Trump administration proposes logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest
From the Washington Post:
“The Trump administration Tuesday proposed allowing logging on more than half of Alaska’s 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America.
President Trump instructed federal officials to reverse long-standing limits on tree cutting at the request of Alaska’s top elected officials, on the grounds that it will boost the local economy. But critics say that protections under the “roadless rule,” finalized just before President Bill Clinton left office in 2001, are critical to protecting the region’s lucrative salmon fishery and tourism operations.
The U.S. Forest Service said it would publish a draft environmental impact statement this week (Oct. 15) that, if enacted, would exempt the Tongass from the 2001 roadless rule.”
New cracks observed in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier
From the European Space Agency:
“The Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites have revealed new cracks, or rifts, in the Pine Island Glacier—one of the primary ice arteries in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The two large rifts were first spotted in early 2019 and have each rapidly grown to approximately 20 km in length.
Mark Drinkwater, Head of the Earth and Mission Sciences Division at ESA, says, ‘These new rifts appeared very soon after last year’s major calving of iceberg B46. Sentinel-1 winter monitoring of their progressive extension signals that a new iceberg of similar proportions will soon be calved.'”
“The extent of pre-Columbian land use and its legacy on modern ecosystems, plant associations, and species distributions of the Americas is still hotly debated. To address this gap, we present a Holocene palynological record (pollen, spores, microscopic charcoal, SCP analyses) from Illimani glacier with exceptional temporal resolution and chronological control close to the center of Inca activities around Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. Our results suggest that Holocene fire activity was largely climate-driven and pre-Columbian agropastoral and agroforestry practices had moderate (large-scale) impacts on plant communities. Unprecedented human-shaped vegetation emerged after AD 1740 following the establishment of novel colonial land use practices and was reinforced in the modern era after AD 1950 with intensified coal consumption and industrial plantations of Pinus and Eucalyptus. Although agroforestry practices date back to the Incas, the recent vast afforestation with exotic monocultures together with rapid climate warming and associated fire regime changes may provoke unprecedented and possibly irreversible ecological and environmental alterations.”
“Politicians have tussled for years over the fate of the Tongass, a massive stretch of southeastern Alaska replete with old-growth spruce, hemlock and cedar, rivers running with salmon, and dramatic fjords. President Bill Clinton put more than half of it off limits to logging just days before leaving office in 2001, when he barred the construction of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country. President George W. Bush sought to reverse that policy, holding a handful of timber sales in the Tongass before a federal judge reinstated the Clinton rule.
“The Programme for Monitoring of the Greenland Ice Sheet (PROMICE) has measured ice-sheet elevation and thickness via repeat airborne surveys circumscribing the ice sheet at an average elevation of 1708 ± 5 m (Sørensen et al. 2018). We refer to this 5415 km survey as the ‘PROMICE perimeter’ (Fig. 1). Here, we assess ice-sheet mass balance following the input-output approach of Andersen et al. (2015). We estimate ice-sheet output, or the ice discharge across the ice-sheet grounding line, by applying downstream corrections to the ice flux across the PROMICE perimeter.”
The current government shutdown has now entered its third week, and it doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.
The shutdown began on midnight EST on Saturday, December 22, making it the third government shutdown of 2018. President Trump wanted to move forward with building a Mexican border wall, which would require an estimated $5 billion. The House of Representatives, in which the Democrats are a majority, has been unwilling to go above the current $1.3 billion budget for general border security. Trump has threatened to extend the shutdown for a long period until he gets the demanded funding. Click here for a breakdown of the events leading up to the shutdown.
This shutdown has left about 800,000 government workers without their salaries. Many have shared their personal stories with CNN about not being able to pay bills and rent on time. They describe their difficulties in providing for their children and families. Many have sought temporary jobs to help keep themselves afloat. Vital public benefit programs might also be at risk. According to CBS News, funding for SNAP, the national food stamp program, has not been allocated since the start of January. If the shutdown continues through March, no money will remain for the millions of Americans who rely on this program for food security.
Many national parks have also felt the impact of the government shutdown, including some major destinations home to glaciers. Parks are still largely accessible to the public, and entrance fees are not being collected. However, the lack of public services has been a major issue for visitors and local businesses. Here are some glacier parks that are currently suffering some impacts as a result of the shutdown.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State has had a partial shutdown on some parts of the park. This closure has affected tourism and traffic in the area which would normally be high during this time and around the Christmas and New Year holidays. The popular road to Paradise has experienced a forced closure, and local firms around the entrance have been vocal about the lost business. Local retailers, restaurants, and hotels in particular are being challenged by the lack of tourism. According to The Olympian, business owners that rely on the tourism industry have reported a decrease of sales and hotel reservations than would normally be expected at this time of year.
