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Northwest Climate Experts Gather in Oregon

PHOTO: The National Climate Assessment comes out every four years.  Image courtesy of Microsoft images.
PHOTO: The National Climate Assessment comes out every four years. Image courtesy of Microsoft images.
March 12, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - An all-day town-hall-style meeting at Portland State University today gathers experts who are concerned about climate change to discuss what the Northwest states are doing about it. Their framework is the new draft National Climate Assessment (NCA), a summary of what's happening with weather patterns and how they're affecting people and wildlife.

According to Patty Glick, senior climate change specialist for the National Wildlife Federation and a co-author of the Northwest section of the report, the predictions of 20 years ago have become realities.

"I think even the scientific community is surprised at how much change we're actually already seeing today," said Glick. "Because we're facing change already, we need to prepare for some of those changes. So, I look at it as preparing for the best-case scenarios."

For the Northwest, the NCA report mentions changing patterns of snowmelt and stream flows, more wildfires and diseases in forests, coastal erosion and increasing ocean acidity.

Glick said some of the warnings in the report are scary, but she sees them as opportunities to slow the trends by reducing pollution.

Jana Gastellum, climate change program director at the Oregon Environmental Council, said transportation is the major contributor to climate change in the state.

An Oregon Clean Fuels Program was enacted in 2009 to reduce carbon emissions and reward the use of cleaner fuels, and Gastellum said that can also provide an economic boost.

"We want cleaner air, we want less carbon and, since we don't produce or refine any oil in this state, we want more local economic development opportunities, because we can produce many of those fuels right here in our state," Gastellum declared.

She said the current concern is that the Clean Fuels Program could sunset in 2015 before it has a chance to do much good. A bill now in the legislature (SB 488) would remove the sunset provision.

The National Climate Assessment comes out every four years, and this one is still in draft form. The goal of this town hall and others across the country is to get input to make the final report useful to cities and states.

"It's really, I think, a pivotal time that this assessment is coming out," Glick said. "I think it's going to really help connect the dots for people at this town hall, who probably are already seeing changes in their backyards."

See the draft NCA report at ncadac.globalchange.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR