NW Climate Science Digest

Aquatic Resources, Stream Flow, Hydrology in the Western U.S.

Understanding the California drought as an extreme value:

Robeson, SM. Revising the recent California drought as an extreme value. Geophys Res Lett 42, doi: 10.1002/2015GL064593

This study uses the statistical technique of extreme value theory to understand the probability of how often a drought as severe as California’s is expected to occur. The author, Scott Robeson of the University of Indiana at Bloomington, draws upon the method of Griffin and Anchukaitis (2014) but shows how their method had an error because it did not account for the respective areas (in square kilometers) of Central and Southern California. He uses observational data from 1895 – 2014 on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) from tree rings to estimate the occurrence of droughts beginning in the year 800. Robeson finds that the 2014 drought in California had a return period of 140-180 years, e.g. a probability of occurring every 140 – 180 years. However, if the drought from 2012 through 2014 is included, rather than just the year 2012, the probability decreases to a 10,000 year event, or occurring every 10,000 years. If this year is also included, the probability of the drought occurring decreases to zero. Hence they conclude that the drought is completely without precedent.

Understanding the hydroclimatic conditions that preceded the 2014 Oso Landslide

Henn B, Cao Q, Lettenmaier DP, Magirl CS, Mass C, Bower JB, St. Laurent M, Mao Y, Perica S (2015) Hydroclimatic Conditions Preceding the March 2014 Oso Landslide. J. Hydrometeor 16: 1243-1249.

A team of UW and UCLA researchers, along with USGS and NOAA scientists, have studied the hydroclimatic conditions that preceded the March 2014 Oso landslide, also called the SR 530 landslide by the State of Washington, in an effort to understand how and why it occurred. It was one of the deadliest landslides in U.S. history, resulting in 43 deaths and significant destruction of infrastructure. The authors examine regional weather information, precipitation records, and soil moisture leading up to the event. They found that there was anomalously high precipitation in the weeks leading up to the landslide, along with strong moisture transport to the Pacific Northwest. Soil moisture was also higher than usual. These combined factors likely contributed to the severity of the landslide.

Scientists say that climate change is intensifying drought in California

Williams AP, Seager R, Abatzoglou JT, Cook BI, Smerdon JE, Cook ER. Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012-2014. Geophys Res Lett. 42, 10.1002/2015GL064924.

The debate on the causes of the California drought continues. A research team concluded that global warming has intensified the drought in California by 15 to 20 percent and warned that future dry spells are likely to be as bad or worse than the current one. The team shows how climate change was responsible for between 8 to 27 percent of the soil moisture deficit that occurred in California between 2012 to 2014. However, Columbia University climate scientist A. Park Williams noted in an interview that the method used in the study did not take into account accelerated global warming trends since the 1970s. Taking this into account, climate change is most likely responsible for about 15 to 20% of the moisture deficit. The remainder of the moisture deficit can be explained by interannual variability in precipitation. The study also found that California drought conditions were record breaking in 2014, but most likely not in 2012 and 2013, except in the southern Central Valley and highly populated coastal areas.

Selecting climate change scenarios for specific impacts

Vano JA, Kim JB, Rupp DE, Mote, PW (2015). Selecting climate change scenarios using impact-relevant sensitivities. Geophys Res. Lett 42(13), 5516-5525. Doi: 10.1002/2015GL063208

Climate change studies oftentimes involve the selection of a small number of climate scenarios, with varied methods for how to select which climate models and scenarios should be chosen. Vano et al. develop a method that characterizes climate projections on an impacts spectrum that uses a sensitivity analysis technique described in Vano and Lettenmaier (2014). Performance of the climate models is specific to the Pacific Northwest region. Rather than selecting climate models based on which models best approximate climate in the Pacific Northwest, this method shows how climate models (and scenarios) are chosen for particular impacts. This is a “bottom-up meets top-down” approach that makes the climate impact in question of primary importance in the climate model and scenario selection process. Once the climate models and scenarios are selected, simple sensitivity analysis was used to understand how a particular variable responds to incremental temperature and precipitation changes. Examples highlighted in the study include changes in streamflow and annual vegetation carbon in the Pacific Northwest.

