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OUT OF THIS WORLD | What's Up In Climate Change - a glance at the most important news about our warming world

Adorable animal strikes back at climate change, says study

Isabella O'Malley
Digital Writer/Climate Change Reporter

Thursday, May 10, 2018, 3:31 PM - The surprising climate resiliency of the American pika, First Nation firefighters train for wildfire season, a new cross-border agreement to fight climate change and the potential impact of the US pulling out of the Iran deal. It's What's Up In Climate Change.

Surprises from the American Pika

The recent activity of the American pikas (Ochotona princeps) has scientists intrigued, not just because of their adorable appearances.

Pikas are particularly sensitive to environmental change and are predicted to retreat to higher elevations as temperature warms, until habitable environments run out, which could trigger a devastating population decline.

The American pika. Credit: US National Parks Service

A new study published by Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research compiled over 2,000 records of active pika sites in 2005 and found that the pikas are inhabiting areas with moisture and temperature conditions that are more extreme than early habitat records.

Prior studies that projected future pika populations with climate change relied on statistical modelling, which involved some uncertainty for a number of variables, such as quantifying future greenhouse gas emissions. This may have contributed to the surprise of the new findings.

Pikas are typically considered an alpine species that lives above the treeline, but have successfully inhabited non-alpine sites, suggesting pikas may have a better chance at maintaining their population during climate change conditions than previously thought.

First Nation firefighters prep for upcoming wildfire season

In Whitehorse, Yukon the Da Daghay Development Corporation (DDDC), owned by the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, is looking to the Yukon government to privatize certified wildland firefighter training, to expand the industry and job opportunities.

This wildfire burned south of Dawson City, Yukon, in June of 2017. Credit: Yukon Wildland Fire Managment

There are currently 85 firefighters in the territory and the DDDC’s 'Beat the Heat' boot camp is preparing firefighter trainees for the upcoming wildfire season. Considering the frequency and severity of wildland fires in western Canada, DDDC Chief Executive Officer Ben Asquith sees the privatization of firefighter training as a lucrative business opportunity.

As for the success of the boot camp, Asquith states "I think the results speak for themselves, last year the Yukon Government hired nine out of our boot camp."

Asquith states that privatization would allow for First Nation firefighters the opportunity to be paid to fight fires across North America, provide jobs in Yukon communities, and save taxpayer money.

Ontario, Quebec, Oregon sign climate agreement

On May 8 the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown to unify and progress the governments’ climate change efforts and achieve carbon reduction goals under Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This agreement will involve coordination and collaboration to explore market-based mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs in both countries, build a low-carbon economy, develop and implement clean technology such as biofuels, and support other international efforts to fight climate change. An example of an action that will be supported by the MOU is Oregon’s goal of sourcing 50 per cent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy resources by 2040.

In June 2017 President Donald Trump announced the departure of the United States from the Paris Agreement, which largely focused on participating countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Governor Kate Brown states "Despite the decision by the White House to retreat [fighting climate change], Oregon will continue moving forward and pursuing innovative strategies that meaningfully reduce carbon emissions and support a thriving economy of the future."

Trump withdraws from Iran deal. What happens with oil prices now?

After President Donald Trump’s announcement on May 8 stating that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, oil prices reached the highest level of cost in the past three and a half years according to Reuters. The anticipated economic sanctions for Iran raises the question of how the Canadian oil industry will be affected.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement after signing it in the Diplomatic Room at the White House. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Canada is one of the top 10 oil producers in the world and even minor changes in the oil market have a potential effect on the economy. The chart below shows how the Canadian dollar is related to the movement of oil price, indicating the Canadian economy’s relationship with the oil market.

Prof. Werner Antweiler, Ph.D., from the University of British Columbia, tracks the tendency for the Canadian dollar to be a 'petrocurrency'.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced criticism for his efforts to satisfy the interests of both the Canadian oil industry and environmentalists. Recently Trudeau publicly discussed the impending construction of the Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia.

Sources: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research | US Forest ServiceYukon News | Province of Ontario | Reuters | Prof. Werner Antweiler, Ph.D.

Watch Below: Two years later - Rebuilding still after Fort McMurray wildfires

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