Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saving the Arctic: petitioning the U.S. to step up to the plate

Several leading conservation organizations along with the mayors of San Francisco and Pacific Grove, California; and Juneau, Homer, and Shishmaref, Alaska have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish comprehensive regulations governing greenhouse gases to protect the Arctic regions and, in so doing, North America and the world.

"We're all in the same boat—whether you live in northern Alaska or southern California, we all have a stake in the enormous impacts climate change is already having on the Arctic," said Keith Addis, Chairman of Oceana's Board of Directors. "Quite simply, as goes the Arctic, so goes the planet."

The conservation groups included the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, and Alaska Conservation Solutions. Trying to undo years of neglect or political intransigence on the part of the EPA, efforts are being made to get the EPA back on track, particularly in light of growing scientific evidence as to the effects of climate change - from melting sea ice and permafrost to encroaching warm climate flora and fauna to changing weather patterns, caused by fossil fuels and/or other man-made activities - by using the Clean Air Act as the vehicle to provide the EPA with the federal authority it requires to protect the public and the environment.

"As the Arctic melts, California feels the heat. The Arctic is where these impacts are seen first, but the effects experienced by Alaska communities are not only crucial to the people who there, they are a wake up call that our economies and communities are at risk everywhere," said Dr. Denny Kelso, Executive Vice-President for Ocean Conservancy.

I had the opportunity to document on film the effects of climate change in the Arctic - including striking footage of the lowest recorded levels of summer sea ice - for the marine research and education organization, InMER. Some of the results and images from that expedition will be available soon as part of a leading internet company's online ocean project, currently under wraps but should debut in the next few weeks.

If change is to come in how the U.S. government operates, as has been touted throughout the recent presidential election, the EPA is one agency that needs to review its original charter and take a leadership role. (Read Ocean Conservancy press release.)

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