climate change

Michael Schweppe / Flickr

Count the rings on a tree trunk to figure out its age.

Or, if you’re University of Washington climatologist Jim Johnstone, study the molecules of a redwood trunk and crack the code for natural weather data that could date back more than a thousand years.

Efforts to combat climate change got a boost from the West Coast as the leaders of Washington, Oregon, and California as well as the premier of British Columbia signed a new pact Monday.

Under the new plan, called the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, Washington and Oregon have agreed to adopt policies similar to those already in place in British Columbia and California. B.C. put a tax on carbon emissions in 2008, and California adopted a cap-and-trade system early last year.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday laid out how he'd like the state to combat global warming pollution, including eliminating any electricity generated by coal and putting a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Legislative Republicans immediately raised concerns.

Back in 2008, the Washington Legislature set ambitious goals for reducing the state's carbon footprint. But they're just goals without enforcement mechanisms. Subsequently, a pact between 11 western states and provinces to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions fell apart. 

Dena Michele Rosko / Flickr

Gonzaga University has joined the official Catholic movement in support of environmental stewardship.

On Monday, Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh and the president of Gonzaga Preparatory high school both signed the St. Francis Pledge.

Steve Liptay Photo

This Saturday, environmental activist and author Bill McKibben will lead a rally against fossil fuel exports and the Keystone XL pipeline in Seattle. 

Known as one of the first voices to warn of the dangers of global warming, McKibben is on tour with his new book, Oil and Honey. He is also the founder of an international organization called, which he created to fight climate change. 

McKibben says 350 is "the most important number in the world, but nobody knew it until 2008, when Jim Hansen and his team at NASA published a paper saying we now know enough about carbon to know how much in the atmosphere is too much." 

Bellamy Pailthorp photo / KPLU News

Ocean health is at stake as Congress decides whether to confirm the next head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The nominee faced tough questions from Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, about funding for research of and adaptation to ocean acidification.

Erin Hennessey photo / KPLU News

Scoping hearings begin tomorrow on a proposed coal export terminal in Longview, near the Columbia River.  It’s one of two Washington terminals that would ship coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to Asia.

A special guest will tour sites in the Skagit River Valley today. Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality will be in Mount Vernon to discuss the impacts of climate change on communities in Washington state.

You may know that on a hot, sunny day, it’s better to be sitting in a white car than a black one. White reflects sunlight, while black absorbs more of it.

The same concept applies to researchers trying to figure out what effect wildfires have on climate change. And part of the answer is whether the smoke particles are dark or reflective.

Update: The original version of this story incorrectly summarized this study as showing populations to be displaced by 2100 if current trends continue. Author Ben Strauss sent the following correction: "by 2100, we would most likely be *locked in* to such an outcome in a more distant future, time unspecified, but essentially inevitable." We have updated the story accordingly. 

The warming climate is causing sea levels to rise as oceans expand, and, combined with more frequent storms, the effects could be devastating.

A new map shows more than 1,400 towns in the U.S., 30 in Washington state, where half the population will be displaced  if current trends continue through the end of this century.

Puget Sound Energy

“It’s the change we have been waiting for.” That’s the response from the Sierra Club to President Obama’s speech on climate change. A major part of his action plan is new limits on carbon emissions from power plants.

The local chapter of the club says even though no new policies will take effect for several years, utilities need to start adjusting now.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dealt a big blow to environmental groups fighting proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest.

During testimony before Congress, an official with the agency said the Corps is not planning a broad environmental study on the impact of coal exports, meaning the proposed terminals' effects on climate change won’t be considered during the review process.

In the coming months, Washington state will embark on a study of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The research is one provision of a measure Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law Tuesday. It’s a key legislative win for the Democrat. So why are Republicans declaring victory?

The debate over proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest is heating up again after the governors of Washington and Oregon sent a letter to the White house on the issue.

A bill put forward by Gov. Jay Inslee directing the state to figure out how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has passed both houses of the Legislature.

The passage is a big step forward for the environmental lobby and the governor, who has championed clean energy. But there is still a lot of pushback in Olympia.

Courtsey Seattle Public Utilities

Global climate change is a reality that few people now deny. 2012 was the warmest year on record. So what about Seattle’s water supply? 

Managers say they need to speed up about $30-million of investment in a backup plan.

About two thirds of Seattle’s water comes from one of the most pristine sources in the nation. The Cedar River Watershed lies in more than 90,000 acres of protected land southeast of the city, near North Bend.

