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Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds

The huge loss is a tragedy in itself but also threatens the survival of civilisation, say the world’s leading scientists

The Guardian by Damian Carrington Environment editor

Cattle in the Amazon rainforest.
 Cattle in the Amazon rainforest. 
Photograph: Michael Nichols/National Geographic/Getty Images

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.

The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.

“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

“This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” he said. “This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2018/10/archive-2-zip/giv-3902ogldkhvM7qOn/

“We are rapidly running out of time,” said Prof Johan Rockström, a global sustainability expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Only by addressing both ecosystems and climate do we stand a chance of safeguarding a stable planet for humanity’s future on Earth.”

Many scientists believe the world has begun a sixth mass extinction, the first to be caused by a species – Homo sapiens. Other recent analyses have revealed that humankind has destroyed 83% of all mammals and half of plants since the dawn of civilization and that, even if the destruction were to end now, it would take 5-7 million years for the natural world to recover.

The Living Planet Index, produced for WWF by the Zoological Society of London, uses data on 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, to track the decline of wildlife. Between 1970 and 2014, the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60%. Four years ago, the decline was 52%. The “shocking truth”, said Barrett, is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated.

Wildlife and the ecosystems are vital to human life, said Prof Bob Watson, one of the world’s most eminent environmental scientists and currently chair of an intergovernmental panel on biodiversity that said in March that the destruction of nature is as dangerous as climate change.

“Nature contributes to human wellbeing culturally and spiritually, as well as through the critical production of food, clean water, and energy, and through regulating the Earth’s climate, pollution, pollination and floods,” he said. “The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations.”

The biggest cause of wildlife losses is the destruction of natural habitats, much of it to create farmland. Three-quarters of all land on Earth is now significantly affected by human activities. Killing for food is the next biggest cause – 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction – while the oceans are massively overfished, with more than half now being industrially fished.

See article here……

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Changing a society’s governing paradigm is no easy undertaking.

 

Verge Weekly – Technologies & Trends Accelerating the Clean Economy 

By Shana Rappaport, Director of Strategic Programs

November 6, 2018

Changing a society’s governing paradigm is no easy undertaking.

Take Copernicus and Galileo, who dedicated their lives to the unenviable task of debunking the notion that the sun revolved around the earth just because the medieval church proclaimed it. Today, we no longer question that theory, or whether democracy is a better form of government than plutocracy.

Now, in the early years of a new millenium, we find ourselves in the midst of another renaissance — a pivotal inflection point in the history of civilization. This time, however, the belief system we need to overcome is the idea that perpetual economic growth is the key to prosperity — or even possible.

There’s a new paradigm emerging. A fundamental shift away from the extractive brand of capitalism that has put the nine planetary boundaries on which humanity and life on earth as we know it depend in grave jeopardy. Emerging in its place is a more regenerative economy — one that restores those systems, while demonstrating that economic prosperity, security and sustainability go hand in hand.

That’s why I found myself especially fired up by the interview we just published with Hunter Lovins about her new book, A Finer Future, and the in-depth paper it references, by John Fullerton, on Regenerative Capitalism. Specifically, the compelling case they make that regenerative businesses are more successful businesses, and that we’re ultimately headed in the right direction, albeit not as quickly as we need.

The idea of business as a force that regenerates rather than degenerates ecological and human systems is by no means a new one. Visionaries like Ray AndersonCarol SanfordBill Reed and many, many others have been championing, and implementing, it for decades — including Hunter Lovins (a la Natural Capitalism, circa 1999).

Lovins recounts in the interview her experience sitting with Anderson back in 2001, at which time his bold vision — to redesign Interface’s core business to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by 2020 — was unprecedented, even outlandish. Even then, however, it was as much about building a better company as it was about social and environmental responsibility. “Everything I’m doing to make Interface a more sustainable company is enhancing shareholder value,” Anderson told Lovins, at the time.

Today, unlike during Anderson’s era, this is no longer a radical idea. We’re seeing evidence that businesses that align their core strategy with sustainability — and increasingly towards regenerative outcomes — can be more profitable.

Case in point: Companies that lead in measuring and managing their carbon footprint have an 18 percent higher return on investment than the laggards, and a 67 percent higher return than companies that performed as if climate were not a material issue, according to a 2014 study conducted by CDP. The rapid adoption of Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) Criteria now has evidence to back it up, too — publications ranging from Bloomberg to GreenBiz are all telling the data-driven story of why ESG is good for business, in addition to people and the planet. There’s even a new ETHO Climate Leadership Index, which has proven the climate-smart companies in which it invests consistently outperform others in the S&P 500.

