Global warming – it's a topic that's often looked at on a national or international scale, but temperatures are rising at different rates within specific regions and communities, including in Washington and Oregon.
According to The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "If Earth heats up by an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, virtually all the world's coral reefs will die; retreating ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could unleash massive sea level rise; and summertime Arctic sea ice, a shield against further warming, would begin to disappear."
But locally, where are we in relation to that 3.6-degree threshold?
Researchers with The Washington Post looked at average temperatures in each county across the U.S., as collected by NOAA since 1895, and the records show our region has seen average temperatures steadily rise parallel to the Industrial Revolution.
Based on this upward trend, a 1.9-degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperatures was expected between 1895 and 2018. Here are the temperature rises that were actually recorded during that period:
- Umatilla County: 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit, a degree above the 1.9 degree expectation but still .7 degrees below ‘irreversible' change
- Walla Walla County: 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit, half a degree above what was projected
- Yakima County: 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit, .2 above the projected average
- Franklin County: 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit, .2 above the projected average
- Kittitas County: 2 degrees Fahrenheit, .1 above the projected average
- Benton County: 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, .1 degree less than the rise expected for 2018
In the 2015 Paris Agreement in which 195 countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, international leaders agreed humans should "act urgently to keep the Earth's average temperature increases well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100 to avoid catastrophic changes."
According to the Washington State Department of Public Health, studies show climate change will impact the state's water, forests, animals, infrastructure, agriculture, and more.
The Oregon Department of Energy is also tracking the potential impacts of climate change — with concerns regarding extreme heat waves, drought, and flooding.
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