Yosemite National Park, located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, has had significant problems with sanitation and waste. Restrooms have been closed and there are no park staff available for supervision. Some visitors of the park have opted to dispose of their various forms of waste alongside some of the roads. Mountains of garbage and human waste has led to some closures in areas of the park, like Wawona Road and Hodgson Meadows. National Geographic says that national parks like Yosemite face long-term damage from the government shutdown, and parks should be closed completely to prevent further harm to the environment.
GlacierHub spoke with a motel employee from Yosemite Cedar Lodge, who told us how business has been affected since the shutdown. According to our source, who wished to remain anonymous, there hasn’t been a large change in business, although some guests have left early. She told us that it’s hard to say exactly if it’s because of the government shutdown, but it could also be due to the recent nearby fires or other factors as well. As for the waste situation, we were told that having no ranger supervision in the parks has allowed guests to act without restraint.
The lack of park supervision may also be a contributing factor to a recent death at Yosemite. Since the start of the shutdown, three people have died in national parks. One tragedy took place in Yosemite on Christmas day, where a man slipped down a hill and fell into a river, injuring his head. Investigation of the incident was delayed because of the ongoing shutdown. A study that draws on data from 2005 to 2016 indicates that about 1.1 person dies per month in Yosemite, roughly 0.6 per month in Glen Canyon and 0.4 in Great Smoky, the three locations where the deaths occurred. Though people have died over the years in these parks, the deaths in recent weeks are at a more frequent rate than usual, suggesting that the government shutdown and lack of services may have contributed to this pattern.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Some parks have received visitors but with limited activity. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have remained open during the shutdown, although visitor services is unavailable. In a statement for the Casper Star-Tribune, Deputy Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said that visitors to Grand Teton should take caution for their own personal safety, as there are no staff available for guidance and assistance. Entrances are not staffed, and the park’s websites and social media accounts are not being maintained or updated, leaving the public uninformed on current conditions.
In Yellowstone, winter routes remain open although gates are not staffed and government facilities are not available. All regulations for snow-related activities remain in place, and all buildings and bathrooms are closed. Community members in the Yellowstone area have recently taken matters into their own hands. Concerned about the lack of care of park facilities, local residents have gathered to clean outhouses and take out trash. Businesses have donated supplies to help with the much needed cleanup efforts.
So many people's livelihoods are tied to our national parks. Grateful for good folk in Gardiner and Emigrant. Volunteers clean restrooms, take out trash in Yellowstone amid government shutdown https://t.co/ZDaM72GrsA via @bozchron
Some glacier destinations, however, have not been heavily impacted. The shutdown has made little difference at Glacier National Park, which is usually quiet during the winter with road closures from heavy snows. Bathrooms are still closed because of the shutdown, but trash cans are not reported to be overflowing due to the low amount of traffic relative to other parks. Businesses have said that they haven’t been affected much, and conditions are as typically expected despite the shutdown.
Glacier National Park is usually quiet in the winter. Campgrounds and roads close for the season. Some bathrooms are closed and locked because of the government shutdown, but trashcans are not overflowing. And there are still visitors in the park. https://t.co/5tvfT1kn09
GlacierHub spoke with Mauri Pelto, professor of environmental science Nichols College and director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. Pelto also does work with NASA Goddard and the USGS. He told us that the shutdown has prevented some NASA glacier projects and programs from being executed properly. The USGS, which tracks ongoing conditions in the national parks, currently conducts monitoring. Weather and environmental observations at the national parks with glaciers have been collected but are not being reported by the U.S. government, jeopardizing long-term projects.
“Sometimes shutdowns, even relatively short shutdowns, can push the planning and budgeting process for some of these programs, which can greatly affect future research,” stated Pelto. He also described the effects on the Northern Cascades National Park in Washington. Roadways are mainly forest roadways, which have also closed as a result of the shutdown. Smaller roadways have not received maintenance since the shutdown, and there are concerns as to how conditions will be once the roads open up again, whenever that may be.
There is very little information on conditions at the Northern Cascades and other national parks on the U.S. National Park Services webpage. Lack of information on closures, visitor services, and tips for taking precaution during the shutdown period greatly impacts tourism and safety. Although parks are still mostly accessible, proper staff supervision and visitor services are needed to ensure the safety of visitors and the overall wellbeing of the parks.