Arid Ecosystems

Climate change impacts on rangelands and sage-grouse habitat in southeastern Oregon

Creutzburg MK, Henderson EB, Conklin DR (2015). Climate change and land management impact rangeland condition and sage-grouse habitat in southeastern Oregon. AIMS Env Sci 2 (2): 203-236. doi: 10.3934/environsci.2015.2.203.

A new study integrates a number of different modeling efforts to project vegetation dynamics and sage-grouse habitat across 23.5 million acres in southeastern Oregon. The sage-grouse was once widespread but has recently declined to 56% of its original numbers due to declining habitat quality. The species was considered for inclusion as an endangered species but was excluded due to the existence of higher priority species. To understand future climate impacts on the sage-grouse, four climate scenarios were evaluated, along with three management scenarios: no management, current management and sage-grouse habitat restoration. Climate change scenarios projected an expansion of moist shrub steppe and decrease of dry shrub steppe, but varied in projections of the extent of xeric shrub steppe, which is the environment unfavorable for sage-grouse. The authors found that wildfires increased by 26% over the course of the 21st century as a result of the expansion of exotic grasses (and likely due to warming temperatures as well). Early in the 2000s, the average area burned in wildfires was around 200,000 acres, and by the end of the century, this increased to over 1.5 million acres. The increase in wildfires has complicated impacts on habitat, as it can control juniper expansion, but also remove shrubs that are crucial for nesting and brooding sage-grouse habitat. In sum, the authors found that rangeland conditions are expected to decline, and that current management options are not sufficient to counteract the projected impacts of climate change in the eastern Oregon rangelands.

Biodiversity/Species and Ecosystem Response

Climate change alters plant biogeography in Mediterranean prairies along the West Coast, USA

Pfeifer-Meister L, Bridgham SD, Reynolds LL, Goklany ME, Wilson HE, Little CJ, Ferguson A, Johnson BR (2015). Climate change alters plant biogeography in Mediterranean prairies along the West Coast, USA. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13052.

In this study, the authors examine the effects of warming and increased precipitation on plant functional groups and diversity across a climate gradient of prairies in the Pacific Northwest. They find that declining soil moisture that arises from warming temperatures would decrease native plant diversity, alter plant composition and result in northern plant communities looking more like plant communities located farther south. They conclude that projected increases in drought in the Pacific Northwest will lead to an increased number of annual plants and a loss of forbs (herbaceous flowering plants). This will cause a shift in functional plant groups, in turn possibly altering ecosystem functioning in prairies of the Pacific Northwest.

Improving vulnerability assessments by understanding species adaptive capacity

Beever EA, O’Leary J, Mengelt C, West JM, Julius S, Green N, Magness D, Petes L, Stein B, Nicotra AB, Hellmann JJ, Robertson AL, Staudinger MD, Rosenberg AA, Babij E, Brennan J, Schuurman GW, Hofmann GE (2015). Improving conservation outcomes with a new paradigm for understanding species’ fundamental and realized adaptive capacity. Conservation Letters. doi: 10.1111/conl.12190

 A new study has been published in Conservation Letters that examines the ability for species to adapt to climate change. The study was a collaborative effort between the USGS, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the National Research Council, EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, NPS and various universities and nonprofits. Characterizing the vulnerability of a given species to climate change depends on the sensitivity of the species and the ability of the species to accommodate climate-induced changes through adaptive capacity. This includes various coping mechanisms, such as changes in behavior, shifting geographical range and distribution, and genetic evolution. The study found that adaptive capacity is often omitted in vulnerability assessments or confused with sensitivity, yet it is critical to understand how species will respond to climate change to improve decision-making on natural resources and conservation. By not including adaptive capacity, studies do not sufficiently differentiate between which species are most at risk due to climate change.

Anticipating effects of climate change on biodiversity

Molinos JG, Halpern BS, Schoeman DS, Brown CJ, Kiessling W, Moore PJ, Pandolfi JM, Poloczanska ES, Richardson AJ, Burrows MT (2015). Climate velocity and the future global redistribution of marine biodiversity. Nature Climate Change. doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2769

A new study examines the importance of anticipating the effects of climate change on biodiversity and particularly community composition for natural resources management. The study uses climate velocity trajectories, along with habitat preferences, to project global changes in marine species richness and community composition for two climate change scenarios, RCP 4.5 and 8.5. The authors find that climate change results in a net redistribution rather than a loss of biodiversity. However, at a local level, high extirpation rates are expected, such as in the Indo-Pacific, particularly under RCP 8.5.

Climate and Weather Reports and Services

Understanding ENSO Diversity

Capotondi A, Wittenberg AT, Newman M, Di Lorenzo E, Yu J-Y, Braconnot P, Cole J, Dewitte B, Giese B, Guilyardi E, Jin F-F, Karnauskas K, Kirtman B, Lee T, Schneider N, Xue Y, Yeh S-W (2015). Understanding ENSO Diversity. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 96, 921-938. doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00117.1.

A new article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) discusses the diversity of behaviors that El Nino Southern Oscillation (called ENSO or just El Nino) years produce. Since this year has been widely discussed as being a large El Nino year, the article comes at a time when El Nino events are on the minds of many people in the western US. A typical way of understanding ENSO diversity is to compare sea surface temperature anomaly patterns at the peak of an El Nino year. Although there is debate over what will occur with ENSO patterns under climate change conditions, extreme El Nino events in terms of equatorial rainfall patterns are expected to increase in frequency (similar to what occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-98 cases).

Report on Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies

Creighton J, Strobel M, Hardegree S, Steele R, Van Horne B, Gravenmier B, Owen W, Peterson D, Hoang L, Little N, Bochicchio J, Hall W, Cole M, Hestvik S, Olson J (2015). Northwest Regional Climate Hub Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies. A. Perry, Ed., United States Department of Agriculture, 52 pp.

A new report produced by a partnership between the Corvallis Forestry Sciences Laboratory, the Northwest Climate Hub and the USDA Forest Service looks at climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies. The assessment discusses where scientists and practitioners need to focus in the Northwest to deal with climate risks. The report cites irrigation water loss, increases in wildfire frequency, and increases in diseases and insect pest populations. Melting Arctic ice could lead to greater numbers of invasive species, as well as more opportunities for regional trade and shipping. The report identifies risks specific to areas west of the Cascades, east of the Cascades and in Alaska and explains expected climate change impacts across the Northwest.

Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods

Glick P, Kostyack J, Pittman J, Briceno T, Wahlund N (2015). Natural Defenses from Hurricanes and Floods: Protecting America’s Communities and Ecosystems in an Era of Extreme Weather. National Wildlife Federation.

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation discusses how to protect communities and ecosystems as extreme weather conditions increase. The report focuses on coastal regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and regions surrounding streams and rivers. It suggests that millions of people are in danger that live and work close to these areas and are at risk from floods and hurricanes. Policies need to be put into place to make these regions safer by restoring natural infrastructure such as wetlands, dunes, riparian zones, shorelines and natural open space. The report emphasizes the five following principles to accomplish these goals in policymaking: 1) better evaluation and articulation of risk may lead to more risk reduction; 2) proactively investing in certain risk reduction measures may produce large savings over the long term; 3) investments in natural infrastructure will maximize resilience to floods and hurricanes; 4) actuarially-sound insurance provides a way to incentivize risk reduction; 5) consideration of social equity is an important component of natural catastrophe policy.

Groundwater depletion in California Causing Valley Land to Sink

The California Department of Water Resources released a new NASA report showing that the San Joaquin Valley is sinking at a faster rate than ever before, even up to about two inches per month in some locations. Due to the drought, groundwater is being pumped at a much higher rate, leading to record low levels of groundwater, according to Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. Sinking land, which is referred to as subsidence, is not a new phenomenon in California. However, it is occurring much faster than before, which puts infrastructure at a significant risk. Land in the Tulare basin sank 13 inches in just 8 months, and one part of the Sacramento Valley is sinking at about ½ inch per month. At one location in the Delta-Mendota Canal, land sank so much that a bridge nearly touches the water there. NASA is continuously monitoring subsidence with data from the European Space Agency’s new Sentinel-1 mission. The Department of Water Resources is launching a $10 million program to help counties in California that are experiencing high stress from groundwater depletion.

