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Published December 01, 2023
A University of Wyoming associate professor contributed impactful information as the lead author of the Northern Great Plains chapter in the Fifth National Climate Assessment that was released last week.
Corrine Knapp, an associate professor of environment and society in UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, provided the Northern Great Plains chapter information that appears in the Fifth National Climate Assessment, the most up-to-date and comprehensive U.S. report to evaluate climate change risks, impacts and responses. The assessment demonstrates that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change impacts are underway in every U.S. region, including the Northern Great Plains.
The regional information finds that climate change in the Northern Great Plains -- which is made up of Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming -- worsens inequities and threatens rural communities, human and ecological health, and livelihoods while increasing the complexities of decision-making. The assessment concludes that adaptation actions are happening in agricultural and tribal communities and on federal lands, but more work is needed.
“This region has long been an exporter of natural resources, which means that climate change doesn’t just impact us directly through flooding and wildfire, but through responses to markets and policies,” Knapp says.
She explains that this is “not all doom and gloom,” however.
“While there will be negative impacts to our region, there also are opportunities, including the potential for renewable energy development and regional trade-offs in agricultural productivity,” Knapp adds.
The Northern Great Plains chapter has 19 authors and 11 technical contributors and is backed by nearly 300 citations from published literature.
The chapter’s key takeaways for the region include:
-- Climate change is compounding the impacts of extreme events: Increasing temperatures, altered rainfall, increased hail events, flooding, drought and wildfire increase risks to regional communities.
-- Human and ecological health face rising threats from climate-related hazards: Climate change affects both mental and physical health of people in the region, while shifts in water quality and invasive species lead to biodiversity loss.
-- Resource and land-based livelihoods are at risk: Primary economic drivers in the region, including energy, tourism and recreation, and agriculture all face trade-offs on multiple scales from climate change.
-- Climate response involves navigating complex trade-offs and tensions: Communities across the Northern Great Plains region experience complex tensions and trade-offs between land use, water availability, ecosystem services and other factors -- all exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
-- Communities are building the capacity to adapt and transform: Examples of adaptation include agricultural practices to build soil health; tribal efforts to restore bison; and federal land management use of scenario planning to consider the future.
New since the Fourth National Climate Assessment, published in 2018, the latest regional chapter includes an increased understanding of how hazards affect residents in the region; increased evidence of mental health impacts to rural and Indigenous communities; better understanding of trade-offs in rangeland productivity; and increased adoption of soil health practices and evidence of their benefits.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program will host a webinar Tuesday, Feb. 27, for those interested in learning more about the latest assessment. Information on this and other webinars is available at www.globalchange.gov/events.
About the Fifth National Climate Assessment
Mandated in the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the National Climate Assessment provides authoritative scientific information about climate change risks, impacts and responses in the U.S. The assessment reflects the scientific consensus and is widely used for decision-making but does not include policy recommendations or advocate for any specific policy.
The national report includes 32 chapters on physical science, national-level sectors -- such as water, energy, agriculture, ecosystems, transportation, health and infrastructure -- regional impacts in the U.S. and responses.
A diverse team of more than 500 federal and nonfederal authors and more than 250 technical contributors from every state wrote the assessment. The report has undergone multiple rounds of review, including three opportunities for public comment, extensive agency review and an external review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The full National Climate Assessment is published as an interactive website at https://nca2023.globalchange.gov/, and “Chapter 25: Northern Great Plains” can be found at https://nca2023.globalchange.gov/chapter/25/.
For more information, email Knapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.