The Adverse Effects of Climate Change in Oregon

September 23, 2013

Climate change is gradually unveiling itself throughout the Pacific Northwest in a variety of ways, including alterations in precipitation and temperature that will ultimately affect numerous industries in the state of Oregon. More specifically, agriculture, skiing, forestry, and salmon will all be impacted by Oregon’s changing climate. Salmon are often identified as an iconic species for the Pacific Northwest, as well as a keystone species in many ecosystems, thus their endangerment as a result of warming temperatures is an extremely significant issue. Warmer temperatures in Oregon will result in more rain precipitation and less snowfall, which will cause overall smaller annual snow-packs and consequently altered stream-flow times. An increase in precipitation could potentially cause frequent floods, therefore increasing mortality rates among salmon eggs due to gravel aggravation. The salmon life cycle may also be affected as a result of snow-pack melting earlier in the spring, hence disrupting the normal migration patterns for sea-bound fish.  Additionally, warmer river temperatures bring an influx of problems for developing salmon, such as providing ideal habitat for other fish species that pose as competitors or predators of salmon, thus lowering their survival rates. Warm water temperatures may also provide insufficient nutrients and resources for developing salmon.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Evidently, salmon will be negatively affected by climate change in countless ways, thus the management and restoration of salmon habitat has the utmost importance when dealing with global warming in the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are also crucial to the livelihoods of many Native American tribes of the Northwest, which is another incentive to protect and restore their delicate habitats. The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition is a large group of organizations devoted to the protection and restoration of native salmon species in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Visit their page to learn more about their efforts in the Northwest!

While salmon will undoubtedly be adversely impacted by warming temperatures, there are other consequences of climate change in Oregon that also hold significance, such as agriculture. More frequent droughts could reduce water supply needed for sufficient irrigation, growing seasons could be altered, and an invasion of pests may arrive due to warmer temperatures. All of these concerns may jeopardize the stability of Oregon’s agriculture industry. Health distresses may also become significant if Oregon begins to see increased smog as a result of higher temperatures. Pollen seasons could be longer as well, posing additional threats to people with allergies or asthma. Economically, many industries in Oregon will most likely be affected because of a disruption in BPA hydroelectric power, due to a lower water supply in the summer months. Moreover, the skiing industry could disappear altogether if winter snow-pack is dramatically reduced. Frequent droughts in the summertime will bring recurrent and heightened wildfires, so the timber industry could likewise be adversely affected. Clearly, Oregon is already seeing the effects of a changing climate, but many unforeseen consequences are possible in the near future, which is why Oregonians need to use mitigation and management to alleviate these impending costs.  To learn more about climate change in Oregon, visit this OEC page for details regarding climate impacts, protection, solutions, and more!

The list of ways in which Oregon is affected by global warming is innumerable as well as unpredictable. Unfortunately, climate change is already underway, so many of these consequences are most likely irreversible. However, putting a stop to CO2 emissions could possibly help slow down the warming of our planet, thus discontinuing dirty oil and coal drilling could help to alleviate our problems. This is why climate change in Oregon can directly be related to oil exploration in the Arctic, because increased drilling would only increase our reliance on nonrenewable energy sources, hence furthering emissions and enhancing global warming. The Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club is working diligently to fight against Arctic oil development in the Chill the Drills campaign to help alleviate climate impacts not only in the Arctic, but in Oregon as well.


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