Coastal/Marine Ecosystems, Ocean Acidification, Sea Level Rise

Record-setting bloom of toxic algae in North Pacific

Algal blooms are the rapid accumulation of phytoplankton, or microscopic marine plants, and can be toxic depending on the presence of certain toxin-producing species. The North Pacific has been experiencing a record-breaking algal bloom along its coastal waters. The bloom has spread from the Aleutian Islands all the way to the coasts of southern California and continues to expand. Some species of phytoplankton produce neurotoxins that get passed up the food chain and become harmful toward marine mammals and humans. Along these impacted coasts a large number of marine mammal deaths have been reported. The cause of deaths is currently being investigated. Additionally, extremely high levels of domoic acid, a type of toxin produced by a group of phytoplankton called Pseudo-nitzschia, have been detected along Washington and Oregon causing shellfish and some fisheries industries to close. Due to the potential damage such major algal blooms can have on marine wildlife and the economies that rely on them, NOAA has awarded funding to further monitor and study the bloom and its impacts.

Flooding’s impact on wetlands measurable via low-cost approach

A new method for studying the impacts of sea-level rise on wetlands was recently published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Scientists designed an in situ, low-cost enclosure called a weir that can realistically simulate low, intermediate, and high level flooding on coastal wetlands. The particular design of weirs enables scientists to manipulate its water level and drainage rate, making it functional under both high and low tides. The lead author, Dr. Julia Cherry, is interested in combining this design with another approach that involves replicating the natural environment (the mesocosm approach). Dr. Cherry sees this combination as a potentially powerful tool for understanding the impacts of a rising sea level on wetlands.

When dams come down, salmon and sand can prosper

The decision to undam a river is usually based in the desire to bring back migratory species, like salmon, to the river’s ecosystem. However, the removal of dams on the Elwha River in northern Washington is demonstrating that the release of formerly dammed-up sediment can be equally desirable. Scientists from the USGS, National Park Service, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe have observed the rebuilding of an estuary and coast that had been gradually eroding since the dams were built in the early 20th Century. Millions of cubic yards of sediment that would have armored the Washington coast was instead accumulating behind the dams. Once these dams were removed, this sediment began to travel toward the river’s mouth, and its delta has since extended hundreds of meters toward the sea. This project has demonstrated the benefit of dam removals to other regions along the western coast of North America, particularly the California coast, which is suffering from large amounts of erosion. Many environmental lawyers and legal scholars are proponents of expanding this project to other dammed rivers, arguing that beaches have “sand rights,” or the right to sand that would naturally flow to them without human obstruction. Yet some are wary of the effects that the recent drought may have on river flow – the ability for sediment to move down a river may decrease with drought. While some are concerned, the consequence of removing dams in these other regions remains to be seen.

Climate Change Effects Along a Latitudinal Gradient in the Pacific Northwest

The USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center has completed a three-year long study investigating the effects of sea-level rise on nine tidal marshes in Washington and Oregon. With the goal of providing scientific data to support future coastal planning and conservation, the investigators compiled physical and biological data to assess and model how sea level rise may alter these ecosystems in the future. The project concludes that multiple factors, including initial elevation, marsh productivity, sediment availability, and rates of sea-level rise, affected marsh persistence. Under a low sea-level rise scenario, all marshes remained vegetated with little change in the present configuration of marsh plant communities or gradually increased proportions of mid, high, or transition marsh vegetation zones. However at most sites, mid sea level rise projections led to loss of middle and high marsh and gain of low marsh habitat. Under a high sea level rise scenario, marshes at most sites eventually converted to intertidal mudflats. Two sites (Grays Harbor, and Willapa) appeared to have the most resilience to a high sea-level rise rate, persisting as low marsh until at least 2110. Their main model finding is that most tidal marsh study sites have resiliency to sea-level rise over the next 50-70 years, but that sea-level rise will eventually outpace marsh accretion and drown most high and mid marsh habitats by 2110. 

Flood protection plans by wealthy nations may work poorly in the long run

Deltas are highly sensitive to increasing risks arising from local human activities, land subsidence, regional water management, global sea-level rise, and climate extremes. Tessler et al. quantified changing flood risk due to extreme events using an integrated set of global environmental, geophysical, and social indicators. Although risks are distributed across all levels of economic development, wealthy countries effectively limit their present-day threat by gross domestic product-enabled infrastructure and coastal defense investments. In an energy-constrained future, such protections will probably prove to be unsustainable, raising relative risks by four to eight times in the Mississippi and Rhine deltas and by one-and-half to four times in the Chao Phraya and Yangtze deltas. The current emphasis on short-term solutions for the world’s deltas will greatly constrain options for designing sustainable solutions in the long term.


