Capital Press

A warming climate could increase yields of some Eastern Washington crops, while decreasing others by the end of the century, but it likely will do little in the next two decades, according to a University of Washington climate change study.

The study and what to do about climate change will be discussed at a public meeting of state agencies from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Wenatchee Public Library, 310 Douglas St.

A similar meeting was held Nov. 30 in Lacey. More will be held across the state in coming months, but dates and locations have not been set, said Seth Preston, communications manager of the state Department of Ecology in Olympia.

"We have no clear proposals at this point. We're early in the process. We're talking about impacts of what's projected and doing these meetings primarily to listen to what people have to say," Preston said.

In 2009, the Legislature directed the state departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources and Transportation to develop a strategy dealing with climate change. Ecology is the lead agency, and the agencies are to finish an initial strategy by Dec. 1, 2011.

"Farmers and ranchers face significant risks in climate-change models, including less irrigation water from snowmelt and emerging plant and animal pests and diseases," Dan Newhouse, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said in a news release.

A June 2009 Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment by UW states that yields in some crops could drop by 25 percent by the end of the century. But, the report says, that could be countered by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, which could increase apple yields by 6 percent by 2020. Dryland wheat yields could go up 2 to 8 percent by 2020, and potatoes could drop 2 to 3 percent, the study states.

The models predicting such changes are still being discussed, said Kirk Cook, Agriculture hydrogeologist with the WSDA. He said the biggest challenge for ag is having enough water for irrigation. He said there could be longer growing seasons and more pests to deal with.

Preston said advisory groups will be formed in next couple of months to consider climate change as it relates to human health and security; ecosystems, species and habitats; built environment and communities; and natural resources (productive lands and waters).

On its website, Ecology states that the extent and duration of climate-change impacts will "largely be determined by our collective success in reducing future emissions of greenhouse gases."

Legislators said the strategy should:

* Summarize the best known science;

* Address ecosystem and resource management concerns and health and economic risks;

* Recommend funding and needed resources; and

* Outline challenges state and local governments face such as regulations that need to be revised.


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