As Lovin’s put it, “there are now well over 50 studies showing that companies leading in ESG criteria have, take your pick: the highest stock value; the fastest-growing stock value; well outperform the market; outperform their peers; and have more engaged workforces (a better engaged workforce will give you 16 percent higher profitability, and 18 percent higher productivity).”

While the data are clearly on our side, time is not. Now is our moment to reimagine and redesign a regenerative economy that works for all — and, like any proper paradigm shift, it takes work.

As Fullerton poignantly put it, “We are the new Copernicans.” So, let’s get back to work.

By:

Chris Vlahoplus

Sponsored: ScottMadden discusses the building blocks of a successful corporate renewable energy strategy.

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The nine planetary boundaries

Estimates of how the different control variables for seven planetary boundaries have changed from 1950 to present. The green shaded polygon represents the safe operating space. Source: Steffen et al. 2015

The nine planetary boundaries

Stratospheric ozone depletion

The stratospheric ozone layer in the atmosphere filters out ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. If this layer decreases, increasing amounts of UV radiation will reach ground level. This can cause a higher incidence of skin cancer in humans as well as damage to terrestrial and marine biological systems. The appearance of the Antarctic ozone hole was proof that increased concentrations of anthropogenic ozone-depleting chemical substances, interacting with polar stratospheric clouds, had passed a threshold and moved the Antarctic stratosphere into a new regime. Fortunately, because of the actions taken as a result of the Montreal Protocol, we appear to be on the path that will allow us to stay within this boundary.

Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions)
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 concluded that changes to ecosystems due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, increasing the risks of abrupt and irreversible changes. The main drivers of change are the demand for food, water, and natural resources, causing severe biodiversity loss and leading to changes in ecosystem services. These drivers are either steady, showing no evidence of declining over time, or are increasing in intensity. The current high rates of ecosystem damage and extinction can be slowed by efforts to protect the integrity of living systems (the biosphere), enhancing habitat, and improving connectivity between ecosystems while maintaining the high agricultural productivity that humanity needs. Further research is underway to improve the availability of reliable data for use as the ‘control variables’ for this boundary.

Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities
Emissions of toxic and long-lived substances such as synthetic organic pollutants, heavy metal compounds and radioactive materials represent some of the key human-driven changes to the planetary environment. These compounds can have potentially irreversible effects on living organisms and on the physical environment (by affecting atmospheric processes and climate). Even when the uptake and bioaccumulation of chemical pollution is at sub-lethal levels for organisms, the effects of reduced fertility and the potential of permanent genetic damage can have severe effects on ecosystems far removed from the source of the pollution. For example, persistent organic compounds have caused dramatic reductions in bird populations and impaired reproduction and development in marine mammals. There are many examples of additive and synergic effects from these compounds, but these are still poorly understood scientifically.  At present, we are unable to quantify a single chemical pollution boundary, although the risk of crossing Earth system thresholds is considered sufficiently well-defined for it to be included in the list as a priority for precautionary action and for further research.

Climate Change
Recent evidence suggests that the Earth, now passing 390 ppmv CO2 in the atmosphere, has already transgressed the planetary boundary and is approaching several Earth system thresholds. We have reached a point at which the loss of summer polar sea-ice is almost certainly irreversible. This is one example of a well-defined threshold above which rapid physical feedback mechanisms can drive the Earth system into a much warmer state with sea levels metres higher than present. The weakening or reversal of terrestrial carbon sinks, for example through the on-going destruction of the world’s rainforests, is another potential tipping point, where climate-carbon cycle feedbacks accelerate Earth’s warming and intensify the climate impacts. A major question is how long we can remain over this boundary before large, irreversible changes become unavoidable.  

Ocean acidification
Around a quarter of the CO2 that humanity emits into the atmosphere is ultimately dissolved in the oceans. Here it forms carbonic acid, altering ocean chemistry and decreasing the pH of the surface water. This increased acidity reduces the amount of available carbonate ions, an essential ‘building block’ used by many marine species for shell and skeleton formation. Beyond a threshold concentration, this rising acidity makes it hard for organisms such as corals and some shellfish and plankton species to grow and survive. Losses of these species would change the structure and dynamics of ocean ecosystems and could potentially lead to drastic reductions in fish stocks. Compared to pre-industrial times, surface ocean acidity has already increased by 30 percent.  Unlike most other human impacts on the marine environment, which are often local in scale, the ocean acidification boundary has ramifications for the whole planet. It is also an example of how tightly interconnected the boundaries are, since atmospheric CO2 concentration is the underlying controlling variable for both the climate and the ocean acidification boundaries, although they are defined in terms of different Earth system thresholds.

Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle
The freshwater cycle is strongly affected by climate change and its boundary is closely linked to the climate boundary, yet human pressure is now the dominant driving force determining the functioning and distribution of global freshwater systems. The consequences of human modification of water bodies include both global-scale river flow changes and shifts in vapour flows arising from land use change. These shifts in the hydrological system can be abrupt and irreversible. Water is becoming increasingly scarce – by 2050 about half a billion people are likely to be subject to water-stress, increasing the pressure to intervene in water systems.  A water boundary related to consumptive freshwater use and environmental flow requirements has been proposed to maintain the overall resilience of the Earth system and to avoid the risk of ‘cascading’ local and regional thresholds.

Land system change
Land is converted to human use all over the planet. Forests, grasslands, wetlands and other vegetation types have primarily been converted to agricultural land. This land-use change is one driving force behind the serious reductions in biodiversity, and it has impacts on water flows and on the biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and other important elements. While each incident of land cover change occurs on a local scale, the aggregated impacts can have consequences for Earth system processes on a global scale. A boundary for human changes to land systems needs to reflect not just the absolute quantity of land, but also its function, quality and spatial distribution. Forests play a particularly important role in controlling the linked dynamics of land use and climate, and is the focus of the boundary for land system change.

Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans
The biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus have been radically changed by humans as a result of many industrial and agricultural processes. Nitrogen and phosphorus are both essential elements for plant growth, so fertilizer production and application is the main concern. Human activities now convert more atmospheric nitrogen into reactive forms than all of the Earth’s terrestrial processes combined. Much of this new reactive nitrogen is emitted to the atmosphere in various forms rather than taken up by crops. When it is rained out, it pollutes waterways and coastal zones or accumulates in the terrestrial biosphere. Similarly, a relatively small proportion of phosphorus fertilizers applied to food production systems is taken up by plants; much of the phosphorus mobilized by humans also ends up in aquatic systems. These can become oxygen-starved as bacteria consume the blooms of algae that grow in response to the high nutrient supply. A significant fraction of the applied nitrogen and phosphorus makes its way to the sea, and can push marine and aquatic systems across ecological thresholds of their own. One regional-scale example of this effect is the decline in the shrimp catch in the Gulf of Mexico’s ‘dead zone’ caused by fertilizer transported in rivers from the US Midwest.

Atmospheric aerosol loading
An atmospheric aerosol planetary boundary was proposed primarily because of the influence of aerosols on Earth’s climate system. Through their interaction with water vapour, aerosols play a critically important role in the hydrological cycle affecting cloud formation and global-scale and regional patterns of atmospheric circulation, such as the monsoon systems in tropical regions. They also have a direct effect on climate, by changing how much solar radiation is reflected or absorbed in the atmosphere. Humans change the aerosol loading by emitting atmospheric pollution (many pollutant gases condense into droplets and particles), and also through land-use change that increases the release of dust and smoke into the air. Shifts in climate regimes and monsoon systems have already been seen in highly polluted environments, giving a quantifiable regional measure for an aerosol boundary. A further reason for an aerosol boundary is that aerosols have adverse effects on many living organisms. Inhaling highly polluted air causes roughly 800,000 people to die prematurely each year. The toxicological and ecological effects of aerosols may thus relate to other Earth system thresholds. However, the behaviour of aerosols in the atmosphere is extremely complex, depending on their chemical composition and their geographical location and height in the atmosphere. While many relationships between aerosols, climate and ecosystems are well established, many causal links are yet to be determined.


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UK Activists Kick Off ‘Extinction Rebellion’

UK climate activists lie down to block traffic near London’s Parliament Square. Jenny Matthews / In Pictures / Getty Images

UK Activists Kick Off ‘Extinction Rebellion’

More than 1,000 UK climate activists launched a massive civil disobedience campaign Wednesday when they blocked several roads near London’s Parliament Square, The Guardian reported.

