Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New climate report warns of severe impacts to Northwest

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 11:44 AM

In the latest effort to make climate change relevant to an easily distracted public, a new National Climate Assessment released yesterday provides a dynamic and dire warning of consequences to come, including localized climate impacts for the Pacific Northwest and other geographic regions.

The new report includes animated visuals, infographics and easy navigation to help make the massive amounts of information easier to read and comprehend. More than 300 experts compiled the report under the guidance of the 60-member Federal Advisory Committee.

As heat-trapping gas emissions continue to increase, researchers expect the average annual temperature to increase by 3.3 to 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 60 to 80 years. Precipitation may also drop. Other changes will likely harm fisheries, agriculture and ocean-based industries.

“Northwest summers are already dry and although a 10% reduction (the average projected change for summer) is a small amount of precipitation, unusually dry summers have many noticeable consequences,” the report states, “including low streamflow … and greater extent of wildfires throughout the region.”

About 140,000 acres of coastal Washington and Oregon also lie within the 3.3 feet of high tide, leaving them vulnerable to rising sea projections. Those regions may also see increased erosion and flooding, endangering homes and public infrastructure along the coast.

Shellfish and other marine life also face severe risks from increased acidification of ocean waters caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide emissions. The Seattle Times has published exhaustive reports on the issue in its Sea Change investigative series.

Forests, and the timber industry, face the combined risks of increased wildfire compounded by increased insect damage. Climate changes could harm some species of trees, ultimately shifting the diversity and makeup of our forests.

The Inlander wrote about the dangers of climate change in late 2012, exploring the controversy and misinformation surrounding the topic.

Read more from the new report about the impacts and vulnerabilities of the Pacific Northwest region.

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Jacob Jones

Staff writer Jacob Jones covers criminal justice, natural resources, military issues and organized labor for the Inlander.