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Latest climate report brings impacts home

The latest in a series of Big Reports on climate change was released this week, the third National Climate Assessment, delivering piles of data, graphics, forecasts, and research on the topic of impact. 

The report is the work of an extensive panel of hundreds of scientists overseen over the last four years by the U.S. government. In releasing the report, the White House issued a fact sheet highlighting impacts across the country, region by region. 

The Northwest, the White House warns, faces climate risks in its economy, infrastructure, natural systems, public health, and agriculture sectors—unfolding differently in natural areas such as the Cascade Range than in cities like Portland or Seattle. EarthFix found in the report a forecast of reduced in hydropower likely for Northwest. 

Philip Cooper, professor of public administration in PSU’s Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, says this kind of regional breakdown is one of the things that makes this report notable. 

“This report uses assessments by sectors and by regions to bring home the real impacts of what has already happened and what is very likely to happen in the near to medium term in a way that will be clear to people from almost any walk of life,” said Cooper, who posted the report to his Web page and sent an email to faculty colleagues highlighting its importance. 

“By providing the regional assessments, it focuses discussions on a less general—and for some people less abstract —level. It is clear that this group and the report they produced took seriously the controversies over the review processes that allowed critics of climate change warnings to attack some of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and were at pains to be clear as to the process and the nature of the analysis.” 

The report is packed with graphics and accessible language and special sections on topics like human health, helping make the loads of information easier to digest. National coverage of the report (such as The New York Times and The Washigton Post) drives home the point that climate change isn’t something that’s happening in the future—it’s something that’s already here. 

In recognition of that fact, Portland State announced this week that the University is a founding member of a new group that will work on making college campuses more resilient in the face of climate impacts. The Alliance for Resilient Campuses will provide a link for universities and cities as they prepare to survive and thrive in the face of climate change.