August 12, 2015 | Cascadia Weekly | Read more here.

Our salmon are in hot water.

More than a quarter million sockeye salmon returning from the ocean to spawn are either dead or dying in the Columbia River and its tributaries due to warming water temperatures. Federal and state fisheries biologists say the warm water is lethal for the cold-water species and is wiping out at least half of this year’s return of fish. By the end of the season that death toll could grow to as high as 400,000. As much as 80 percent of the population could ultimately perish.

Sockeye are a telltale species that tell the scary tale of a warmer, drier, more turbulent clime that will transform the formerly cool, wet, green Pacific Northwest. Our great reservoirs of seasonal freshwater—mountain glaciers—are vanishing in silty, sluggish rivers; our oceans are growing acidic and hostile to sea life; our forests are burning with increasing frequency. We know the cause: A superabundance of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, released as the result of over-reliance on fossil fuels.

“Carbon pollution and the climate change it causes pose a very real and existential threat to our state,” Governor Jay Inslee warned recently. “Farmers in the Yakima Valley know this. Shellfish growers on the coast know this. Firefighters battling Eastern Washington blazes know this. And children suffering from asthma know this all too well and are right to question why Washington hasn’t acted to protect them.”

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