finding 24.5 : key-message-24-5

Communities on the front lines of climate change experience the first, and often the worst, effects. Frontline communities in the Northwest include tribes and Indigenous peoples, those most dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and the economically disadvantaged (very high confidence). These communities generally prioritize basic needs, such as shelter, food, and transportation (high confidence); frequently lack economic and political capital; and have fewer resources to prepare for and cope with climate disruptions (very likely, very high confidence). The social and cultural cohesion inherent in many of these communities provides a foundation for building community capacity and increasing resilience (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 lines of research have shown that the impacts of extreme weather events and climate change depend not only on the climate exposures but also on the sensitivity and adaptive capacity of the communities being exposed to those changes.b1577125-f789-49e6-9656-c40ed932184a,6b118a80-8335-4c02-91cf-762c8bb14301,6f706345-bb81-4659-911c-60143ba5007a,8eb10ee1-28e1-4246-b28b-aa2d2f76c547 For frontline communities in the Northwest, it is the interconnected nature of legacy exposure, enhanced exposure, higher sensitivity, and less capability to adapt that intensifies a community’s climate vulnerability.b1577125-f789-49e6-9656-c40ed932184a,2fb19c54-72ed-460d-a72f-78f257decd7c

There are multiple lines of evidence that demonstrate that tribes and Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Climate stressors, such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, warmer ocean and stream temperatures, wildfires, or droughts, are projected to disproportionately affect tribal and Indigenous well-being and health,41bc14ce-5dbf-4eb4-90e2-0689a2bc3565,b1577125-f789-49e6-9656-c40ed932184a,719ba05e-ba19-43e4-ba3f-83d111809b59,3626507f-dafc-449a-851e-1de1ba14b0c5 economies,6848eec2-534b-4629-967c-53d8530089a3,5b754441-464c-49fd-90e8-c184fc2ba1f5 and cultures.debdf209-4050-4706-965c-09cff7ec353b,41bc14ce-5dbf-4eb4-90e2-0689a2bc3565 These losses can affect mental health and, in some cases, trigger multigenerational trauma.27a913a3-88b2-40cc-907f-51d0728a475d,349d443c-b692-4b9d-8b1b-a22887a292a7,c76d7935-9da3-4c4b-9186-86dc658bcc74,5d18534c-89c7-4783-8831-8163ec98d82c

There is limited research on how climate change is projected to impact farmworkers, yet evidence suggests that occupational health concerns, including heat-related concerns63fe78ee-2eb9-445b-bbb7-e3f72f3993e0,c08b4ca7-1dd5-4cef-9265-6fc084fd4615 and pesticide exposure,c0419502-0517-447b-886f-ece5ec4cda6c could increase, thus exacerbating health and safety concerns among economically and politically marginalized farmworker communities.

Particularly relevant to economically disadvantaged urban populations, extensive work has been done evaluating and analyzing social vulnerability796c4617-7dcd-433e-bb0e-805cdab4c136 and applying that work to the Northwest.c6bc7876-ad40-4d51-83e5-49816363385c There has also been work completed considering both relative social vulnerability and environmental health data (see WSDOH 2018f1ca2352-7158-4312-9c4b-3d1189c1ad10).

Strong evidence through reports and case studies demonstrates that tribes are active in increasing their resilience through climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans (see and for a list of tribal and Indigenous climate resilience programs, reports, and actions) and through regional networks (for example, Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Point No Point Treaty Council, Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation).

There are also many community organizations across the region focusing on engaging, involving, and empowering frontline communities, including communities of color, immigrants, tribes and Indigenous peoples, and others to design plans and policies that are meaningful (for example, Front and Centered, Got Green, Puget Sound Sage, Coalition of Communities of Color).

New information and remaining uncertainties:

Actual climate change related vulnerabilities will vary by community and neighborhood.b1577125-f789-49e6-9656-c40ed932184a,1fb8a38a-41e0-4b08-bdaf-08613c36c96f Therefore, the scale of any vulnerability assessment or adaptation plan will matter greatly in assessing the uncertainties.

The secondary and tertiary impacts of changing climate conditions are less well understood. For example, climate change may increase the amount and frequency of pesticides used, and the variety of products used to manage crop diseases, pests, and competing weeds.c0419502-0517-447b-886f-ece5ec4cda6c This is likely to increase farmworker exposure to pesticides and ultimately affect their health and well-being. Further, it is unclear how the altered timing of agricultural management of key crops across the United States (for example, the timing of cherry picking) due to increased temperatures and altered growing seasons may influence the demand for farmworker labor, particularly migrant labor, and how this might impact their livelihoods and occupational health.

There is emerging evidence that there are overlaps between environmental justice concerns and climate change impacts on these communities,e5aac477-6382-425b-9610-4a288438cd25,2fb87a03-f625-430c-83e1-8f7b50e9974a and that solutions designed to address one issue can provide effective solutions for the other issue if done well.356dccb7-110f-42fb-a7a8-43dcd364f970

No systematic catalogue of the actions and efforts of frontline communities in the region to address their climate-related challenges exists. Thus, at this point, most examples of adaptation and climate preparedness are anecdotal, but these examples suggest an increasing trend to link adaptation efforts that simultaneously address both climate and equity concerns. However, this approach is still used sporadically based on the interests, needs, and resources of the communities.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is very high confidence that frontline communities are the first to be affected by the impacts of climate change. Due to their enhanced sensitivity to changing conditions, direct reliance on natural resources, place-based limits, and lack of financial and political capital, it is very likely that they will face the biggest climate challenges in the region. However, there is a significant amount of uncertainty in how individuals and individual communities will respond to these changing conditions, and responses will likely differ between states, communities, and even neighborhoods. Thus, it is the complex interaction between the climate exposures and the integrated social-ecological systems as well as the surrounding policy and response environment that will ultimately determine the challenges these communities face.

References :

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