The Arctic: Indicator of Global Change By Patricia Cochran

The Arctic may be seen as geographically isolated from the rest of the world, yet the Inuit hunter who falls through the thinning sea ice is connected to melting glaciers in the Andes and the Himalayas and to the flooding of low-lying and small island states.

Patricia Cochran

What happens in foreign capitals and in temperate and tropical countries affects us dramatically in the North. Many of the economic and environmental challenges we face result from activities well to the south of our homelands; and what is happening in the far North will affect what is happening in the South.

Inuit are experiencing firsthand the adverse effects of global environmental changes. But we are not powerless victims. We are determined to remain connected to the land, and sufficiently resilient to adapt to changing natural forces as we have for centuries.

Discussion of climate change frequently tends to focus on political, economic and technical issues rather than human impacts and consequences. We need to be aware of the dramatic social and cultural impacts indigenous peoples face in coming years.

Eroded Lives

For generations Inuit have observed the environment and have accurately predicted weather and sea-ice conditions, enabling us to travel safely on the sea ice to hunt seals, whales, walrus and polar bears. Talk to hunters across the North, and they will tell you the same story: the weather is increasingly unpredictable. The look and feel of the land is different. The sea ice is changing. Hunters are having difficulty navigating and traveling safely. We have even lost experienced hunters through the ice in areas that, traditionally, were safe. As a result of melting glaciers it is now difficult, sometimes even dangerous, for us to travel to many of our traditional hunting and harvesting sites.

A young woman from Cape Dorset, Nunavut

Several Inuit villages have already been so damaged by global warming that relocation, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, is now their only option. Melting sea ice and thawing permafrost have caused damage to houses, roads, airports and pipelines; erosion, slope instability and landslides; contamination of drinking water; coastal losses to erosion of up to 30 meters per year; and melting of natural ice cellars for food storage.

For instance, residents of Sachs Harbour, a tiny community in the Canadian Beaufort Sea region, report melting permafrost causing beach slumping and increased erosion; increased snowfall; longer sea-ice-free seasons; new species of birds and owls, robins, pin-tailed ducks and salmon invading the region; and an onslaught of mosquitoes and black flies.

Plans are well under way to relocate certain Arctic communities. Climate change is not just a theory to us in the Arctic; it is a stark and dangerous reality. Climate change is undermining the ecosystem upon which Inuit depend for their physical and cultural survival.

The Arctic is of vital importance in the global debate on how to deal with climate change because the Arctic is the barometer of the globe’s environmental health. We are indeed the canary in the global coal mine.

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment projects dramatic and drastic depletion of sea ice. In the next few decades year-round sea ice may be limited to a small portion of the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole. The rest of the Arctic will be ice-free in summer.

Polar bears, walrus, ringed seals and likely other species of seals are projected to virtually disappear. This is not to mention the millions of Arctic seabirds and fish. Our ecosystem will be transformed, with tragic results. Climate change in the Arctic is not just an environmental issue with unwelcome economic consequences. It is a matter of livelihood, food and individual and cultural survival. It is a human issue.

What can Inuit—only 155,000 of us—do about this global situation? First, we refuse to play the role of powerless victim. Responding to climate change has split the nations of the world. Our plight and the Arctic Assessment show the compelling case for global unity and clarity of purpose to forestall a future that is not preordained.

Our rights, our human rights, to live as we do and to enjoy our unique culture as part of the globe’s cultural heritage, are at issue.

Short-term business interests must change, and people must take stock of whether or not a way of life based on consumption is ultimately sustainable. What is happening now to Inuit will happen soon to people in the South. The experience of Inuit in the Arctic is shared by residents of small island states in the Pacific, many people in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

We are working on many fronts to convince the world to take long-term action. Climate change is not about scoring political points. It is about families, parents, children and the lives we lead in our communities throughout the world. More

 

New IUCN publication: Making an Economic Case for EbA

Knowledge Gaps in Making an Economic Case for Investing in Nature Based Solutions for Climate Change”.

This report is available both in English and French on the IUCN EBA web page. This preliminary rapid assessment is now being followed up with an in-depth analysis in the Philippines and Peru. We aim to have this study available for the Paris COP 21.

Climate change is having increasingly adverse impacts on people and nature. It exacerbates existing environmental threats, poses new risks and impedes our ability to achieve global conservation and development objectives such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. Across the globe, initiatives have been established to help communities implement approaches that enable them to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects.

Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) is one such approach. EbA uses biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of a larger adaptation strategy – an excellent example of a viable nature-based solution. As well as providing climate change adaptation benefits, this approach also contributes to biodiversity conservation and enhances local economies. IUCN has been extensively involved in EbA work, strengthening community resilience and livelihoods in almost 60 countries. This work demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the implementation of nature- based solutions.

The conservation and sustainable development community considers EbA to be a strong method of addressing climate change and its associated challenges. However, there is still a tendency for policy makers to implement traditional engineering solutions for adaptation, rather than investing in EbA. The need for solid data on the cost-effectiveness of this nature-based approach was the driver behind an IUCN study identifying the economic costs and benefits associated with EbA. The lessons learned from this appraisal process will make it easier for policy makers to compare EbA options with engineered solutions. Download English / French

 

 

How extensive is California’s drought?

A snake-like trickle of water flows underneath Lake Oroville's Enterprise Bridge — just one striking example of how much California's chronic drought is affecting the state's lakes and reservoirs.

Situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas in Butte County, Lake Oroville is one of the largest reservoirs in California, second only to Shasta Lake. After enduring three straight years of drought, the lake is currently only filled to 32 percent of its capacity.

In any case, the drought in California is getting serious. Phase 2 of Los Angeles' mandatory water conservation ordinance is now in effect, which means a team of water-use inspectors are tasked with enforcing water restrictions and fining water wasters. If the drought continues through fall and winter, the ordinance will move to Phase 3, which entails even stricter rules and some prohibitions.

To get a better idea of the dire situation in the Golden State, continue below for a photo comparison of water levels taken in 2011 and 2014, looking at Lake Oroville and Folsom Lake, another major California reservoir located in Sacramento County that is now filled at 40 percent of its capacity.

Bidwell Marina, Lake Oroville

Folsam Dam, Folsom Lake

Enterprise Bridge, Lake Oroville

 

Leonardo DiCaprio Narrates Climate Change Films Urging Shift From Fossil Fuels to Renewables

Production company Tree Media, whose mission is to inspire positive social action, has just released the first of four films in the Green World Rising series focusing on solutions to the climate crisis.

The eight-minute film, CARBON, narrated by actor and dedicated environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, was created with support from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and in collaboration with Thom Hartmann. The film’s goal is to draw attention to how some governments are already putting a price on carbon through carbon taxes and carbon trading to encourage polluters to shift from dirty energy sources to renewables prior to the UN Climate Summit in New York on Sep. 23. All four films will be released in the next month leading up to the summit.

“97% of climate scientists agree: climate change is happening now—and humans are responsible,” said DiCaprio. “We cannot sit idly by and watch the fossil fuel industry make billions at our collective expense. We must put a price on carbon—now.”

“We need serious action to address the most pressing issue of our time,” said Hartmann. “Communities across the world have taken action in the most direct and effective way possible by taxing and trading carbon. For us to beat this crisis, many more need to join.”

The film explains what a carbon tax and carbon trading are, how they can help us stop “using the atmosphere as a sewer,” as Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress says in the film, and what ordinary people can do to push elected officials to act. More

Carbon


Published on Aug 20, 201 4 • CARBON is the first film in the Green World Rising Series, http:// www.greenworldrising.org “Carbon” is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thorn Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled. Carbon is produced by

Mathew Schmid and was written by Thorn Hartmann, Sam Sacks, Leila Conners and Mathew Schmid. Music is composed and performed by Jean-Pascal Beintus and intro drone by Francesco Lupica. Carbon is produced by Tree Media with the support of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

New Study Reveals Whales as Marine Ecosystem Engineers

Baleen and sperm whales, known collectively as the great whales, include the largest animals in the history of life on Earth.

Though large in size, whales have long been considered too rare to make much of a difference in the ocean, and the focus of much marine ecological research has been on smaller organisms, such as algae and planktonic animals. While these small organisms are essential to life in the sea, they are not the whole story. As great whales recover from centuries of overhunting, scientists are beginning to appreciate their roles as ecosystem engineers of the ocean.

A recent synthesis, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, evaluates decades of research on the ecological role of great whales. The authors, led by Joe Roman at the University of Vermont, suggest that the influence of these animals has been substantially undervalued because, until now, scientists have underestimated the degree to which the decline in whale population has altered marine ecosystems.

Commercial whaling dramatically reduced the abundance of great whales—by at least 66 percent and perhaps as high as 90 percent, according to some estimates—but recovery is possible, and potentially critical for ocean resiliency.

Among their many ecological functions, whales recycle nutrients and enhance primary productivity, locally and on a regional scale. Whales mix the water column, and after feeding at depth, release surface plumes of fecal material. This “whale pump” supplies iron and nitrogen—essentially fertilizers—to primary producers in the surface ocean. Further, the migrations of baleen whales between highly productive, high-latitude feeding and low-latitude calving grounds are among the longest annual movements of mammals. By fasting in these winter calving grounds near the equator, humpback whales, for example, release nitrogen in the form of urea into comparatively nutrient-poor areas—transporting nutrients nearly 10,000 kilometers on the “great whale conveyor belt.”

Sometimes, commercial fishermen have seen whales as competition. But this new paper summarizes a strong body of evidence that indicates the opposite can be true: whale recovery “could lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth,” supporting more robust fisheries.

Whales, as one of the longer-lived species in marine systems, can ease the impact of perturbations inclimate, predation and productivity. The continued recovery of great whales may help buffer marine ecosystems from destabilizing stresses and could lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth.

And when they die, many whale carcasses sink to dark depths of the ocean—delivering massive pulses of organic material to a realm that is typically nutrient and energy impoverished. A 40-ton gray whale, for example, provides more than 2,000 times the background carbon flux that would typically rain down on the area underlying the carcass in an entire year.

“Whales appear to harbor a specialized suite of animals in the deep sea, with many species requiring whale falls to complete their life cycles and persist in the ocean,” said Craig Smith, co-author and Oceanography Professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. “When whales were removed from the ocean by whalers, these whale-fall specialists lost their essential habitat.” More

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I question if it would be possible for humans to work with marine mamals and other sea creatures to 'manage' the oceans for the benefit of the marine environment, the inhabitants of the oceans as well as the living beings on the planet. It would certainly be beneficial to all concerned and would possible go some way towards mitigating climate change. Editor