finding 24.1 : key-message-24-1

Climate change is already affecting the Northwest’s diverse natural resources (high confidence), which support sustainable livelihoods; provide a robust foundation for rural, tribal, and Indigenous communities; and strengthen local economies (high confidence). Climate change is expected to continue affecting the natural resource sector (likely, high confidence), but the economic consequences will depend on future market dynamics, management actions, and adaptation efforts (very likely, medium confidence). Proactive management can increase the resilience of many natural resources and their associated economies (very likely, medium confidence).



This finding is from chapter 24 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

This assessment focuses on different aspects of the interaction between humans, the natural environment, and climate change, including reliance on natural resources for livelihoods, the less tangible values of nature, the built environment, health, and frontline communities. Therefore, the author team required a depth and breadth of expertise that went beyond climate change science and included social science, economics, health, tribes and Indigenous people, frontline communities, and climate adaptation, as well as expertise in agriculture, forestry, hydrology, coastal and ocean dynamics, and ecology. Prospective authors were nominated by their respective agencies, universities, organizations, or peers. All prospective authors were interviewed with respect to the qualifications, and selected authors committed to remain part of the team for the duration of chapter development.

The chapter was developed through technical discussions of relevant evidence and expert deliberation by the report authors at workshops, weekly teleconferences, and email exchanges. The author team, along with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), also held stakeholder meetings in Portland and Boise to solicit input and receive feedback on the outline and draft content under consideration. A series of breakout groups during the stakeholder meetings provided invaluable feedback that is directly reflected in how the Key Messages were shaped with respect to Northwest values and the intersection between humans, the natural environment, and climate change. The authors also considered inputs and comments submitted by the public, interested stakeholders, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and federal agencies. For additional information on the overall report process, see Appendix 1: Process. The author team also engaged in targeted consultations during multiple exchanges with contributing authors for other chapters, who provided additional expertise on subsets of the Traceable Accounts associated with each Key Message.

The climate change projections and scenarios used in this assessment have been widely examined and presented elsewhere07aed96a-e0e8-47dd-81d3-cdff5a6e261c,0b30f1ab-e4c4-4837-aa8b-0e19faccdb94,75cf1c0b-cc62-4ca4-96a7-082afdfe2ab1,f03117be-ccfe-4f88-b70a-ffd4351b8190 and are not included in this chapter. Instead, this chapter focuses on the impact of those projections on the natural resources sector that supports livelihoods (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and outdoor recreation industry), the intangible values provided by the natural environment (wildlife, habitat, tribal cultures and well-being, and outdoor recreation experiences), human support systems (built infrastructure and health), and frontline communities (farmworkers, tribes, and economically disadvantaged urban communities). The literature cited in this chapter is largely specific to the Northwest states: Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. In addition, the authors selected a series of case studies that highlight specific impacts, challenges, adaptation strategies and successes, and collaborations that are bringing communities together to build climate resilience. The most significant case study is the 2015 case study (Box 24.7), which cuts across all five Key Messages and highlights how extreme climate variability that is happening now may become more normal in the future, providing important insights that can help inform and prioritize adaptation efforts.

Description of evidence base:

Multiple studies suggest that Northwest natural resource sectors will likely be directly affected by climate change, including increased temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and reduced snowpack (see NOAA State Climate Summaries for Oregon, Washington, and Idaho).ba49da5a-489b-420e-b593-8d83e4fbf5a5,55c7ac21-90b9-4261-ab66-a77e63b5bfea,c03fd831-f533-4a92-b156-648d112a7499 The direct and indirect consequences of these climate drivers are projected to impact regional natural resource sectors in varied ways. In many cases, the secondary and tertiary effects of climatic changes have larger consequences on the natural resource sector, such as increased insect and pest damage to forests,29ccd0a0-9e94-4f1d-9f91-bca006e3a975 increased wildfire activity,54bc1048-87de-40b1-9f21-7482e2de3883 changes to forage quality and availability for livestock,26b61192-351a-494d-84f8-411c3e4ccd48,f2d332c1-eccb-4442-9036-b8bf9d586b17,4273abdf-bdbb-497e-97ef-2aca07fbfed4 reductions in water availability for irrigation and subsequent impacts to water rights,4babef84-d85e-488e-b8c5-3fb080ebfcd3,c26f1d51-e5c3-4dce-8262-841f7602dafa and increasing temperatures and ocean acidity limiting the viability of existing commercial and recreational fisheries;1465363b-e409-4bd2-856a-ab8516edc4ed,13f2f968-08bc-493b-8c60-627f7436113f,021a1471-ddc7-435a-bc2d-6e2a3d2214d4,14683632-64dc-4a81-b867-928898c15552 lower snowfall is also expected to reduce the economic benefits associated with the recreational skiing industry.b1729fa8-3fbf-4311-a2d0-e0b36ccb9fb6,80dd6dfe-4dea-4253-a65b-53f620805f9a

