What the State of the Union Left Out
Last week’s State the Union address didn’t have much for climate advocates looking for hope that the President would take head-on the most serious issue facing our planet, not to mention the state of the Union itself.
Despite calls for ramping up clean technologies across economic sectors the President’s remarks didn’t highlight the very real threats climate change is posing to communities across America.
A recently released report from The Resource Innovation Group paints just the type of picture of local impacts that decision-makers need, as well as strategies stakeholders can take now in order to build resiliency into local natural systems to best prepare them for coming climate disruptions.
Focusing on the Lower Willamette region of western Oregon, the report documents anticipated climate-related effects ranging from summer temperature increases (up to 15 degrees!), an 80% decrease of snowpack in the Cascades, and more extreme weather events. These changes are likely to have huge implications for wildlife populations as habitat quality changes and invasive species move in.
The news isn’t good for human habitats either. Reduced water quality and changes in water availability are expected as well as negative effects on public works, communication and transportation infrastructure. Farmers are sure to be affected, and public health officials will face increases in vector and water-borne disease, heat illness and respiratory distress. Then there are the cultural resources at risk, including the hot topic at this year’s State of the Union: salmon.
The report’s recommendations sound pretty familiar to those of us hammering on the climate front here in D.C.:
-Protect natural areas, including floodplains and wetlands;
-Preserve high quality habitat, promote restoration and expand connectivity for species migration;
Conspicuously absent in the recommendations is cutting down on the carbon pollution that is the root cause of climate change, but I digress.
Of course, identifying expected climate disruptions and planning accordingly isn’t just taking place in Oregon. To facilitate land management agencies and communities outside the Beaver State the National Wildlife Federation in conjunction with federal agencies including NOAA, USGS, Fish & Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the National Parks Service just released a Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. This important resource helps dispel the myth that climate change poses too much uncertainty for land managers and community leaders to take action now that builds resiliency against climate disruptions. In fact, it’s mission critical that stakeholders ramp-up these processes now if we are to get out in front of and prepare for these impacts.
But like any issue, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease—especially in these cash-strapped times. So feel free to pass these important documents to your local leaders, from your Senator to your city planner. Let them know that it’s time to get to work building the resiliency of our natural resources so they are best suited to weather the coming climate storm and continue providing us with the many benefits we receive each day. Maybe then next year’s State of the Union address will ring a little louder for climate champs.
Follow JP on Twitter: @twsjp
Photo Courtesy the US Geological Survey