Workshop urges local responses to climate change
The historic record — and the forecasts — are dire:
• The Northwest is 1.5 degrees warmer than it was in the first half of the 20th century.
• The coldest day of the year is almost 5 degrees warmer than 30 years ago.
• The snowpack is down by 25%. The snow season will shrink by 20 days in the 2040s and 47 days in the 2080s.
• Heat and water scarcity will stress crops and livestock and the farmers that raise them.
• The area burned by wildfire in the Columbia Basin will double in the 2020s, triple by the 2040s, and increase five-fold by the 2080s — that is, if there are still trees to burn.
“That was awful,” Amy Snover, director of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington admitted after detailing impacts on everything from physical and mental health to food supply to wildlife, at a workshop on climate-change in Twisp on Tuesday (Nov. 19). “I’m always amazed I get invited back.”
Nevertheless, Snover is hopeful. “The happy secret about climate change is that lots of people are thinking about what we can do,” Snover told some 200 people at the workshop. “We can’t say how fast it will warm — it depends on what we do,” Snover said.
Snover pointed to the fact that farsighted state and local agencies have been taking steps to address the changing climate for years. They’re retrofitting roads and bridges and restoring fish and wildlife habitat to sustain high-functioning ecosystems, she said.
For example, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is doing climate-resilient floodplain restoration. The agency is introducing beavers to improve water storage and connections between mountain streams and mainstem rivers.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is assessing the vulnerability of all roads and bridges to climate changes and installing larger culverts to accommodate higher runoff. Washington State Parks is studying issues from wildfire risk to mosquitoes.
The Colville Tribes assessed the status of 72 local plants and wildlife species and created a teaching guide about climate change.
The “Resilient Methow” workshop was part of an ambitious plan by the local Climate Action Task Force to develop a climate-action plan for the Methow watershed from Mazama to Pateros. Initiated by the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC), the effort brought together a diverse group of elected officials, nonprofits, utilities, firefighters and insurance-industry representatives in a 35-member steering committee that’s been meeting since March.
The climate-action plan will include concrete actions to prepare for and reduce impacts of a changing climate. It will be based on a vision for “a climate-ready and resilient Methow” to reduce the carbon footprint of the valley, Jasmine Minbashian, MVCC’s executive director, said.
“Climate affects everyone in the community,” Minbashian said. “People want the plan to be action oriented — not just sit on a shelf. We want to identify things we can do and start doing them.”
The Resilient Methow workshop was held to get input from the community. Workshop attendees used colored dots to flag the 10 impacts they’re most concerned about. Dots were clustered around water — for rivers and fish and for agriculture, smoke, and energy shortages.
The task force has organized around five sectors, looking at expected impacts and potential solutions:
• natural systems (fish, wildlife, forests and water).
• food and agriculture (soil and water, plant and animal health, profitability, and farmer and worker well-being).
• health (physical and mental).
• infrastructure (energy, transportation and water).
Solutions proposed by workshop attendees included solar power, carpooling, reusing household gray water, energy-efficient and fire-resistant building codes, a plant-based diet, root cellars, composting, indoor recreation like a climbing gym, and higher-elevation ski trails.
Attendees also filled a box with their visions for “a climate ready and resilient Methow,” which will be consolidated into a vision statement that captures community priorities.
The plan will be informed by an emissions study — the waste the Methow generates; the emissions from vehicles, farming and other business activities; and the role played by forests in capturing emissions.
At the next meeting, each sector will present a plan and the task force will propose a vision statement
“We hope to tie all these disparate ideas together,” Minbashian said. “I would call it the start of a conversation.”