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Category: Climate Change

Secretary Vilsack Announces Partnerships with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change

America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners understand the threats that a changing climate can have on their operations and on their bottom line. As the world warms, that warming triggers many other changes to the Earth’s climate, including an increase in extreme events. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen increases in excessively high temperatures, heavy downpours, and in some regions, severe floods and droughts. These events can drastically impact the agriculture and forestry sectors.  

Today, I announced USDA’s comprehensive plan to tackle these challenges by working with partners and producers on a voluntary basis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry by over 120 million metric tons over the next 10 years. Our strategy lays the foundation for agriculture and forestry to be part of the climate change solution. The plan will encourage farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to set an example for the world by showing that climate-friendly conservation practices can benefit the environment, individual farms and forest operations, and the economy as a whole. Read more »

A New Interactive Education Module on Climate Change Effects on Forests and Grasslands

Screenshot of the climate change effects education module explaining changes in wildlife phenology observed and expected with climate change.  This section has an interaction that explores observed phenological changes for different regions.

Screenshot of the climate change effects education module explaining changes in wildlife phenology observed and expected with climate change. This section has an interaction that explores observed phenological changes for different regions.

The Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) has recently released a new education resource on climate change effects on forests and grasslands. The CCRC is an online, nationally-relevant resource that connects land managers and decision-makers with useable science to address climate change in planning and application.  The CCRC plays a key role in the USDA Climate Hubs’ effort to help land managers (the Forest Service, other agencies, and the general public) understand and respond to a changing climate. Read more »

A Year Round Fire Season?

A pine burns with snow on the ground on the Boise National Forest (Photo Credit: US Forest Service)

A pine burns with snow on the ground on the Boise National Forest (Photo Credit: US Forest Service)

There was a time when fire season for Western states meant only certain months out of the year. Not so long ago the U.S. Forest Service considered it primarily a summer problem with a few regions breaking the trend in early spring and late fall.

But climate change, according to most wildland fire experts, has turned fire season into a year-round issue.

What used to slow down fire season was winter—a long and cold time of year with lots of snow that killed off many invasive or destructive pests and filled rivers and reservoirs with ample water to supply the needs of millions living in the West. Read more »

Midwest and Northern Forests Regional Climate Hubs Vulnerability Assessment Published

Betts, L. (2011). Iowa Field Erosion (pp. Topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants run off unprotected farm fields when heavy rains occur.). Iowa: NRCS.

Betts, L. (2011). Iowa Field Erosion (pp. Topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants run off unprotected farm fields when heavy rains occur.). Iowa: NRCS.

USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs were established in February of 2014 to deliver science-based knowledge, practical information, and program support to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and resource managers to support climate-informed decision-making in light of the increased risks and vulnerabilities associated with a changing climate. As part of their function, the Hubs were tasked with providing periodic regional assessments of risk and vulnerability to production sectors and rural economies, building on material provided under the National Climate Assessment conducted through the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).  With the publication of this Vulnerability Assessment, the Midwest and Northern Forests Regional Climate Hubs are providing their stakeholders with an introduction to the region, regional sensitivities and adaptation strategies for working lands, a greenhouse gas emissions profile with mitigation opportunities, and an overview of how partner USDA agencies are being affected by a changing climate. This vulnerability assessment is an important first step in establishing a baseline “snapshot” of current climate vulnerabilities, and provides region-specific adaptation and mitigation strategies to increase the resilience of working lands in the region. Read more »

How Trees Help Fight Climate Change – All Over the World

A Limber Pine on the near barren landscape of the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve stands as a strong symbol of the power of one tree. (Photo by Robert Westover, U.S. Forest Service)

A Limber Pine on the near barren landscape of the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve stands as a strong symbol of the power of one tree. (Photo by Robert Westover, U.S. Forest Service)

The first in a series of blogs honoring the United Nation’s 2015 International Day of Forests

Did you know that carbon dioxide, or CO2, is one of the main contributors to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change?

And, did you know that one averaged-size tree – say a 30-footer – can store hundreds of pounds of CO2 over its lifetime and even longer if it’s used in building materials for a house or furniture? Read more »

At the Agricultural Outlook Forum, Prognosticators Peer Ahead to 2060

Tom Brown, Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station's Social and Economic Values Group, Forest Service, USDA, Fort Collins, CO. outlined climate models during his panel presentation at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Tom Brown, Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station's Social and Economic Values Group, Forest Service, USDA, Fort Collins, CO. outlined climate models during his panel presentation at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

No one can say with certainty what the American climate will be like 45 years from now, but looking at climate models discussed at the Agricultural Outlook Forum last week in suburban Washington, D.C., the best prediction is that the American southwest will be drier, the northwest may get more rain and less snow, and the entire nation will see more climate variability.  Weather swings, and their effect on production, will be more pronounced.  Some areas may get too much rain in the winter and spring and not enough in the summer and fall.  That’s a guess, but it’s an educated one.

A few things are fairly certain:  There will be more people, and with a highly diffused American water management system, it will be a challenge to adapt. People will take priority over crops like rice.  Every drop of water will count. It will be necessary for areas accustomed to getting much of their water from melting snowpack to store more water in reservoirs, and water now discarded as “dirty” or “grey” can no longer be flushed away. Read more »