From HuffPost: “Perry went on to defend his and others’ denial of near-universally accepted climate science, suggesting that those who question the scientific community’s findings are more intelligent. Also in June, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park started melting ‘right after the end of the Ice Age’ and that it has ‘been a consistent melt.’ He also dismissed the notion that government scientists can predict with certainty how much warming will occur by 2100 under a business-as-usual scenario.”
Read more about the Trump cabinet and its tenuous relationship to evidence here.
Ski No More
From Reuters: “High temperatures that have hit Italy over the past weeks have taken their toll on the country’s glaciers, with a summer ski resort at the Stelvio Pass having to make the historic decision to suspend its activities due to worsening conditions at the Alpine glacier. Swathes of southern and eastern Europe have sweltered in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) this week in a heat wave nicknamed ‘Lucifer’ that has fanned forest fires, triggered weather warning alerts and damaged crops.”
From the Bellingham Herald: “12 runners set out from Bellingham Bay for the top of snow-capped Mount Baker in the distance. To get there and back — a round trip of 108 miles during a hot, sunny weekend — they ran, hiked and climbed to the 10,781-foot summit of Mount Baker over two nights and two days. Eleven of them completed the arduous journey, a trek known as the Mount Baker Ultra Run.”
Countries around the world were quick to condemn Donald Trump when he announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Unsurprisingly, small countries with glaciers, with their direct experience of climate change, have joined this round of condemnation. However, the details varied from country to country. And relatively few voices in these countries have emphasized the connection between their own experience of climate change and their opposition to Trump’s action.
The strongest reaction came from Peru, where the national government issued an official declaration on June 1, within hours of Trump’s announcement. It stated “The Government of Peru receives with concern and disappointment the announcement made by the Government of the United States of America to denounce the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.” The declaration underscored the actions of Peru in hosting a major international climate meeting that led up to the Paris Agreement, and in being the first country in Latin America to ratify it.
Newspapers in Peru also expressed their condemnation. A center-left newspaper, La República, stated on June 2 that Trump “has turned his back on the world.” The more conservative El Comercio emphasized that the U.S. was isolating itself from the other nations of the world.
Jesús Gómez López, the director of Peru’s Huascarán National Park, where the majority of the country’s glaciers are located, told GlacierHub, “This decision of the Trump administration is regrettable. It is a great concern that it works against progress that has been made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” He mentioned his particular concern about the rapid loss of glaciers in tropical areas.
Chile, another South American country with large glaciers, also issued an official response. On June 1, the Foreign Minister issued a statement indicating the country’s “great concern and deep disappointment.” It emphasized Chile’s vulnerability, citing floods and forest fires, and reiterated the country’s commitment to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gasses. Greenpeace Chile spoke against Trump’s decision and used the occasion to launch a petition to oppose oil exploration. The country director of Greenpeace, Matías Asun, called for a national law to protect glaciers.
European nations also responded strongly to Trump’s action. In Iceland, the European country where glaciers occupy the largest proportion of the national territory, the Minister of the Environment, Björt Ólafsdóttir, expressed her disappointment with Trump’s decision on June 1. She also recognized that some states, like California, were taking independent action in alignment with the Paris Agreement.
Dagur B. Eggertsson, the mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city, offered a visible response. He announced on June 2 that the city would shine green light on Harpa–its music hall and conference center, and an iconic symbol of contemporary Iceland–as a sign of commitment to the Paris Agreement.
Several Norwegians expressed their concern to GlacierHub. Marianne Lien, an anthropologist at the University of Oslo, wrote “Trump news is no longer even funny or interesting. His withdrawal from the Paris agreement is just another move in a series of events that makes the US more and more marginal in world politics, and especially regarding global climate policy. This opens up a space for others to take a lead, such as the EU and China. Perhaps Trumps withdrawal is a wake-up call to some, and could inadvertently raise even more awareness about the politics of climate change.”
Rasmus Bertelsen, the Barents Chair in Politics at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, linked Norway and Iceland with Sweden, Denmark and Finland. He stated “President Trump’s speech withdrawing from the Paris Agreement marks a watershed in post-World War II international politics. The five Nordic countries have benefitted strongly from American international leadership after WW II, so an American political elite that chooses to sacrifice this leadership for domestic profit is a major challenge. They must seek new partners. Germany is becoming the immediate security partner, and China a distant trade and climate partner.”
There were also a number of responses in Switzerland. The center-right newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung spoke against the US withdrawal, calling Trump’s action “a dangerous, nationalist-colored policy.” A demonstration, led by Greenpeace, took place on June 2 outside the US Embassy in the Swiss capital of Bern. Signs in English proclaimed Trump as a “Fossil Fuel Puppet,” while signs in German called for “Climate Protection Now!”
