Washington, rest of West heating faster than rest of world, federal figures showReport shows strong actions needed now to combat climate change SEATTLE –The latest federal government figures show that Washington and other Western state’s residents are feeling nearly twice the global warming experienced by the rest of world, underlining the urgent need for strong state, regional and federal action to significantly reduce our global-warming emissions.For “Warming in the West,” the report released today by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and the Natural Resources Defense Council, RMCO analyzed new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data for 11 Western states. For the five-year period 2003-2007, the average regional temperature was 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th-century average, compared to the overall global rise of 1 degree. Both Washington and Oregon saw temperatures 40 percent higher than the worldwide figure.The report is available here: www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/west/contents.asp.“We are seeing signs of the economic impacts throughout the West,” said study author Stephen Saunders of RMCO. “Since 2000 we have seen $2.7 billion in crop loss claims due to drought. Global warming is harming valuable commercial salmon fisheries, reducing hunting activity and revenues, and threatening shorter and less profitable seasons for ski resorts.”Glaciers in Washington state’s North Cascade Mountains, for example, have lost 20 to 40 percent of their volume since 1984, with five disappearing altogether. Snowpack is dwindling, with severe consequences predicted not just for recreation but for irrigation, power generation, transportation and human consumption, as well.“Our fishermen are seeing the impacts of global warming first hand on our fishery resources,” said Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association director Liz Hamilton. “Rivers are blown out due to flooding, extensive fish kills due to lethal high river temperatures, and there are growing concerns about rising ocean temperatures reducing ocean productivity. More than an ecological issue, this is an economic issue. Hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing contribute billions of dollars to Washington’s economy, supporting more than 40,000 jobs. We need bold, urgent action such as the Western Climate Initiative and the Climate Security Act.”“This report shows how ‘global’ warming packs a local and regional wallop,” said Climate Solutions’ Policy Director KC Golden. “We’ve got strong action under way at the local, state, regional and international levels. But there’s one critical piece missing: a national climate policy that commits America to real solutions, including science-based limits on global warming pollution and accelerated investment in building a low-carbon, clean energy economy with opportunity for all.” Climate change is a priority issue for Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and for state conservation groups, who have celebrated passage of crucial climate bills in the last two legislative sessions. Gregoire joined the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, Montana and Oregon in the Western Climate Initiative, an agreement to reduce global-warming pollution through a market-based system, such as a cap-and-trade program. “I am proud that Washington is being a leader in combating global warming,” said National Wildlife Federation Western office director Doug Howell. “We urge Governor Gregoire to ensure the Western Climate Initiative meets science-based cuts in carbon; that pollution permits are auctioned to create revenue for public benefit; and that a portion of the funding helps our natural resources weather the impacts we can no longer avoid.”Meanwhile, leaders across the political and economic spectrum say more aggressive action is needed at the national level. The bipartisan Lieberman-Warner global-warming bill, “America’s Climate Security Act” (S. 2191), is the first piece of climate legislation ever passed out of a U.S. Senate committee. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill by summer. “Warming of the West” finds the greatest temperature increase in the Colorado River Basin, which stretches from Wyoming to Mexico. There, the average temperature was 2.2 degrees higher in the 20th century.The basin is now in the throes of a record drought, shrinking water supplies for upwards of 30 million people in fast-growing Denver, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. Most of the Colorado River’s flow comes from melting mountain snow. Climate scientists predict even more and drier droughts in the future as hotter temperatures reduce the snowpack and increase evaporation.“We need strong leadership from Western senators to pass America’s Climate Security Act,” said the NRDC’s Theo Spencer. “The longer we wait to put a concrete cap on global warming pollution, the greater the threat to all Americans.”
The NRDC-RMCO report, “Warming in the West,” analyzed temperature data from Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Again, the report is available online at www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/west/contents.asp. For more information on the report contact Craig Noble at (415) 875-6100 or by cell at (415) 601-8235.