Attending this conference was nothing short of enlightening and informative. I was honored to be in the presence of over 250 climate change specialists and researchers from all around the region.
Presenters discussed everything from climate change adaptation to mitigation planning. Our main task was to review scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate change on first peoples, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.
Following the presentations was an inspirational speech given by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee about increasing resilience in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).
What is causing the climate to change? It is mostly human consumption of fossil fuels. Eighty four percent of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels. Fossil fuel usage is one of the largest contributors to global warming. The use of fossil fuels increases our carbon dioxide emissions or carbon footprint. We have dumped more than 1.325 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The path that we are on will lead to a 5-50 inch increase in sea level and approximately a four degrees Celsius warmer world by the end of the century. Imagine what a 5-50in rise in sea level could do to our shorelines. Though I was aware of the many consequences that the over use of fossil fuels has on our planet, I had no idea that I would see the impacts in my lifetime. For example, the picture below is downtown Olympia in the year 2100 if we do nothing to mitigate climate change.
Why plan and prepare for impacts of climate change? First our tribal communities, culture, employment, and way of life is all connected to our first foods. Our traditions and ceremonies depend on healthy salmon runs as well as shellfish harvesting. Sea level rise caused by climate change could cause our first foods to no longer be available to our people. Second our treaties and regulations only serve our community if there are salmon and shellfish to harvest. For instance, temperature increases between one and five degrees Fahrenheit could cause our cedar trees to be found in new locations, likely outside our usually and accustom treaty grounds. If trees like the red cedar are no longer found in their traditional locations at optimal harvesting times how will we teach the next generation to weave? Developing a plan of action now is key to preserving our community’s way of life.