During discussions of climate policy in the Swiss Senate, several members referred to Trump’s decision as a mistake. A representative from the Canton of Valais, a member of the centrist Christian Democratic Party, stated that climate change “can be directly observed in the mountains” through glacier retreat, showing the urgency of action on climate issues. Only a few members, from the right-wing SVP (Swiss People’s Party) spoke in support of the US withdrawal, calling it an “act of reason.”
Among glacier countries in Asia, reaction was particularly strong in Nepal, with an editorial sharply critical of Trump’s action in a leading newspaper, the Nepali Times, on June 2.
On June 5, Nepali youth from two organizations which represent the mountain regions of the country, the Himalayan Climate Initiative and the Climate Alliance of Himalayan Communities, brought a letter to the US Embassy, expressing their concern about “climate injustice” and indicating that Trump’s move would harm Nepal, especially “the people of mountain region with limited capacity to adapt” The deputy political and economic chief of the embassy Stephanie Reed acknowledged the letter and promised to send it on to her superiors. A coalition of mountain NGOs, the Nepalese Civil Society Mountain Initiative, delivered a second letter to the Embassy on June 12. It stated “leaving Paris Climate Agreement is a direct attack and threat to the poor and vulnerable communities of mountains.” Reed also received this and assured the delegates that she would deliver it to senior officials.
Tsechu Dolma, a senior staff member of the Mountain Resiliency Project, an NGO in Nepal, told GlacierHub “President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and the loss of American leadership could lead to tragedies worldwide, especially for climate vulnerable mountain and island nations. We are already feeling the adverse impacts of climate change with glacier lake floods. The Paris agreement would provide Least Developed Countries like Nepal international financing for adaptation. Our survival depends on it.”
By contrast, there was little response in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. The independent journalist Ryskeldi Satke wrote to GlacierHub that Trump’s action “will certainly have a negative impact on the Central Asian states and in particular, the weakest ones, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with low levels of adaptive capacity.” Referring to the mountain chains in these countries, he added, “We are already witnessing unusual weather patterns in Tian Shan and Pamirs.” However, he noted that in these two countries, where concerns about poverty, corruption and regional geopolitics dominate the news, the “press reaction to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was literally zero. People seem live in a different dimension when it comes to climate change.”
A visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to New Zealand on June 6 led to a number of reactions. There were several demonstrations against him. The Guardian reported that Tillerson received a “frosty welcome…complete with middle finger salutes.” Though an internet search did not turn up any photographs of these salutes, there were a number of images of demonstrations and protests.
The official welcome also brought a kind of confrontation. Tillerson was received with a pōwhiri, a Maori ritual ceremony of encounter. It includes a wero, or confrontation by a warrior, which serves to establish whether a visitor is a friend or an enemy. Only after the status of friend has been established do the hosts offer a welcome, with a series of dances, speeches, songs and gift-giving. A photo of the wero confrontation circulated widely in New Zealand.
One Wellington resident, who preferred to remain unnamed, wrote to GlacierHub:
“New Zealand supports the Paris Agreement and the global effort to respond to climate change. Every country needs to play its part. The US and New Zealand have a long history and the relationship has had its rough patches. We may not always agree but there are many values that New Zealanders and Americans have in common. The number of US states and businesses that have said they’re committed to the Paris Agreement’s goals illustrates this.”
In sum, most glacier countries have opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. However, they make relatively few references to glaciers directly. This pattern is a contrast with the small island states. Like the glacier countries, they have been strongly affected by climate change and have spoken in opposition to Trump’s action. The Alliance of Small Island States issued a declaration against it on June 1.
However, the small island countries directly reference sea level rise as a reason for their opposition. The Seychelles ambassador to the UN stated on June 3 that islands could “literally disappear off the face of the earth” On June 4, the former president of the Maldives described Trump’s action as a “death sentence” for his nation.
As climate politics continues to unfold, glacier countries may travel down the path that the small island states have taken by forming an association or council, or at least by recognizing their commonalities. The few references to glaciers this month may be an early sign of such awareness. Another opportunity to build connections is arising as well. In next two years, glacier countries and island countries will both be discussed in the meetings for a Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is preparing. New forms of climate politics may well take shape as the Paris Agreement advances.
From the National Park Service: “A decade of scientific research has produced conclusive results – human waste left behind by climbers is polluting the streams and rivers that flow out of the Kahiltna Glacier. Our ultimate goal is to require 100% removal of all human waste from Denali, and we will continually strive to develop practical, working solutions to achieve this goal. We will be learning from your participation how to best to manage this next phase of ‘Clean Climbing’ on Denali.”