WA Experiences Worst Fire Year On Record

Washington has been experiencing its worse fire year on record, and the year is not yet completed. Approximately 732,608 acres have burned, and the Okanogan Complex fire has been the largest wildfire that the state has every seen. Prior to 2015, 2014 was considered to be the worst year yet. Washington Department of Natural Resources director Peter Goldmark stated “It’s been a wildfire season of enormous proportion and consequence and impact on people.” Goldmark further stated that the DNR’s staff and resources are stretched thin, despite the overwhelming number of volunteers they have had.

Climate change presents increased potential for very large fires in the contiguous United States

Barbero R, Abatzoglou JT, Larkin NK, Kolden CA, Stocks B (2015). Climate change presents increased potential for very large fires in the contiguous United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire. doi: 10.1071/WF15083.

Very large fires, which are typically defined as the top 5% or 10% of the largest fires, account for the majority of burned area in many parts of the US. Since the 1980s, the number of very large fires has increased. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, federal expenses on fire suppression in the US have more than doubled in recent decades, and the vast majority of these costs are spent on the suppression of very large fires, or VLFs. A new study by a team of researchers from the University of Idaho, US Forest Service and the Canadian Forest Service links VLFs to meteorological and climatological variability. Although this result is not new on its own, the study uses a large ensemble of global climate models (17) to estimate potential changes in VLF occurrence in the contiguous US. They find large increases projected in VLFs, with the largest increases occurring in the Great Basin, Northern Rockies, Sierra Nevada and the Klamath mountains in Northern California. They conclude that this is due to a combination of an increase in frequency of the climatological conditions that are conducive to VLFs as well as an expansion of the seasonal window in which fuels and weather are conducive to the development of VLFs. The largest increases in VLFs are in areas where fire risk and warming temperatures increase, while precipitation and relative humidity decrease during the fire season.


Forest health in a changing world

Sugden A, Fahrenkamp-Uppenbring J, Malakoff D, Vigniere S (2015). Forest health in a changing world. Science 349 no 6250, 800-801. doi: 10.1126/science.349.6250.800


Trubmore S, Brando P, Hartmann H (2015). Forest health and global change. Science 349 no 6250, 814-818. doi: 10.1126/science.aac6759.


Appenzeller T (2015). The New North: Stoked by climate change, fire and insects are remaking the planet’s vast boreal forest. Science 349 no 6250, 806-809.

A new issue of the journal Science focuses on climate change impacts on forests and how forest health is already in the process of changing. According to Nathan Stephenson, USGS ecologist and co-author of the study, temperate forests are already showing signs of warming temperatures, such as increases in tree deaths. The papers in this issue explore changes in tropical, temperate, boreal and managed forests and describe processes of shifting land use, climate change, biodiversity, changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events, and disturbance regimes. The issue asks broadly how forest health is and should be defined, and how to identify forest stresses that make forests particularly vulnerable to climate change. The authors state that the challenge in identifying these stressors is recognizing when they exceed natural variability and “affect the trajectory of vegetation recovery at the landscape to regional scale.” Even more difficult is understanding how this decline takes place, and whether it is a slower, linear decline or an abrupt threshold below (or above) which declines become irreversible. One of the sections of the issue – titled “The New North” – discusses changes in the boreal forest, a type of forest that includes spruce, pine and other conifers and spans northern Canada, Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia. The boreal forest in particular is already feeling the effects of climate change, warming at twice the rate of the rest of the earth. Satellite observations show that the boreal forest is “browning”, meaning that trees are experiencing difficulties with growth due to rising temperatures. Forest fires have become increasingly severe, and warming temperatures and drought are resulting in thunderstorms that bring lightning, a positive feedback that results in more fires.