Microbes are known to be able to thrive in extreme environments, from inside fiery volcanoes to down on the bottom of the ocean. Now scientists have found a surprising number of them living in storm clouds tens of thousands of feet above the Earth. And those airborne microbes could play a role in global climate.

Bellamy Pailthorp photo / KPLU News

It’s data that’s been collected and analyzed for several years now.

But predictions on how high tides and extreme storm events might combine to cause flooding in Seattle are seeming less and less like science fiction.

The City has unveiled a new map, showing huge areas that are much more likely to end up waterlogged during storms. And it says the estimates are no longer considered extreme. 

Bjørn Giesenbauer photo / Flickr

Imagine a future in which major areas of Seattle’s waterfront are flooded because of rising tides.

Businesses that front on Elliot Bay, including the famous Edgewater Hotel, or parks such as Myrtle Edwards or Golden Gardens, would have to adjust to storm surges more than six feet higher than we’re used to.

According to a new federal report on climate change, that future is just a few decades away. 

Arctic sea ice has melted dramatically this summer, smashing the previous record. The Arctic has warmed dramatically compared with the rest of the planet, and scientists say that's what's driving this loss of ice.

To be sure, ice on the Arctic Ocean always melts in the summer. Historically, about half of it is gone by mid-September. But this year, three-fourths of the ice has melted away, setting a dramatic new benchmark.

Today in Washington, D.C. we got our first taste of fall. It was crisp and in the low 60s. And just as we slide into the last days of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published its summer 2012 recap.

It's exactly what you were expecting: It was really hot. In fact, 2012 was the third hottest on record.

NOAA reports:

John McNeill, via UW News

By Todd Bishop of Geekwire

A group of scientists, including a University of Washington atmospheric physicist, wants to test the theory that pumping sea salt into the sky over the ocean would combat global warming by creating clouds that reflect more sunlight back into space.

Sam Beebe, Ecotrust / Flickr

Extreme weather patterns on the east coast have become evidence for many people lately that global warming is actually happening.

Here in the Northwest, coastal tribes have been dealing with the realities of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and ocean acidification for years.

Many are headed to Washington DC this week for what’s being billed as an inaugural First Stewards symposium on climate change. The idea comes from coastal tribal leaders in this Washington.

joiseyshowaa / flickr

Yet another weekend that beats the work-week, when it comes to sunshine--that's the forecast from KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, of the University of Washington.

But, it won't exactly be warm and sunny.

courtesy Wa Dept of Ecology

Climate change is happening, and not preparing for it could cost the state $10 billion a year by 2020.

That’s according to the Department of Ecology, which has just released a response strategy to changing climate conditions.

A King County Superior Court judge is set to hear arguments this afternoon, in a case brought by kids about climate change.  The young plaintiffs, who filed complaints against the Governor and several state agencies last May, are seeking an effective climate recovery plan from government.  The State has filed a motion to dismiss the case. 

Today’s hearing is part of an international youth campaign launched by the iMatter Trust.  Young people have filed legal actions across the nation as well as a federal lawsuit to compel governments to protect and restore the atmosphere.  According to the organization’s website, a federal hearing has not been set.

Cheuk-man Kong / Flikr has been thriving, despite the economic downturn. Shares in the company are now worth more than five times a much as they were five years ago, thanks in part to innovations such as its electronic book reader, the Kindle, or its move into data storage of all kinds of things "in the cloud."

But it's just these futuristic lines of business that have some shareholders worried. 

One of the world's best-known thinkers about global climate change is Australian writer Tim Flannery. He's not only a best-selling author, he's also his country's first Chief Commissioner for Climate Change.

His latest book, Here on Earth: a Natural History of the Planet, paints a hopeful picture of the future of human life on earth. He recently gave a talk in Seattle, where he said his message of optimism seemed to have trouble getting through to his audience.

KPLU's Bellamy Pailthorp caught up with him for an interview.

Washington State University photo

A new industry is emerging in the Pacific Northwest – for development, production and distribution of aviation biofuels.

A consortium called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest has just spent ten months producing an exhaustive study.  They've identified the four-state region of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana as a serious contender in the race to produce environmentally friendly jet fuels.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Bill Gates was the keynote speaker for Seattle-based Climate Solutions‘ annual fund-raising breakfast today.

The gist of Gates’ message: The best way to fight climate change is to create forms of energy production that significantly reduce carbon emissions and are cheap enough to be of value to poor people worldwide.

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