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Diverse Groups Come Together to Discuss Climate Change at ID Summit

Cross-laminated timber, used in some buildings in place of steel, is seeing a growing market demand in the Northwest. (Denna Jones/Flickr)
Cross-laminated timber, used in some buildings in place of steel, is seeing a growing market demand in the Northwest. (Denna Jones/Flickr)
November 17, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – Businesses, environmental groups and the timber industry are just a few of the diverse groups coming together for Idaho's first-ever statewide summit on climate change.

"Safeguarding Idaho's Economy in a Changing Climate" is a two-day event that started Thursday. The goal is to facilitate collaboration and address the threats climate change poses to Gem State communities, land, water and economy.

Kate Gordon is a senior advisor at the Paulson Institute and the keynote speaker. She says it's important to note that the environmental community didn't organize this event alone. Idaho Power is one of the co-sponsors.

"It makes it clear that this is a conversation about the Idaho economy, about impacts, about things that affect business, and it's not just a convening of people who want to talk about climate change and already believe in climate change," she explains. "But it's more, 'How is this affecting Idaho and what does it mean for us?'"

Other sponsors include HP, The Nature Conservancy in Idaho, and Idaho's universities. Events are taking place at Boise State University, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, and the Henry's Fork Foundation office in Ashton.

Gordon says climate change poses a number of threats to Idaho and its economy.

"The state is heavily dependent on hydropower for energy and when there are drought conditions, hydropower reliability goes way down," she notes. "So, there's this real issue with the future reliability of the energy system, as well as just water availability for agriculture and other uses; and then of course, the wildfire risks."

Gordon says although climate change is a threat, it also offers opportunities. For instance, programs to offset carbon emissions are giving forest owners the chance to make money by growing trees. There's a new need for timber as well, and Gordon says Idaho has the forests and workforce already in place to be a major contributor in this emerging market.

"We also have this really interesting growing market in cross-laminated timber - so, in using wood for taller buildings to replace steel," she says. "It's a real growth market, because steel is very carbon-intensive and expensive, and cross-laminated timber is also more flexible and can be good in places with seismic activity."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID