finding 19.4 : key-message-19-4

Rural communities are integral to the Southeast’s cultural heritage and to the strong agricultural and forest products industries across the region. More frequent extreme heat episodes and changing seasonal climates are projected to increase exposure-linked health impacts and economic vulnerabilities in the agricultural, timber, and manufacturing sectors (very likely, high confidence). By the end of the century, over one-half billion labor hours could be lost from extreme heat-related impacts (likely, medium confidence). Such changes would negatively impact the region’s labor-intensive agricultural industry and compound existing social stresses in rural areas related to limited local community capabilities and associated with rural demography, occupations, earnings, literacy, and poverty incidence (very likely, high confidence). Reduction of existing stresses can increase resilience (very likely, high confidence).

This finding is from chapter 19 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

Prior to identifying critical issues for the Southeast assessment focuses for the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), the Chapter Lead (CL) contacted numerous professional colleagues representing various geographic areas (e.g., Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina) for expert opinions on critical climate change related issues impacting the region, with a particular emphasis on emerging issues since the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3) effort.7bdd9d20-6e83-40ab-8d50-68272c2b3dc9 Following those interviews, the CL concluded that the most pressing climate change issues to focus on for the NCA4 effort were extreme events, flooding (both from rainfall and sea level rise), wildfire, health issues, ecosystems, and adaptation actions. Authors with specific expertise in each of these areas were sought, and a draft outline built around these issues was developed. Further refinement of these focal areas occurred in conjunction with the public Regional Engagement Workshop, held on the campus of North Carolina State University in March 2017 and in six satellite locations across the Southeast region. The participants agreed that the identified issues were important and suggested the inclusion of several other topics, including impacts on coastal and rural areas and people, forests, and agriculture. Based on the subsequent authors’ meeting and input from NCA staff, the chapter outline and Key Messages were updated to reflect a risk-based framing in the context of a new set of Key Messages. The depth of discussion for any particular topic and Key Message is dependent on the availability of supporting literature and chapter length limitations.

Description of evidence base:

Analysis of the sensitivity of some manufacturing sectors to climate changes anticipates secondary risks associated with crop and livestock productivity.9f559c9b-c78e-4593-bcbe-f07661d29e16,c6bbdca8-9aa4-4288-8fbe-383ca982cf8f

Multiple analyses anticipate that energy- or water-intensive industries could face water stress and increased energy costs.75a38932-a8a4-4eeb-b94c-bbb65b580efe,9f559c9b-c78e-4593-bcbe-f07661d29e16,c6bbdca8-9aa4-4288-8fbe-383ca982cf8f,747e6b30-6afc-4520-af4b-660389e167ba

A large body of evidence addresses the sensitivity of many crops grown in the Southeast to changing climate conditions including increased temperatures, decreased summer rainfall, drought, and change in the timing and duration of chill periods.cc31a438-8e10-4957-88f9-cb6e763e2b5e,0b30f1ab-e4c4-4837-aa8b-0e19faccdb94 Extensive research documents livestock sensitivity to heat stress.cc31a438-8e10-4957-88f9-cb6e763e2b5e

Multiple lines of evidence indicate that forests are likely to be impacted by changing climate, particularly moisture regimes and potential changes in wildfire activity.a182cf3b-2113-4680-99e8-4e17abed758a,102550e4-9c8d-4799-813b-844c0f04a14b,53677485-6005-45b6-98eb-9f0c1a4d1935,d7cd72b7-d121-4531-ba5a-35e7541ff578 There is extensive research on heat-related illness and mortality among those living and working in the Southeast. While there is more evidence focused on urban areas, limited research has identified higher levels of heat-related illness in rural areas.b5eb05f2-a3f3-4265-b1e9-10a9c382101c,a0403ee4-f787-4078-bcba-64cdd6cc9cb1 Research on occupational heat-related mortality identifies some of the Nation’s highest levels in southeastern states.7a2f62de-a38c-46dc-94ed-656cbf3e625d Computer model simulations of heat-related reductions in labor productivity anticipate the greatest losses will occur in the Southeast. However, these models do not account for adaptations that may reduce estimated losses.0b30f1ab-e4c4-4837-aa8b-0e19faccdb94,9f559c9b-c78e-4593-bcbe-f07661d29e16 By the end of the century, mean annual electricity costs are estimated at $3.3 billion each year under RCP8.5 (model range: $2.4 to $4.2 billion; in 2015 dollars, undiscounted) and mean $1.2 billion each year under RCP4.5 (model range $0.9 to $1.9 billion; in 2015 dollars, undiscounted).0b30f1ab-e4c4-4837-aa8b-0e19faccdb94

Rural communities tend to be vulnerable due to factors such as demography, occupations, earnings, literacy, and poverty incidence.75a38932-a8a4-4eeb-b94c-bbb65b580efe,6f8b234a-206a-498c-af9d-fb4b9b355d0a,99381285-0a07-4bdd-8927-ea4822bba416,f4f8dff1-bf58-4d82-93ff-5ffabfa1231d,b079422e-dafb-4221-83be-0b6a176acbb6,cffe7cf9-79b7-43a7-9a93-4bab73465ba7,00d193af-455c-4c08-9a6f-a3ada2072ece Reducing the stress created by such factors can improve resilience.6f8b234a-206a-498c-af9d-fb4b9b355d0a,cffe7cf9-79b7-43a7-9a93-4bab73465ba7 The availability and accessibility of planning and health services to support coping with climate-related stresses are limited in the rural Southeast.bc63cd69-0f13-4d07-8854-1e0e759a31b2,82baa7b1-724f-4714-be7a-ccf741388208

New information and remaining uncertainties:

There are limited studies documenting direct connections between climate changes and economic impacts. Models are limited in their ability to incorporate adaptation that may reduce losses. These factors restrict the potential to strongly associate declines in agricultural and forest productivity with the level of potential economic impact.

Projections of potential change in the frequency and extent of wildfires depend in part on models of future population growth and human behavior, which are limited, adding to the uncertainty associated with climate and forest modeling.

Many indicators of vulnerability are dynamic, so that adaptation and other changes can affect the patterns of vulnerability to heat and other climate stressors over time. Limited studies indicate concerns over the planning and preparedness of capacity at local levels; however, information is limited.

Projected labor hours lost vary by global climate model, time frame, and scenario, with a mean of 0.57 and a model range of 0.34–0.82 billion labor hours lost each year for RCP8.5 by 2090. The annual mean projected losses are roughly halved (0.28 billion labor hours) and with a model range from 0.19 to 0.43 billion labor hours lost under RCP4.5 by 2090.0b30f1ab-e4c4-4837-aa8b-0e19faccdb94

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is high confidence that climate change (e.g., rising temperatures, changing fire regimes, rising sea levels, and more extreme rainfall and drought) will very likely affect agricultural and forest products industries, potentially resulting in economic impacts. There is high confidence that increases in temperature are very likely to increase heat-related illness, deaths, and loss of labor productivity without greater adaptation efforts.

This finding was derived from scenario rcp_4_5
This finding was derived from scenario rcp_8_5

References :

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