finding 10.4 : key-message-10-4

Residents in rural communities often have limited capacity to respond to climate change impacts, due to poverty and limitations in community resources (very likely, high confidence). Communication, transportation, water, and sanitary infrastructure are vulnerable to disruption from climate stressors (very likely, high confidence). Achieving social resilience to these challenges would require increases in local capacity to make adaptive improvements in shared community resources.

This finding is from chapter 10 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

Each regional author team organized a stakeholder engagement process to identify the highest-priority concerns, including priorities for agriculture and rural communities. Due to the heterogeneous nature of agriculture and rural communities, the national chapter leads (NCLs) and coauthor team put in place a structured process to gather and synthesize input from the regional stakeholder meetings. Where possible, one or more of the authors or the chapter lead author listened to stakeholder input during regional stakeholder listening sessions. Information about agriculture and rural communities was synthesized from the written reports from each regional engagement workshop. During the all-authors meeting on April 2–3, 2017, the NCL met with authors from each region and other national author teams to identify issues relevant to this chapter. To finalize our regional roll-up, a teleconference was scheduled with each regional author team to discuss agriculture and rural community issues. Most of the regional author teams identified issues related to agricultural productivity, with underlying topics dominated by drought, temperature, and changing seasonality. Grassland wildfire was identified as a concern in the Northern and Southern Great Plains. All regional author teams identified soil and water vulnerabilities as concerns, particularly as they relate to soil and water quality impacts and a depleting water supply, as well as reduced field operation days due to wet soils and an increased risk of soil erosion due to precipitation on frozen soil. Heat stress in rural communities and among agricultural workers was of concern in the Southeast, Southern Great Plains, Northwest, Hawaiʻi and Pacific Islands, U.S. Caribbean, and Northeast. Livestock health was identified as a concern in the Northeast, Midwest, U.S. Caribbean, and Southern Great Plains. Additional health-related concerns were smoke from wildfire, pesticide impacts, allergens, changing disease vectors, and mental health issues related to disasters and climate change. Issues related to the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of rural communities were identified by all regions. Discussions with the regional teams were followed by expert deliberation on the draft Key Messages by the authors and targeted consultation with additional experts. Information was then synthesized into Key Messages, which were refined based on published literature and professional judgment.

Description of evidence base:

A wealth of data shows that residents of rural areas generally have lower levels of education and lower wages for a given level of education compared to residents of urban areas.5a980b1c-524c-4a24-9c35-55974a05a0df Higher levels of poverty, particularly childhood poverty,ec982e73-ed8b-460e-9042-e9da15ca84ca and food insecurity in rural compared to urban areas are also well documented.abcd2b28-87f9-499e-9be5-736d6208d3c2 There is also research that documents the disproportionate impacts of climate change on areas with multiple socioeconomic disadvantages, such as an increased risk of exposure to extreme heat and poor air quality, lack of access to basic necessities, and fewer job opportunities.2fb19c54-72ed-460d-a72f-78f257decd7c

New information and remaining uncertainties:

There is uncertainty about future economic activity and employment in rural U.S. communities. However, the patterns of lower education levels, higher poverty levels, and high unemployment have been persistent and are likely to require long-term, focused efforts to reverse.a2a02512-dacf-46f0-8f9f-9cb51892a884,abcd2b28-87f9-499e-9be5-736d6208d3c2,5a980b1c-524c-4a24-9c35-55974a05a0df There are numerous federal programs (such as the USDA’s regional Climate Hubs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program, and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Climate Adaptation Science Centers) that focus on outreach and capacity building to rural and underserved communities. Additionally, the Cooperative Extension Service and state agencies, as well as various nongovernmental organizations, provide support and services to build the adaptive capacity of individuals and communities.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

Lower levels of education, poverty, limited infrastructure, and lack of access to resources will limit the adaptive capacity of individuals and communities (very likely, high confidence). Adaptive capacity in rural communities is being increased through federal, state, and local capacity building efforts (likely, low to medium confidence). However, the outreach to rural communities varies greatly in different parts of the United States.

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