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National Climate Assessment Highlights Northwest Climate Impacts

Published: May 28, 2014 by Editorial Team

2014 is unmistakably the year of the climate report. Following the release earlier this year of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report, the White House has released the third update to its own National Climate Assessment (NCA), designed to assess risks and impacts of climate change to United States regions and economic sectors.

As its international counterpart corroborates, the NCA concludes that climate change is impacting human lives in the present, and that its consequences are widespread. For those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, the greatest impacts deal with two of our most important resources: trees and water.

According to the report, the Northwest will experience drier conditions due to reduced winter snowpack, leading to adverse impacts on agriculture and salmon spawning routes. Less fresh water also has implications for Northwest forests. Currently threatened by wildfires, pests and disease, forests in our region may be comprised of entirely different types of trees by 2080. Finally, changes for our oceans include, acidification and sea level rise; heightening the threat of coastal erosion and flooding.

Although these reports provide increased clarity on environmental impacts, they remain less clear about the economic impacts of inaction on climate change. The Climate Trust undertook its own basic estimation of these impacts for Oregon in its recent report, “An Evaluation of Potential Carbon Pricing Mechanisms for the State of Oregon,” which calculated a combined valuation of the most vulnerable industries at upward of $50 billion—focusing on the relative value of progressive climate mitigation actions.

As the NCA Report makes clear, there is no better time than the present to make the necessary changes for slowing these adverse impacts to our region. The Climate Trust continues to look for ways to promote carbon market innovations in the Northwest, including our offer of market expertise to those on the front lines of climate policy in the region.