The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reached a consensus in 2007 that the evidence is now “unequivocal” that the earth’s atmosphere and oceans are warming and concluded that these changes primarily are due to human activities (IPCC, 2007a). While reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions is vital to stabilize the climate in the long term, excess emissions already concentrated in the atmosphere will produce significant changes in the global climate now and throughout the next century. These changes are expected to transform natural systems and pose new stresses on native species in the Upper Willamette River Basin. Changes in the climate and in the Basin’s natural systems will, in turn, modify the way the local economy functions and produce new stresses on infrastructure and buildings, human health, and the quality of life of the people who live in and enjoy the Upper Willamette River Basin.
Numerous initiatives already underway will help prepare the Basin’s communities, economy, and landscapes for these effects. However, few initiatives focus on the actions needed to prepare explicitly for climate change. Expanding existing activities, launching the additional climate preparation efforts described in this report, and continuing to develop new strategies in an integrated and co-beneficial manner can help build resistance and resilience to climate change across multiple sectors in the Upper Willamette River Basin and enable the region to thrive over the coming century.
In the fall of 2008, the University of Oregon’s Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) and the National Center for Conservation Science & Policy (NCCSP), in partnership with the Mapped Atmosphere-Plant-Soil-System (MAPSS) Team at the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, initiated a project to assess the likely consequences of climate change for the Upper Willamette River Basin. The Basin is defined as the region from the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers south and east to the headwaters of the South Fork Willamette, Middle Fork Willamette, and McKenzie rivers. This report outlines a framework for climate preparation activities in the Basin, but specific details, locations and issues will need to be addressed by community leaders, resource managers, business leaders, scientists, and other groups.