There is good evidence that natural resource managers are attempting to build more resilient production systems in the face of climate change through the adoption of adaptation practices (see Box 24.1), particularly those that build soil resources to increase resilience in the face of more extreme and variable weather; however, in some cases not all adaptation strategies will necessarily lead to broader soil benefits.2a6fd72f-138b-46d2-9f9e-26277d961c13,14d2db95-a5f8-46bc-bb93-b77aa6d80c1d There is also evidence that adaptive strategies coupled with increased warming will likely shorten the growing season in some parts of the Northwest due to earlier crop maturation, coupled with earlier plantings, leading to lower irrigation demand during low flow periods.65b54f14-ed24-4e9f-a6f3-7589ba9b5160 Forest managers are also incorporating adaptation strategies focused on addressing drought and fire risks as well as broader efforts to protect and maintain key forest ecosystem services.007a7014-723e-4ceb-a395-5c986b1bf884 While adapting to changing ocean conditions is challenging,11029991-0e83-47d5-aac5-0618f3399b4e some in the industry are improving monitoring and hatchery practices to reduce risks.bacbf706-64ce-4d4c-95e5-04bc1651fe96 And some in the outdoor recreation industry are looking for ways to benefit from increased temperatures;4ed1b0b7-c44f-454e-b1cd-fb33041e1026 for instance, many ski resorts are diversifying their recreational opportunities to take advantage of warmer weather and earlier snowmelt.f6b155f4-9ad3-43a2-b65b-dfc0ba1c7ea6,93a0dad3-c37e-4adc-93d1-359e3fbc2792

Yet, how individual actors respond to changes in climate is a source of uncertainty, particularly if these actions do not reduce climate risks or capitalize on potential benefits as expected.daa849df-9a29-44ee-b59c-9b4b5fd53467 Additionally, many adaptive actions, at least in the short term, will likely be costly for individual producers to implement.28a86b7f-c68a-4d17-bd11-083814d9ed27,7e403cb4-1865-4730-9dc8-8b11d69d92cc

New information and remaining uncertainties:

Climate impacts, such as increased temperatures, reduced snowpack, and more variable precipitation and subsequent impacts on pests, disease, fire incidence, and other secondary impacts will very likely indirectly affect livelihoods and the economic viability of natural resource sectors, with more severe impacts to rural, tribal, and Indigenous communities (Ch. 10: Ag & Rural). There is, however, greater uncertainty as to how precisely these impacts are projected to affect natural resource managers’ financial security and their subsequent land-use decisions (Ch. 5: Land Changes), as well as other factors important to sustainable livelihoods and community well-being.

This is particularly relevant for key commodities that are integrated with national and international markets that are influenced by multiple factors and are difficult to predict (Ch. 10: Ag & Rural; Ch. 16: International). National and global market dynamics will likely be influenced by broader climate change effects on other natural resource sectors in the United States and across the globe,0b30f1ab-e4c4-4837-aa8b-0e19faccdb94 while also being impacted by a broad array of factors that include technological developments, laws, regulations and policies affecting trade and subsidies, and security issues. There are instances where the economic consequences will likely be positive, particularly in comparison to other regions in the United States, such as found in the dairy production sector.4c87b5a3-0303-4f92-ae7b-97d5e20b9579 The economic impacts to regional fisheries are much less certain as iconic species and industries in the Northwest struggle to maintain viability.bfd896fb-e6cf-45bb-90fc-46742079789c,38a94887-f469-4fce-8feb-75fc8e55568e,9f314dc9-6bfc-401b-be6f-9a70601f6e5b Although much is being researched with respect to the effects of climate change on forests and associated ecosystem services (e.g., Vose et al. 201647f83403-7592-41e6-994d-62b7586eca6c), far less has been explored with respect to timber markets and attendant infrastructure and processing.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is high confidence that climate change, through reductions in snowpack, increased temperatures, and more variable precipitation, is already affecting the Northwest’s diverse natural resource base. There is high confidence that these natural resource sectors provide critical economic benefits, particularly for rural, tribal, and Indigenous communities who are more dependent on economic activities associated with natural resource management. There is high confidence that climate change will have a large impact on the natural resource sector throughout this century; however, there is medium confidence that these impacts will negatively impact rural, tribal, and Indigenous livelihoods, particularly about how projected changes will economically impact specific natural resource sectors due to large uncertainties surrounding global market dynamics that are influenced by climatic and non-climatic factors. It is very likely that proactive management efforts will be required to reduce climate risks, yet there is medium confidence that these adaptation efforts will adequately reduce negative impacts and promote sector-specific economic benefits.

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