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The EarthFix Reading Guide To The National Climate Assessment

May 7, 2014 | OPB
Tony Schick

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  • The National Climate Assessment examined many topics EarthFix has covered before, including the human health impacts of climate change credit: Aaron Kunz
The National Climate Assessment examined many topics EarthFix has covered before, including the human health impacts of climate change | credit: Aaron Kunz | rollover image for more


This week a major study known as the National Climate Assessment laid out a region-by-region look at how climate change has already altered not just the things we’d typically think of like ecosystems and water supplies, but also our industries, infrastructure and human health.

It’s a lot to digest. The report is the result of more than 300 experts, a 60-person advisory committee and reviews by the public and the National Academy of Sciences.

EarthFix can get you up to speed quickly on how this is all playing out in the Northwest. We’ve covered many of the issues brought up in the climate assessment. Here’s a quick rundown of EarthFix coverage for some of the National Climate Assessment findings about how climate change is already changing society.

Finding: Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including through more extreme weather events and wildfire, decreased air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water.

Last year, EarthFix published the series “Symptoms of Climate Change,” detailing the many ways a changing climate has and will make people sick. Among the stories in that series:

  • Bigger, smokier wildfires can trigger asthma, heart attacks and strokes. Watch the video.

  • Urban heat islands — stretches of city soak up more of the sun’s heat because of buildings, pavement and vehicle traffic — put a strain on vulnerable populations like the elderly. Listen to the audio story.

  • Changing migratory patterns of insects like mosquitoes mean further spread of the diseases they carry. Listen to the EarthFix Conversation.

  • Algal blooms are on the rise in Northwest waters, which turn edible shellfish poisonous. Watch the video or listen to the radio story.

  • Oregon counties are already planning for the health impacts of climate change. Multnomah County health officials are preparing for more heat-related illnesses and deaths, mosquito-borne diseases, and asthma attacks from poor air quality and longer allergy seasons. Read more.

Finding: Climate change poses particular threats to Indigenous Peoples’ health, well-being, and ways of life.

  • In the first of a two-part feature in 2012, EarthFix documented the Swinomish Tribe, the “salmon people”, facing a future without fish. Watch the video.

  • In the second part of that feature, EarthFix documented the Quileute Tribe effort to regain precious land in a changing climate. Watch the video.

  • In the Northwest, tribes are actually leading the way in climate adaptation. Five tribes from the region are among those considered to be way ahead of the curve. Read more.

Finding: Climate disruptions to agriculture have been increasing and are projected to become more severe over this century.

  • In the Northwest, this is affecting both farms and farm workers. The number of days in heat and humidity make it dangerous to be a farmworker are on the rise. Listen to the audio story.

Finding: “Infrastructure is being damaged by sea level rise, heavy downpours, and extreme heat; damages are projected to increase with continued climate change.”

  • Seattle is planning for how risings seas may affect its waterfront on the Puget Sound. Listen to the audio story.

  • Dams are helping offset the impact of climate change in the Northwest, according to an Oregon State University study. Read more.

Finding: Water quality and water supply reliability are jeopardized by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods.

  • Idaho Public Television documents how climate is critical to the state’s water supply. Watch the video.
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