You can read more about how the Park Service is encouraging these practices here.
A Forager’s Paradise for Seabirds
From Scientific Reports: “We found that tidewater glacier bays were important foraging areas for surface feeding seabirds, kittiwakes in particular. Such sites, rich in easily available food and situated in the fjord close to colonies, are used as supplementary/contingency feeding grounds by seabirds that otherwise forage outside the fjord. For kittiwakes these areas are of great significance, at least temporarily. Such an opportunity for emergency feeding close to the colony when weather conditions beyond the fjord are bad may increase the breeding success of birds and buffer the adverse consequences of climatic and oceanographic changes.”
Find out more about why these areas are so abundant here.
Nepali Youth Appeal to Trump
From The Himalayan Times: “Nepali Youth and Mountain Community Dwellers have appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump to take back his decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. An appeal letter was submitted to the U.S. embassy here on Monday by Nepali youth representing people living in the foothills of the Himalayan peaks, including the tallest Mount Everest. The letter was handed over to deputy political and economic chief of the U.S. embassy Stephanie Reed.”
Read more about why Nepalese people are so concerned over Trump’s decision here.
Major cracks have appeared in recent months in Petermann Glacier in Greenland and the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. These cracks are advancing and will soon release enormous icebergs into the ocean, one the size of the state of Delaware. They will allow ice from the interior of Greenland and Antarctica to flow into the ocean, contributing to sea level rise. Coastal areas in the U.S. will experience increased flooding, disrupting ports and airports, and interfering with the American economy that Trump claims to support, as well as causing harm to societies and ecosystems around the world.
And today a major crack appeared in the Paris Agreement, with Trump’s announcement of his intention to pull the U.S. out of it. This crack threatens to release, not icebergs, but distrust and despair, and disrupt the mechanisms that had begun to slow down global greenhouse gas emissions. This crack— in policy agreements rather than in masses of ice— can be sealed, by efforts of other countries, and of states and cities in the United States and by actions of the corporations and organizations that sought to keep the U.S. in the agreement.
The laws of physics indicate that ice will continue to flow from Greenland and Antarctica, at least as long as global warming is not abated. But the processes within global society are not as inevitable. With concerted action, the Paris Agreement can still be a vital force to preserve our planet from one of the greatest threats it has ever faced.
The weather was sunny on Election Day in western Washington, with widely scattered clouds or entirely clear skies. As residents made their way to polling places, many had views of the state’s mountain peaks.
The results that came in late that night showed that the state as a whole gave strong support to Hillary Clinton. She received 56% of the votes in the state, a percentage exceeded by only 6 other states and the District of Columbia.
However, this result was far from uniform across Washington. Its highest peaks, Baker, Rainier and Adams, indicated by their initials on the attached map, mark not only the crest of the Cascades, but also a line that divides the state into red and blue counties, in one of the sharpest political gradients in the nation.
Did the region’s residents notice these white peaks as they went to vote? The mountains, which contain the largest masses of glacier ice in the lower 48 states, are widely popular in Washington; their forested slopes have given the state its nickname, the Evergreen State. To many in the largely Democratic cities and suburbs near Puget Sound, along the I-5 corridor, the mountains could bring up important issues, particularly environmentalism. This section of the state also supports the maintenance of public lands, especially at higher elevations, for hiking and recreation.
The mountains could also evoke topics that matter to many in the heavily Republican small towns and rural areas near the spine of the Cascades and further to the east. Many local residents there still bitterly resent the Endangered Species Act which led to the virtual ending of timber cutting nearly thirty years ago, and to the decline of lumber towns up and down the highways of the region. Access to firearms is also a deeply felt issue in this area, where deer and elk are widely hunted, their meat forming an important part of the diet, especially for the rural poor. As these examples show, mountains and their glaciers can both unite and divide people, connecting them to a common landscape in different and contentious ways.
On the same day, halfway around the world, representatives of 196 countries were gathered in Marrakech, Morocco for COP22, the annual meeting of the UNFCCC, with the hope of building on the progress of COP21, held last year in Paris. At this meeting, glaciers are a presence as well. They serve as an indicator of the rapid pace of climate change worldwide and of the need for prompt and effective action to continue the momentum developed in Paris.
The state of Washington, the United States and the nations of the world cannot advance without coordinated efforts on the critical issues which they face. The white summits of the Cascades and of mountain ranges around the world show the great value of nature for all humanity. They show other things as well: the fragility of the world, the urgency of action, and, above all, the necessity of cooperation to carry out actions to protect the world.