Last week a group of "state decision-makers, utility and natural resource managers, public health officials, emergency planners, and other stakeholders," presented Congress and the President with the Fourth National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive, thousand-page report on just how badly we've fucked up the planet.
President Trump, who thinks the existence of snowmen proves that climate change isn't happening, seems to have very little interest in this report. Despite catastrophic flooding, fires, and storms that have hit in just the past few years, when asked about the climate report Monday, Trump said. “I don’t believe it. No, no, I don’t believe it."
The rest of us, however, who don't have the luxury of just moving to a higher floor when sea levels start to rise should be concerned. The climate report includes an entire chapter all about the Northwest, and what's in store for us, girls, boys, and gender-free beings? Nothing good.
According to the experts, we should expect more extreme weather conditions, including an increase in the frequency and severity of storms, drought, floods, landslides, and of course, fires. Hope you enjoy smelling your own breath because face masks could become the accessory du jour come summer time.
Scientists are already able to measure the effects of climate change. "In 2015," according to the report, "record winter warmth led to record-low snowpack in much of the Northwest’s mountains as winter precipitation fell as rain instead of snow, resulting in drought, water scarcity, and large wildfires that negatively affected farmers, hydropower, drinking water, salmon, and recreation. In addition, warmer ocean temperatures led to shifts in the marine ecosystem, challenges for salmon, and a large harmful algal bloom."
A warming climate has had and will continue to have a serious impact on the economy. Across the U.S., the report predictions that climate change could take a 10 percent chunk out of the GDP; regionally it could be even larger because the Northwest is so dependent on the natural resources sector, which includes the outdoor industry, forestry, agriculture, and fisheries. Without a decline in carbon emissions, everything will be impacted, from hydropower to wine to the food we eat and the activities we do. The report, for instance, predicts that salmon will lose over 20 percent of their habitat by the end of the century, and snow-based recreation, like the ski industry, could decline by over 70 percent.
If the end of ski season wasn't enough, there's infrastructure, disease, and sea level rise to worry about, all of which will be affected by climate change.
The Commanders currently in charge of the federal government are doing less than nothing to prepare for this future—a future that the government's own experts, including the military, says is coming. There are, however, things that can be done regionally to increase the NW's resilience, like investing in climate-resilient infrastructure and developing strategies to help farmers and fishers adapt. However, changing policy ain't easy—and changing industry ain't cheap—and while Washington state leaders, perhaps most notably Gov. Jay Inslee, have been on the forefront of developing good climate policy, the failure of voters to pass the carbon fee in November may show that the people themselves aren't ready to take climate change seriously, at least when it impacts their own budgets. Unfortunately, climate change won't wait for us to be ready. We're already seeing it.