This website is the digital version of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, produced in collaboration with the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

For the official version, please refer to the PDF in the downloads section. The downloadable PDF is the official version of the 2014 National Climate Assessment.

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Welcome to the National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Key Message: Forests, Fires, and Food

Observed and future impacts from climate change threaten Native Peoples’ access to traditional foods such as fish, game, and wild and cultivated crops, which have provided sustenance as well as cultural, economic, medicinal, and community health for generations.

Supporting Evidence
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Supporting Evidence

Process for Developing Key Messages:

A central component of the assessment process was participation by members of the Chapter Author Team in a number of climate change meetings attended by indigenous peoples and other interested parties, focusing on issues relevant to tribal and indigenous peoples. These meetings included:

Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Meeting on Climate Variability and Change held on December 12, 2011, at the National Weather Center, Norman, OK, attended by 73 people.15

Indigenous Knowledge and Education (IKE) Hui Climate Change and Indigenous Cultures forum held in January 2012 in Hawai‘i and attended by 36 people.16

Alaska Forum on the Environment held from February 6-10, 2012, at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, and attended by about 1400 people with approximately 30 to 60 people per session.17

Stories of Change: Coastal Louisiana Tribal Communities’ Experiences of a Transforming Environment, a workshop held from January 22-27, 2012, in Pointe-au-Chien, Louisiana, and attended by 47 people.12

American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group 2012 Spring Meeting held from April 23–24, 2012, at the Desert Diamond Hotel-Casino in Tucson, Arizona, and attended by 80 people.18

First Stewards Symposium. First Stewards: Coastal Peoples Address Climate Change. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC. July 17-20, 2012.19

In developing key messages, the Chapter Author Team engaged in multiple technical discussions via teleconferences from August 2011 to March 2012 as they reviewed more than 200 technical inputs provided by the public, as well as other published literature and professional judgment. Subsequently, the Chapter Author Team teleconferenced weekly between March and July 2012 for expert deliberations of draft key messages by the authors. Each key message was defended by the entire author team before being selected for inclusion in the chapter report. These discussions were supported by targeted consultation with additional experts by the lead author of each message.

Description of evidence base

The key message and supporting chapter text summarize extensive evidence documented in more than 200 technical input reports on a wide range of topics that were received and reviewed as part of the Federal Register Notice solicitation for public input.

Numerous peer-reviewed publications describe loss of biodiversity, impacts on culturally important native plants and animals, increases in invasive species, bark beetle damage to forests, and increased risk of forest fires that have been observed across the United States.1,2,3,4,5,6

Climate drivers associated with this key message are also discussed in Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate.

There are also many relevant and recent peer-reviewed publications7,8,1,9,5,6,10 describing the northward migration of the boreal forest and changes in the distribution and density of wildlife species that have been observed.

Observed impacts on plant and animal species important to traditional foods, ceremonies, medicinal, cultural and economic well-being, including species loss and shifts in species range, are well-documented.7,8,1,11,2,3,12,13,14,5

New information and remaining uncertainties

A key uncertainty is how indigenous people will adapt to climate change, given their reliance on local, wild foods and the isolated nature of some communities, coupled with their varied preparedness and limited ability to deal with wildfires. Increased wildfire occurrences may affect tribal homes, safety, economy, culturally important species, medicinal plants, traditional foods, and cultural sites.

There is uncertainty as to the extent that climate change will affect Native American and Alaska Natives’ access to traditional foods such as salmon, shellfish, crops, and marine mammals, which have provided sustenance as well as cultural, economic, medicinal, and community health for countless generations.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence

Based on the evidence and remaining uncertainties, confidence is very high that observed and future impacts from climate change, such as increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, higher temperatures, changes in sea ice, and ecosystem changes, such as forest loss and habitat damage, are threatening Native American and Alaska Natives’ access to traditional foods such as salmon, shellfish, crops, and marine mammals, which have provided sustenance as well as cultural, economic, medicinal, and community health for countless generations.