The newly formed group Extinction Rebellion seeks to push the UK government to declare a state of emergency, work towards a carbon free economy by 2025 and convene an assembly of ordinary citizens to plan out the country’s carbon-free future. The group’s message has caught on in the wake of increasingly dire reports about the pace of climate change. Organizers had expected a few hundred to show up to the opening salvo near the seat of UK government. Instead, more than a thousand came and decided to block one of London’s busiest intersections for more than two hours.

“The disruption we are causing today is nothing to the destruction that our governments are unleashing by not taking serious steps to stop the ecological crisis,” 28-year-old demonstrator Felix told The Guardian. “I have never been to prison before but I feel I have to try and do something.”

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In total, 15 people were arrested Wednesday, then released without charge, but the group says hundreds of members are prepared to go to prison in a series of escalating demonstrations in London next month that will build towards a sit-in in Parliament Square November 17 and occupations of various London bridges.

“People are no longer prepared to sit back and watch our politicians and corporations drive us off the cliff of ecological destruction,” organizer Gail Bradbrook told The Guardian. “This is an emergency situation and it needs an emergency response.”

The group read out their Declaration of Rebellion against the government’s lack of adequate action on climate change.

https://www.ecowatch.com/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1057601428120842242&created_ts=1540986804.0&screen_name=ExtinctionR&text=The+DECLARATION+OF+REBELLION+against+the+criminal+inaction+of+the+UK+government+on+%23ClimateBreakdown+has+just+been%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2Fri8hGg4NJe&id=1057601428120842242&name=Extinction+Rebellion

The movement has the support of prominent UK activists, academics, politicians and thinkers including Green Party Member of European Parliament Molly Scott Cato, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Guardian columnist and environmentalist George Monbiot, who spoke at Wednesday’s protest.

George Monbiot Speech at Extinction Rebellion Protestwww.youtube.com

The group hopes to inspire people around the world to take similar actions, but feels a responsibility to act in the UK, where the industrial revolution first began.

https://www.ecowatch.com/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1057628876543688712&created_ts=1540993348.0&screen_name=ExtinctionR&text=Calling+rebels+from+around+the+world%21+Let%27s+make+%23extinctionrebellion+go+international%2C+get+in+contact.+Here+is+the%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FcGMnJrz1QV&id=1057628876543688712&name=Extinction+Rebellion

For those who can make it to London the week of November 15, the group has posted a video online called “Heading for Extinction and What to Do About it” and is holding civil disobedience trainings in London November 10 and 11.

Heading for extinction and what to do about it  www.youtube.com

See article here …….


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BC photographer captures incredible shots of Adams River salmon run (PHOTOS)

The great spectacle of the salmon run, when red hued salmon swim upstream to spawn in their birthplace in BC rivers, is a sight to behold.

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DH Vancouver StaffOct 12, 2018 12:13 pm2,436

 

Photographer: Fernando Lessa

 

And while bears and eagles seem to know where to find the fish, but it can be difficult for us humans to track them down.

Difficult that is, unless your North Vancouver photographer Fernando Lessa, who documents the salmon run every year, in rivers and creeks all over Metro Vancouver.

This year Lessa made his way to the Adams River to capture the annual natural wonder, and shared his photos with Daily Hive.

Speaking about how he chose his location, Lessa said the Adams River is a “very important” river and that two million fish were expected this year.

It’s rare to get a permit to shoot at this location, he added, “since the photographer/ videographer has to be very careful not to disturb the eggs” or the nesting grounds.

“Once the fish migrate from the Adams lake to the river, they start laying the eggs in the gravel; exposed to predators and to human activity,” Lessa explained.

Lesa said that since 2016, he’s been working on what’s known as the Urban Salmon project.

“It’s the first documentation of the Salmonids in the Urban environment,” he explained, noting that Since DFO is aware of his project (and knows that he’s careful) they were happy to give me one of the permits.”

This year Lessa said he stayed at the river for seven days at the beginning of October.

“That’s a bit early, since the running peak happens mid-October,” he said. “My goal was getting fish as fresh as possible (once in the river they start to deteriorate fast), so red tones are more intense.”

He added he was “very interested in documenting the big schools holding by the river mouth, before they get in the river.”

As for the size of this year’s run, Lessa said that while the sockeye run happens every year, this year was especially impressive.

Once every four years, “you get a more intense run, called King run. 2018 is a King year, and two million fish are expected to make the trip to the Adams River.”

