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Environment

How climate change might affect Idaho's economy

One black cow in a field in front of rolling hills
Madelyn Beck
/
Mountain West News Bureau

New reports from the University of Idaho describe how climate change could affect the state’s financial picture.

The McClure Center for Public Policy Research took widely accepted climate change scenarios and asked what they could mean for Idaho.

“We are in a state that has an economy based, in large part, on natural resources," said Dr. Katherine Himes, the director of the policy center. "As those natural resources change, that’s going to impact the economy.”

The assessments look at seven sectors: agriculture, energy, health, infrastructure, forests, rangelands and recreation.

Himes said there’s no question climate change will affect those industries. For example, higher temperatures and decreasing snowpack could change water availability and lower farmers’ yields. It could also mean shorter ski seasons. More and larger wildfires mean more land closures for ranchers and increased health care costs due to smoke.

But Himes said there are ways to adapt.

“What crops could be grown in the future that might use less water, that might be a little bit more heat tolerant?" Himes said.

For each sector, the researchers listed ways it can change in climate-warming scenarios. Those opportunities require planning and action, Himes said.

Several cities, counties and industry groups have contacted the researchers to present the findings. Organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, Simplot, the Idaho National Laboratory contributed funds toward the research; the group also had an advisory board of more than 40 individuals representing different interests and perspectives.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

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