finding 13.1 : land-use-choices-affect-resiliency

Choices about land-use and land-cover patterns have affected and will continue to affect how vulnerable or resilient human communities and ecosystems are to the effects of climate change.

This finding is from chapter 13 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: The author team benefited from a number of relevant technical input reports. One report described the findings of a three-day workshop held from November 29 to December 1, 2011 in Salt Lake City, in which a number of the chapter authors participated.94a7e73a-f733-42d4-be5a-5bd6d861a6e4 Findings of the workshop provided a review of current issues and topics as well as the availability and quality of relevant data. In addition, from December 2011 through June 2012 the author team held biweekly teleconferences. Key messages were identified during this period and discussed in two phases, associated with major chapter drafts. An early draft identified a number of issues and key messages. Based on discussions with National Climate Assessment (NCA) leadership and other chapter authors, the Land Use and Land Cover Change authors identified and reached consensus on a final set of four key messages and organized most of the chapter to directly address these messages. The authors selected key messages based on the consequences and likelihood of impacts, the implied vulnerability, and available evidence. Relevance to decision support, mitigation, and adaptation was also an important criterion for the selection of key messages for the cross-cutting and foundational topic of this chapter. The U.S. acquires, produces, and distributes substantial data that characterize the nation’s land cover and land use. Satellite observations, with near complete coverage over the landscape and consistency for estimating change and trends, are particularly valuable. Field inventories, especially of agriculture and forestry, provide very reliable data products that describe land cover as well as land-use change. Together, remote sensing and field inventory data, as well as related ecological and socioeconomic data, allow many conclusions about land-use and land-cover change with very high confidence.

Description of evidence base: The influences of climate on vegetation and soils, and thus on land cover and land use, are relatively well understood, and a number of well-validated mathematical models are used to investigate potential consequences of climate change for ecosystem processes, structure, and function. Given scenarios about socioeconomic factors or relevant models, some aspects of land-use and land-cover change can also be analyzed and projected into the future based on assumed climate change. During a workshop convened to review land-use and land-cover change for the NCA, participants summarized various studies from different perspectives, including agriculture and forestry as well as socioeconomic issues such as flood insurance.94a7e73a-f733-42d4-be5a-5bd6d861a6e4 Residential exposure to wildfire is an excellent example supporting this key message and is well documented in the literature.6a9e5620-f3ff-44cf-9de0-fda978846b8b 216ebf8e-0a0b-42df-984a-419180fa641f ceb1c4ce-7513-4da2-b9a2-8bc8d7bd6a62 e1e1f3a0-9fea-4ad2-a3af-575716f9849e

New information and remaining uncertainties: Steadily accumulating field and remote sensing observations as well as inventories continue to increase confidence in this key message. A recent study by the EPAbc1abb03-db7b-48d2-b38a-995b086428b1 provides relevant projections of housing density and impervious surface under alternative scenarios of climate change. While there is little uncertainty about the general applicability of this key message, the actual character and consequences of climate change as well as its interactions with land cover and land use vary significantly between locations and circumstances. Thus the specific vulnerabilities resulting from the specific ways in which people, both as individuals and as collectives, will respond to anticipated or observed climate change impacts are less well understood than the biophysical dimensions of this problem.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Very High. Observed weather and climate impacts and consequences for land cover and land use, basic understanding of processes and analyses using models of those processes, as well as substantial literature are consistent in supporting this key message.

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