A big part of my work lately has been reviewing a report on climate change. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in climate change information, reviewing facts and figures and all the latest science on what the impacts look like in our valley.
The picture it paints for us it extremely bleak, but there is hope here in Southern Oregon if we take action soon.
It’s hard not to be distressed by climate change. I recently read an article that states that simply thinking about climate change can give people anxiety. If you have kids, you are likely to be deeply concerned about their future. You might feel a loss, like the future you expected would be there, beautiful and intact, is now gone.
There are even organizations established to help people cope with this loss. One such group, “Good Grief,” is focused on building human resilience in the era of climate change. Being up close and intimate with climate change and all that it foretells, I may very well need this group’s services... .
Being resilient in the face of climate change means acknowledging it, understanding it, and creating real solutions to deal with it. As part of KS Wild’s path to climate change resilience, we compiled over 150 peer-reviewed scientific resources on the projected impacts of climate change and the steps we can take to help the forests, rivers and wildlife adapt to a hotter, drier future.
So what are some of the projected impacts for our region? Well, here are a few. Temperatures in our region are already up 3.5 degrees, but the summers in the Rogue Valley could increase another 15 degrees by 2080. With a climate more akin to Sacramento, California, our snowpack would be very little, if any. Species like salmon that need cool temperatures will have a difficult time thriving, as will our cooler weather crops. Wildfires will increase in severity and frequency.
And on that bleak note … what are some of the steps we can take to either stop these impacts from happening, or at least survive and maybe even thrive in the face of these shifts?
Obviously, the number one culprit of climate change is greenhouse gas. However, even if we stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, we have already altered the course of the planet with the volumes of greenhouse gas we’ve released into the atmosphere.
Yet still, we know that we can get by on this planet without the rampant use of fossil fuels. We know that solar, wind, and other renewables are here and readily available. The problem is not the lack of solutions, but the political will to use our available solutions.
We also need to adequately prepare our communities and infrastructure for climate change. We need roads that can withstand more floods. Hillsides that can withstand landslides. Crops that can withstand higher temperatures. Increased protection for homes at risk of fire in the wildland urban interface.
One thing that gives me great hope for our little corner of the world is that in past climactic shifts this region has been an incredible refuge for plants and animals. Scientists theorize that Northern California and Southern Oregon might again serve as a refuge for nature in a changed climate.
We have a lot of work cut out for us to ensure that the Klamath-Siskiyou is able to serve as such a nature refuge. With a large percentage of our region being public land, managers at the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are critical to protecting the region from climate change. How we decide to manage our public rivers, forests and landscapes will determine just how nature will fare into the future.
We have a choice. We can either ignore climate change, living blissfully in ignorance while our future hangs in the balance. Or, we can face it. Understand it. Do something about it. As the singer Joan Baez once said, “Action is the antidote to despair.” I’m with Joan. I hope you will be, too.
Be on the lookout for KS Wild’s climate change report, which will be released in the coming weeks at www.kswild.org.
— Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.