Although he’s done this before, Lessa said this year was his first time with Sockeye in the Adams.
“I’m glad to have the chance to dive and interact with the fish so close,” he said. “The year after a king run is also considered good, and I hope to be able to go there again in 2019.”

After two years on the project for his forthcoming book, Lessa told Daily Hive he’s “very happy to say it’s almost ready.”
The plan, he explained,  “is to launch a coffee table book that not just show how lucky we are to have the salmon around us, but also the importance of the urban creeks.”

Pre-sales of the book are scheduled to start this December, with the book expected to be available in major book stores by February 2019.

Reflecting on the project at this point, Lessa thanked those involved with making it happen.
“I would like to thank  Zoann Morten, from The Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, Wes Dearmond, from Fisheries & Oceans Canada, and The Adams River Salmon Society,” he said. “Without those people I would never been able to do it.”


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Glacier melt in B.C. mountains reaches ‘shocking’ levels – INTERACTIVE

See for yourself how quickly the Castle Creek glacier is melting — and what it means for the future

For B.C. glacier researcher Matt Beedle, returning to the Castle Creek glacier every year inspires a mixture of excitement and dread.

“I’m psyched on coming back to see it change,” he told CBC News on a recent visit to the landmark, high in the Cariboo Mountains east of Prince George.

“At first, it’s just exciting to see this brand-new landscape that wasn’t here before it was exposed,” says Beedle. “But then it’s shocking … when we started coming here, it was so much larger than it is today.”

You’ve heard about glaciers melting for years, but what happened last summer across Western Canada is different, because it’s much faster — giving what one researcher calls a “sad window” into our future, where the glaciers are gone.

Losing centimetres a day

In the past decade, the bluish-white ice of the tongue, or terminus, of the glacier has receded over 200 metres, at a rate of roughly 15 metres a year.

This summer though, the melt rate accelerated dramatically to about two and half times that pace, says Brian Menounos, a geography professor and glacier researcher at the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George.

“This particular year has been quite a bad one,” he says. “It’s really a one-two punch.”

“We had a warmer than average summer, and a much warmer spring for the southern part of the province, but we also had a record low snowpack.”

Menounos’s team has been charting the glaciers’ retreat for the past decade by measuring ice thickness, using seven-metre poles sunk into the ice. The teams return the following year to measure how much ice has been lost.

Video: A future without glaciers

“On a hot sunny day … you can see the surface going down some 10 centimetres,” says Beedle. “It’s not building back up in the winter. That’s the problem.”

Uniquely in Western Canada, the Castle Creek glacier also leaves behind elevated ridges or moraines as it retreats each year, giving the researchers striking visible evidence of how quickly the melting is occurring.

“We’ve had average [distances between them] of about 14 or 15 metres per year. And the last two years have been 25 to 30 metres each,” says Beedle.

What’s happening here at Castle Creek, he says, is the norm for glaciers across Western Canada, especially in southern areas.

“It’s demonstrating what pretty much all glaciers are doing in Western Canada.  They are receding dramatically.”

Blame ‘The Blob’?

A giant pocket of warmer than usual water in the Pacific Ocean may be at least partially responsible for the more rapid glacial melt this past summer.

Nicknamed “The Blob,”  the water is about three degrees warmer than the rest of the Pacific.

University of Victoria climate researcher Faron Anslow believes it’s having a dramatic effect on glaciers.

“You have all this energy out in the Pacific that’s available to the atmosphere and it blows over those ocean waters and brings those temperatures on land, resulting in a lot of melt,”  Anslow says.

Projections for what B.C.’s climate will look like by 2050 mirror this past summer, he says, thanks to the effects of the warmer Pacific water of The Blob.

‘The Blob,’ a giant pocket of warm water in the North Pacific, may be accelerating the glacier melt, says climate researcher Faron Anslow.(Google Earth)

Goodbye glaciers?

Menounos, the glacier researcher, says it’s discouraging that much of Western Canada’s 25,000 square kilometres of ice fields won’t last the century.

“If you want a window into the future if you will — sort of a sad window — then this particular summer, at least in the southern portion of B.C., is a good example.”

“Most recent work has shown that by and large the glaciers of Western Canada are going to be gone by the end of the century,” says Matt Beedle.

“The biggest unknown in that study is what we do — what humans do. How we behave in regards to the atmosphere.”


Slide the bar to see the change in the Bear Glacier, in northwestern B.C., from 1978 to 2013.

Interactive graphics by Tamara Baluja and photos by Matthew Beedle

See article here……..