Editorial: Dire climate report forecasts hard times for Yakima Valley

Wednesday November 28

Let’s take a closer look at Chapter 24 [of “U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol. II”), especially as it pertains to life in the Yakima Valley our kids and grandkids will inherit:

• Changes that those who grow apples and other tree fruit already have experienced — early flowering due to high spring temperatures, resulting in “a mismatch with the availability of pollinators required for fruit setting — will increase dramatically, affecting yield and quality. High summer temperatures will be more prevalent, leading to “sunburn scald on apples and softer berry crops that can be damaged in transport and harvest.” That, in turns, leads to low selling prices.

• Wine producers will feel the pinch of limited water supplies for irrigation that, long-term, will see “changes to average growing season temperatures and the number of severe hot days” that will reduce “premium” wine grape production.

• Warmer and drier seasons, due to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, will reduce forage and rangeland quality and quantity for ranchers. The region’s cattle producers will need to buy additional feed and fight other area farmers for dwindling irrigation needs — water storage capacity helps, but not if the snowpack is low, which the report says it will be.

• Even if forest management is improved via prescribed burns, expect more wildfires in the Northwest due to climate change. “These changes are expected to increase as temperatures increase and as summer droughts deepen,” the report stated. “For forests that grow in areas with snowpack, the declining snowpack is projected to worsen summer drought conditions, increasing vulnerability to drought caused by year-to-year precipitation variability.”

• Increased stream temperature will reduce the state’s salmon habitat by 22 percent by late in the century unless emissions are greatly lowered. That will equal $3 billion in economic losses and decrease all cold-water angling. As for game species, the report states “the primary climate-related impact will likely come from increases in disease and disease-carrying insects and pests.”

• A decreased snowpack in low- to mid-elevation areas (think White Pass or Crystal Mountain) will harm the snow-based recreation industry by 70 percent annually. Ditto for rafting, boating, fishing and other water-based recreation.

• Degraded air quality, the result of increased wildfires, will “reduce the opportunity for and enjoyment of all outdoor recreation activities, such as camping, biking, hiking, youth sports, and hunting. Degraded air quality also directly impacts human health and quality of life.”

There’s more. Oh, lots more. The report’s authors go so far as to say that the drought of 2015 might become the norm in the Northwest.

Full Story