steep decline of coral in our warming oceans into perspective.  Justin Smith is producer and co-director of the movie; Rebecca Vega-Thurber is the primary investigator. 

Ansgar Walk, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=757797

It makes sense in principle: icebergs and ice sheets in the polar regions melt, and add water to the oceans. 

So the oceans rise.  But HOW?  That's the question researched in great detail by Dave Sutherland in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oregon. 

His research focuses not just on the melting, but where the water goes, horizontally and vertically.  Sutherland's work takes him to Greenland and Alaska, among other places. 

Robert Lawton, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1243835

Drought and wet years tend to alternate in our part of the world.  We get used to a winter with little snow followed by one with above-average snowpack. 

But computer climate models show the situation getting worse as the planet warms, with something like a "precipitation whiplash" effect: deep and prolonged droughts followed by deluges. 

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We're urged to "think globally, act locally," but climate change is still a massive thing to wrap our minds around. 

How DO we express our concerns at the local level in ways that make a difference?  Mary DeMocker, co-founder of the Eugene chapter of 350.org, has a few ideas for you.  She is the author of The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night's Sleep

You might tell from the title that the book is both serious and lighthearted. 

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Who would you blame for climate change?  And more to the point, if you could sue someone over it, who would that be? 

Oregon is the source of lawsuits filed on behalf of children, meant to provoke government action on climate change.  But that's just one legal approach. 

"Attribution science" looks to pinpoint responsibility for climate change.  And so it involves both scientists--like the Union of Concerned Scientists--and lawyers, like those at Client Earth. 

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Human contributions to global warming get a thorough examination in William T. Vollman's two-book series "Carbon Ideologies." 

Volume 1, out now, is called No Immediate Danger, and its primary focus is nuclear energy.  Which adds almost nothing in the way of greenhouse gases, but has its own considerable set of concerns. 

The author traveled far and wide and even put himself in some danger to research the books. 

L.S. Mills research photos by Jaco and Lindsey Barnard

The snowpack numbers tell us that streams may flow a little more slowly in the coming dry season.  But there are other things to consider when there's less snow (besides fewer days of skiing), like the effects on animals. 

An animal that has evolved to blend in with snow will stick out like a snowy thumb on a bare landscape. 

Scientists at the University of Montana looked into this, to see how rapidly evolution might progress in the face of climate change.  Hares in brown and white are the study animals; Scott Mills is the scientist. 

Billy Wilson / Flickr

If we want to reduce carbon in the atmosphere to slow or even reverse climate change, we need to cut way down on emissions.  And many scientists say even that will not be enough; we'll actually have to suck some of the carbon dioxide that already exists out of the air. 

So what does that mean, planting jillions of trees?  Giant vacuums? 

Christopher Field at Stanford University is well-versed in atmospheric carbon and the ideas about reducing it. 

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

Humboldt County can be a wet place, but there's plenty more to come as sea levels continue to rise. 

The Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment, in the works for several years, was completed last month. 

It details the ways and areas in which the North Coast is especially prone to problems from higher sea levels.  Now the next question: how best to act on the information. 

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Cap and trade.  Simple phrase, but a loaded one in political circles. 

The idea is a cap on carbon emissions, payments by emitters going above a certain amount, and a market to trade the permits. 

California already has a cap and trade law; the Oregon Legislature will take up a similar concept in the legislative session starting next week, over the objections of several legislators. 

State Senator Michael Dembrow is one of the cap-and-trade sponsors, and he chairs a committee that will consider the bill. 

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Just the TERM "climate change" produces a range of reactions.  And a range of actions, too. 

Consider the Oregon Stewardship Tour, set up by Citizens' Climate Lobby. 

The tour visits cities around Oregon's vast Second Congressional District to talk about ways to address carbon through economic means... carbon pricing and market-based solutions. 

Brian Ettling is co-founder of the Southern Oregon chapter of CCL; Jim Walls is the executive director of the Lake County Resources Initiative

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If you want to understand the science behind climate change, you seek out a scientist, right?  Not necessarily. 

The debate over global warming leaks well beyond the bounds of science. 

Philip Kitcher is a philosopher, and Evelyn Fox Keller is a physicist and professor of the history and philosophy of science. 

They joined forces for a book called The Seasons Alter: How to Save Our Planet in Six Acts.  It places climate change into dialogues--reasonable dialogues--to help people better understand the arguments and dynamics. 

Ellin Beltz, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31739002

Drive from Arcata to Eureka on 101, and the water in the bay looks like it's right at the road level.  Which is not a good thing.  Because sea levels are rising and the land is subsiding. 

The disappearing of land into water could have greater impacts in Humboldt County than anywhere else in California. 

Earlier this month (August 9), the California Coastal Commission awarded a $50,000 grant to Humboldt County to develop collaborative strategies to address sea level rise for some of the county’s most vulnerable areas. 

John Ford runs the county Planning and Building Department. 

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There IS life after fossil fuels.  Peter Kalmus can attest to that. 

He's aware that he lives in a society still powered by them, but he made great strides to reduce his own carbon impact. 

It was about walking the talk: Kalmus is an atmospheric scientist at NASA. 

He tells the story of changing his life to prove the world can change, in the book Being the Change

Public Domain/Wikimedia

If we all--all seven billion of us--got serious about reversing global warming today, change would not come overnight. 

This is the reality David Orr presents in his book Dangerous Years: Climate Change, the Long Emergency, and the Way Forward

He demonstrates the ways in which Earth is becoming a different planet from the one many of us knew. 

But there's some optimism in the book, too: Orr does not believe we're fated to destroy Earth. 

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Maybe you've heard about the permafrost that is proving not so permanent in the world's colder places.

Melting permafrost is damaging and even swallowing houses and bigger buildings. 

And a recently published study shows greenhouse gas buildup figures prominently in the warming of Russia, contrary to prevailing theory. 

Matthew Lachniet at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas is one of the authors. 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife/Public Domain

With carbon in the atmosphere now above 400 parts per million, reducing carbon emissions on the surface is no longer enough. 

What's needed is a Drawdown, also the title of a book laying out and ranking 100 ways to achieve a reduction in atmospheric carbon. 

Some you'd expect, like protecting tropical forests at number 5.  But reducing food waste at number 3, and educating girls at number 5? 

We have many questions for Katharine Wilkinson, the senior writer on the project. 

John Craig, BLM via Wikimedia

We tend to focus on ice caps and polar bears, but climate change effects every place that has a climate.  Meaning: Earth. 

Environmental scientist Susan Harrison tracks the changes in plant species in our region. 

And she has some recent comparisons with older findings in the Siskiyous that are eye-opening. 

envirobeat.com

The goal of 350.org was to convince people to stop the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, to stop it at 350 parts per million. 

That's now a past-tense goal, since the number consistently hangs above 400.  But 350.org and other larger organizations continue the fight for meaningful curbs on greenhouse gases. 

Board Chair KC Golden visits Ashland for a talk at Southern Oregon University this week. 

NASA

Since none of us are able to fly into space and change the planet, Superman-style, any actions on climate change will be done at the local level. 

Message received long ago at both Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN) and Rogue Climate.  Those two organizations work hard to put climate change concerns into action in Southern Oregon. 

And they are far from the only ones... Ashland-based Geos Institute also gets into the act, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival even addresses climate change in its work. 

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