Ashley Ahearn

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

As sea levels rise and the global climate changes, international leaders gathering in Paris this month face increasing pressure to tackle the issue of “climate refugees”.

Some island nations are already looking to move their people to higher ground, even purchasing land elsewhere in preparation.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, one coastal tribe faces a similar choice.

Copyright, Boeing Co.

World War II marked a turning point for the city of Seattle. Boeing built thousands of B17 planes at a facility on the Duwamish River. At one point, 30,000 people reported for work there, assembling the planes that would help the allies defeat the Nazis. But with most of the young, white men overseas, Boeing was forced to expand its hiring criteria.

Ashley Ahearn

As we get into the late summer, water supplies in much of the Northwest continue to drop.

The snow that usually melts and keeps streams and lakes full late in the season never really showed up this year.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

River levels around the Northwest are dropping as the drought continues - and the water’s getting warmer.
That’s a problem for salmon. Wildlife managers in Washington and Oregon have limited fishing to certain times of day and closed some rivers altogether. But some say that’s not enough to help struggling fish.

More than 1600 acres of old growth rainforest have burned in Washington’s Olympic National Park.
Firefighters are mounting a difficult response in a remote river valley. This is the largest fire in the park’s history, but it’s not the first to burn in the rainforests of the Olympics.

Dan Ayres / Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

The west coast is seeing the largest bloom of toxic algae in more than a decade. It's led to the closure of some commercial crab and shellfisheries in Oregon, Washington and California.

Wildlife managers spotted a sea lion in Longview, Washington that was arching its back, and then having seizures. They had to euthanize it.

The cause?

Pseudo-nitzchia. It’s a type of algae that releases a neurotoxin. If people eat shellfish or crabs contaminated with it, they can also suffer seizures, short term memory loss and even death.

Katie Campbell / Earthfix

Pinto abalone were poached almost to extinction by the end of the 90s.

The tasty meat of this shellfish, combined with its mother of pearl shell, made pinto abalone a target for illegal harvest, and a delicacy in Asia.

Thousands upon thousands of them were taken from Puget Sound.

You can hear the pride in Josh Bouma’s voice as he peers down into a tank at the NOAA labs in Mukilteo. Bouma is a shellfish biologist with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund and manages a captive breeding operation for pinto abalone. He’s raised these abalone from tiny larvae.

Melisa Pinnow / Orca Network and the Center for Whale Research

Beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean it can get pretty noisy.
Hundreds of big ships, barges, fishing boats and other vessels motor up and down the Northwest coast every year.
Some new research details how that noise could make life harder for endangered marine mammals.

Picture yourself at a noisy bar. You realize that you have been shouting at the top of your lungs all night in order to be heard. Well, orcas in Puget Sound are in kind of the same situation.

Ask any Northwest skiers and they’ll tell you it’s been a bad year for snow.
They’re right. Snow levels are at record lows for Washington and Oregon.
But it’s not time to hit the panic button yet.

Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist with the National Resources Conservation Service, checks snow levels at Stevens Pass ski resort in Washington's Cascade Mountains.Credit Ashley Ahearn / EarthfixEdit | Remove

Scott Pattee: "Alrighty, off we go."

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

This congressional session could be a big one for climate change.
Democrats have introduced legislation on behalf of Governor Jay Inslee that would charge polluters for the CO2 emissions they release into the atmosphere.
Republicans are in control of the senate and have signaled that they’re not interested in working with the dems on the Governor’s climate legislation.
Is there any common ground?