The country’s leaders are talking about climate change – from Chief Tidwell to Secretary Vilsack to Vice President Biden to President Obama. Climate change messages from Administration officials have been widespread since the beginning of 2013.
Was it the fact that the United States experienced a record breaking 14 weather disasters in 2011, or that approximately 2 million acres were burned by wildfires in the United States during July 2012 alone, or that 2012 was the hottest year on record? Whatever the reason, these messages signal a re-emergence of interest in the changing climate and encourage us all to talk about, learn about, and act on climate change.
Chief Tidwell delivered the 2013 Pinchot Distinguished Lecture at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation this past February. He discussed the challenges that we face today because of a changing climate and how we will respond by restoring forests and grassland ecosystems.
usda climate change
usda climate change
“Our central goal is to restore the ability of forest and grassland ecosystems to resist climate related stresses, to recover from climate related disturbances and continue to deliver the forest related values and benefits to all of our citizens...So our challenge is to really understand what we need to do to restore these systems not to what they need to be today, but to understand what we need to do to restore these systems so they can deal with the stresses that they are going to face 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now.”
A week later Secretary Vilsack delivered the keynote address at the 2013 USDA Ag Outlook Conference and highlighted how the Department is prioritizing ecological and social actions to respond to climate challenges.
“So here's what we've done, and here is what we're going to do. We released this year, the first USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan, and we are outlining practical steps that can be taken right now to reduce this risk We are expanding pest forecasting, so we have better models to give people a sense of what happens with intense weather patterns and its impact on expanding pests and diseases, which are a risk that we need to control. We are going to …… increase our efforts in soil health management and creating systems for farmers and ranchers …. create a web portal that will provide information on climate and weather, so in turn we will have enhanced stability to adjust losses more quickly and more accurately.”
He went on to recognize and encourage the Forest Service to intensify incorporating practical applications for mitigation and
adaptation strategies into their planning and management system work.
The work that you all do is also being reinforced by the Administration’s priority and commitment to climate change, as seen in
speeches made by Vice President Biden and President Obama. Early this year, Vice President Biden said, “I’ll tell you what my green dream is: that we finally face up to climate change. I don’t intend on ending this four years without getting an awful lot more done. Keep the faith.”
In his second inaugural address, President Obama said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national
treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks.”
And in the 2013 State of the Union address, the President called for action on climate change and identified ways to achieve it. “But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change…But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
These climate messages show solidarity among our nation’s leaders on the importance of climate change and the alignment of the Forest Service work under the priorities of the Administration and the Department. Here at the Climate Change Advisor’s Office, we have taken note and are turning our attention to communicating about climate change by developing educational packages for our employees to become better informed about climate science, understand the effect of climate change on forest and grassland ecosystems, and become familiar with the Forest Service climate response.
For many years now, we’ve been communicating scientific findings to members of Congress and the global research community; it’s time we communicate more to the public. There are 33,000 of us, each connected to networks of our own, a powerful collective voice and source of information about forests under the influence of a changing climate. Let’s all start talking and keep the climate conversation alive!
Photo courtesy of USDA.