The science supporting climate change and the role of fossil fuels in accelerating it are conclusive and is repeatedly borne out by myriad weather anomalies and arctic ice patterns, as well as biological phenomenon such as altered timing of migrations and species’ distributions. In spite of protestations by the fossil-fuels’ lobby and conservative think tanks, the change continues and the evidence mounts.
The greatest threat to our climate security in the region is the proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline and Jordan Cove liquified natural gas (LNG) export facility slated for southwest Oregon hit a major roadblock on March 11, 2016. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied the proposal in an unprecedented decision. FERC found that the Canadia developer Veresen and pipeline company Williams did not demonstrate there were sufficient markets for its product to justify the impacts to private landowners along the pipeline route. Without the pipeline, there was no justification for the Jordan Cove export facility. The decision is a huge setback for the companies, though Veresen released a statement annoucning it will ask for rehearing. We continue to fight this project tooth and nail and won’t stop until the proposal dies.
Why this Matters
It is not an overstatement to say that if we are successful in all that we do here at Cascadia Wildlands and we fail to stem human-caused climate change in a material way that we will lose much that we have gained and possibly more.
Although the Pacific Northwest has been identified as an area that will be less impacted than others by climate change, the projected impacts will be profound and, in some instances, simply unacceptable. Projected impacts include:
- The Loss of Pacific Salmon Runs—Warmer waters and reduced snow packs will very likely act together to eliminate migratory salmon and steelhead runs and some resident trout populations. Salmon and steelhead will often not cross stretches of water that are too warm (known as thermal dams) and reduced water volumes will likely block fish transit to and from the ocean at critical times.
- Large Scale Forest Change—We are currently beginning to see climate-driven changes in Northwest forests. For example, lodgepole pine populations are being stressed and reduced by bark beetle infestations that may be facilitated by warmer temperatures. Other species of trees and plants will see range reductions or shifts that could have both biological and economic consequences. Experts also point to climate change creating conditions ripe for larger and more severe wildfires in the West as we have seen in recent years.
- Ocean Acidification—As CO2 levels increase in the atmosphere they also increase in the ocean along with nitrogen and sulfur compounds associated with the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. All of these added chemicals act in concert to increase acidification of the ocean and our coastal waters. Elements of the shell fishing industry in the Pacific Northwest are already seeing retarded shell growth and other fin fisheries will be impacted as the effects move up the food web.
- Agriculture—Climate change deniers have often argued that increasing CO2 levels will only benefit agriculture by increasing growth rates and therefore production. But experience is showing us that the associated heat, droughts, and storm intensities are having a negative impact on crop growth. What’s more, associated acid precipitation may leach nutrients and needed trace minerals faster from soils increasing the need for more costly agricultural input.
Our Approaches to Climate Change
In addition to being mindful of our own carbon footprints, encouraging energy conservation wherever we can, and facilitating carbon sequestration in our temperate forests by halting reckless logging programs, Cascadia Wildlands is taking an active role in opposing projects or activities in Cascadia that contribute to or accelerate fossil-fuel use. The most serious fossil fuel-oriented threat in our region at this point is the proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline and Jordan Cove liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal which would require building a 232-mile long pipeline through sensitive forestland and waters in southwest Oregon in order to move fracked gas to the coast, supercooled, and then shipped to Asia. We cannot pursue our mission and ignore the game-changing nature of climate change.
(Fracking diagram. Image by San Ramon Valley Democrats.)