Confidence Level

Very High

Strong evidence (established theory, multiple sources, consistent results, well documented and accepted methods, etc.), high consensus

High

Moderate evidence (several sources, some consistency, methods vary and/or documentation limited, etc.), medium consensus

Medium

Suggestive evidence (a few sources, limited consistency, models incomplete, methods emerging, etc.), competing schools of thought

Low

Inconclusive evidence (limited sources, extrapolations, inconsistent findings, poor documentation and/or methods not tested, etc.), disagreement or lack of opinions among experts

References

  1. Alaska Forum, 2012: Alaska Forum on the Environment. Alaska Forum on the Environment, 54. URL | Detail

  2. American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group, 2012: American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group 2012 Spring Meeting. URL | Detail

  3. Coastal Louisiana Tribal Communities, 2012: Stories of Change: Coastal Louisiana Tribal Communities’ Experiences of a Transforming Environment (Grand Bayou, Grand Caillou/Dulac, Isle de Jean Charles, Pointe-au-Chien). Workshop Report Input into the National Climate Assessment. URL | Detail

  4. Cochran, P., O. H. Huntington, C. Pungowiyi, S. Tom, S. F. Chapin, III, H. P. Huntington, N. G. Maynard, and S. F. Trainor, 2013: Indigenous frameworks for observing and responding to climate change in Alaska. Climatic Change, 120, 557-567, doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0735-2. | Detail

  5. Daigle, J. J., and D. Putnam, 2009: The meaning of a changed environment: Initial assessment of climate change impacts in Maine – indigenous peoples. Maine’s Climate Future: An Initial Assessment, G.L. Jacobson, I.J. Fernandez, P.A. Mayewski, and C.V. Schmitt, Eds., University of Maine, 37-40. URL | Detail

  6. Dittmer, K., 2013: Changing streamflow on Columbia basin tribal lands—climate change and salmon. Climatic Change, 120, 627-641, doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0745-0. URL | Detail

  7. First Stewards, 2012: First Stewards: Coastal Peoples Address Climate Change. URL | Detail

  8. Gautam, M. R., K. Chief, and W. J. Smith, Jr., 2013: Climate change in arid lands and Native American socioeconomic vulnerability: The case of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Climatic Change, 120, 585-599, doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0737-0. URL | Detail

  9. Grah, O., and J. Beaulieu, 2013: The effect of climate change on glacier ablation and baseflow support in the Nooksack River basin and implications on Pacific salmonid species protection and recovery. Climatic Change, 120, 657-670, doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0747-y. | Detail

  10. Houser, S., V. Teller, M. MacCracken, R. Gough, and P. Spears, 2001: Ch. 12: Potential consequences of climate variability and change for native peoples and homelands. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: Potential Consequences of Climate Change and Variability and Change,, Cambridge University Press, 351-377. URL | Detail

  11. ITEP, 2011: Tribal Profiles. Alaska - Athabascan Region. Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals. www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/ak_athabascan.asp | Detail

  12. Lynn, K., J. Daigle, J. Hoffman, F. Lake, N. Michelle, D. Ranco, C. Viles, G. Voggesser, and P. Williams, 2013: The impacts of climate change on tribal traditional foods. Climatic Change, 120, 545-556, doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0736-1. | Detail

  13. Maynard, N.G., Ed., 2002: Native Peoples-Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop. Final Report: Circles of Wisdom. URL | Detail

  14. Riley, R., P. Blanchard, R. Peppler, T. M. Bull Bennett, and D. Wildcat, 2012: Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Meeting on Climate Variability and Change: Meeting Summary Report. 23. URL | Detail

  15. Rose, K. A., 2010: Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Options: A Review of the Scientific Literature. 86 pp., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, Seattle, WA. URL | Detail

  16. Souza, K., and J. Tanimoto, 2012: PRiMO IKE Hui Technical Input for the National Climate Assessment – Tribal Chapter. PRiMO IKE Hui Meeting – January 2012, Hawai‘i. 5 pp., U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, D.C. URL | Detail

  17. Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, 2010: Swinomish Climate Change Initiative Climate Adaptation Action Plan. 144 pp., Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Office of Planning and Community Development, La Conner, WA. URL | Detail

  18. Trainor, S. F., S. F. Chapin, III, D. A. McGuire, M. Calef, N. Fresco, M. Kwart, P. Duffy, A. Lauren Lovecraft, S. T. Rupp, L. ’O. DeWilde, O. Huntington, and D. C. Natcher, 2009: Vulnerability and adaptation to climate-related fire impacts in rural and urban interior Alaska. Polar Research, 28, 100-118, doi:10.1111/j.1751-8369.2009.00101.x. | Detail

  19. Voggesser, G., K. Lynn, J. Daigle, F. K. Lake, and D. Ranco, 2013: Cultural impacts to tribes from climate change influences on forests. Climatic Change, 120, 615-626, doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0733-4. | Detail

The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

United States Global Change Research Program logo United States Global Change Research Program participating agency logos