Reap what we sow: Global Warming in E. Washington – Problems and Solutions

The following was researched and written by the Tri-Cities, WA Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter:

1. Agriculture and food is a $49 billion industry in Washington, employing 160,000 people and contributing 13% to the state’s economy.1 It has and will face threats to its productivity due to the impacts of climate change.2

2. Growing seasons may be extended for some crops (wheat) due to warming temperatures; however, increases in pests and diseases, reduced availability of water, and unhealthy levels of warming temperatures will have negative consequences on many others (apples, potatoes, corn, berries)3 and grapes.4

3. Reduced summer flows will impact agriculture dependent on river basins. For example, the Yakima is expected to experience a 30-50% decrease by the 2040s5, creating water shortages during the growing season and causing management difficulties for competing hydropower, irrigation, and fish (especially salmon) needs.6

4. In the Yakima River Valley, the water shortages during the spring and summer are, by 2060, expected to cost $66 million per year, and the state’s beef industry will lose an estimated $11.6 million per year by 2020 and $18.3 million per year by 2040.7

5. Cows will produce one less pound of milk every day for every degree higher than 68°F, depressing profits by $6 million each year by 20408 and beef cattle, as well as goats and sheep may all experiencelosses of productivity due to their inability to adapt quickly to more frequent and longer heat waves.9, 10

6. Unless farming practices are sustainable, producers will find it more difficult to adapt and mitigate as the pace of climate change accelerates11, and as we experience more intense and frequent extreme precipitation events.12

7. Longer-term adaptation will be more difficult and costly because the physiological limits of plant and animal species will be exceeded more frequently and the productivity of crop and livestock systems will become more variable.13

8. The short term will see those farms that practice sustainable farming techniques (cover crops, grassed waterways, no till, drip irrigation, crop rotation, organic farming, protection of river banks and floodplains, etc.) better equipped to adapt to many of the impacts of climate change.14

9. Unless we contain the warming below the ~4°F or less that scientists think is manageable, average global temperatures will rise between 7-9°F by 2100, lowering agricultural productivity in temperate zones by about 1% per decade, while agricultural demand will increase by 14% per decade.15 This could lead to food shortages and increase the risks of political instability.

10. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, renown scientists, economists, ordinary citizens, and citizen lobbyists from the Tri-Cities Citizens’ Climate Lobby are calling for putting a price on carbon to substantially reduce fossil fuel emissions, thus beginning the process of transitioning off of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) and converting our energy supply to low- or zero-carbon sources (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) while adding millions of jobs to the economy.16

11. Eastern Washington agricultural producers can be proactive and call upon their congressional representatives to enact a carbon fee and dividend with a border tax adjustment now. The transition to other energy sources alone will reduce dependence on hydropower, alleviate shortfalls in water availability for our crops and livestock, and make agriculture more resilient in the years ahead.

We farmers are used to dealing with just the weather! We don’t want to have to worry about the climate!

1 Washington State Department of Agriculture; URL
2 Secure American Future, American Security Project, “Pay Now Pay Later: Washington”, URL:
3 Ibid.
4 Keller, M. (2010), “Managing grapevines to optimise fruit development in a challenging environment: a climate change primer for viticulturists”. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 16: 56-69. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-0238.2009.00077.x, as accessed
5 National Climate Assessment Report: Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2, Climate Change Impacts in the United States, U.S. Global Change Research Program. URL:, Figure 21.2, p. 490.
6 National Climate Assessment Report: Op Cit., Figure 3.4- page 74.
7 Secure American Future, Op Cit.
8 Ibid.
9 National Climate Assessment Report, Op. Cit., p. 161.
10 IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. p. 23,
11 National Climate Assessment Report, Op Cit., p. 162.
12 IPCC, 2013, Op Cit., p. 23.
13 National Climate Assessment Report, Op Cit., p. 162.
14 Ibid.
15 IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, XXX pp. URL:, Figure 7-7, p. 81
16 Citizens’ Climate Lobby, 2014. The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power, and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax, prepared for Citizens’ Climate Lobby by Regional Economic Models, Inc. and Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., June 9, 2014 URL:


About Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Tri-Cities, WA Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby ( We are a volunteer international organization. In the US, we lobby Congress to enact a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the economy. CCL released a study in June 2014 that shows that if we place a $10/ton fee on carbon-based fuels and increase the fee $10/ton per year, we could reduce our GHG emissions 52% by 2035 and create 3 million jobs. A border tax adjustment would protect our domestic manufacturers. The study is available here: carbon-tax-report-62141.pdf. We’d be happy to talk with you further about our work and global warming solution. For more information, please contact We look forward to talking with you!

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