Land Use

Wind is blowing China’s air pollution to US West Coast

Verstraeten WW, Neu JL, Williams JE, Bowman KW, Worden JR, Boersma KF (2015). Rapid increases in tropospheric ozone production and export from China. Nature Geoscience 8: 690-695. doi: 10.1038/ngeo2493

A team of researchers from the US and the Netherlands has rising ozone concentrations over China between 2005 to 2010 have traveled through the air and reached the western part of the US. The US has attempted to reduce nitrogen oxide production through a combination of federal, state and local air quality policies, which resulted in a 20% decrease in ozone-forming nitrogen oxides. However, air quality has not improved as was expected. The researchers used data on ozone levels from the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) and Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) sensors and on nitrogen oxides from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), all from NASA’s Aura satellite. They found that roughly 43% of the expected reduction in ozone over the western US has been offset by ozone transport from China.

Special Reports / Announcements

MacArthur Foundation vows to push climate solutions: The MacArthur Foundation, known for genius grants and support of the arts, has annou

The MacArthur Foundation, known for genius grants and support of the arts, has announced a new $50 million in initial funding for nonprofit organizations working on climate policy and advocacy. The largest first-round grant of $20 million will be shared by the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund to foster political engagement around climate change. $15 million will go to the Sierra Club in an effort to reduce coal-fired power plant dependence and shift to carbon-free sources such as wind and solar. Additional funding (about $3 million each) went to the Natural Resources Defense Council, ClimateWorks, the Energy Foundation and ecoAmerica. The Environmental Law & Policy Center received $1.5 million, and $350,000 will go to the Carbon Disclosure Project, a U.K-based project that reports and reduces carbon emissions from businesses and corporations.

Taking Action

Clean energy from water pipes comes to Portland:

A start-up in Portland, Oregon is trying to use water pipes to create energy. LucidEnergy, which launched in 2007, is harnessing energy from running water in city water pipes. The company started with a pilot project in Riverside, California funded by the Department of Energy and now has a full-scale project in Portland. The system generating electricity is installed in sections of the water pipes where water flows downward due to gravity. There are four sections of pipe, and each has a generator and turbine that moves as water flows. The technology can be installed in cities like Riverside and Portland by replacing a section of existing pipe with Lucid’s pipe. As cities around the world deal with aging infrastructure, part of the replacement process could be installing LucidEnergy’s piping system. Portland’s project cost the city about 1.7 million, but will produce greater than that amount of energy in about 20 years. Although the system is less energy efficient than a large solar farm, it takes advantage of existing infrastructure, so the start-up costs are much lower for implementing the technology.

Obama Makes Climate Change Central Message during Recent Visit to Alaska

In a recent visit to Alaska along with Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and White House Director of Science and Technology John P. Holdren, President Obama issued a global call for action on climate change and called climate change the “defining challenge of the century”. According to President Obama, “’Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now.’” The President warned that effects of global warming would soon be felt globally, submerging entire countries and annihilating cities – unless emissions are reduced. He emphasized repeatedly “’we’re not acting fast enough.’” As part of his trip, the President traveled to Kotzebue, above the Arctic Circle, where coastal erosion has been a serious problem for villages. At one point, the President compared climate change to World War II, stating that world leaders need to come together and address it.

Obama Administration and the EPA Announce Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants

On August 3, 2015, President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan, which is an historical and significant step in reducing carbon emissions from power plants. The plan is designed to move the US toward cleaner and lower-emissions forms of energy production. The EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan Rule for cutting pollution from existing power plants. The plan sets standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels).

Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Matters

Ethics of Traditional Knowledge Exchange in Climate Change Initiatives

A new essay from the Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW) explores the ethics behind considering traditional knowledges (TK) in climate change initiatives in an effort to protect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and to increase indigenous representation in climate change initiatives such as those of the US federal government. The CTKW was created in 2013 to address ethics pertaining to information exchange of TK. The guidelines in this essay were developed to inform the Department of Interior’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science in May 2014, and currently are in the process of informing the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative. The CTKW recognizes the diversity of TK and does not seek to define it, but to protect TK and TK holders. It recognizes the value of TK in understanding how climate change has affected the environment and in mitigating the effects of climate change in moving forward with adaptation plans. The guiding principles are twofold: 1) Cause No Harm, and 2) Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The goal is for these to establish a foundation for equitable relationships between TK holders and scientists and government officials.