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NDMC’s Haigh to contribute to National Climate Assessment of Northern Great Plains Region

January 13, 2022

The creation of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) is currently underway, and National Drought Mitigation Center rural sociologist Tonya Haigh is among the co-authors for the Northern Great Plains Region.

Since its first report was released in 2000, the U.S. Global Change Research Program has produced periodic assessments of climate change impacts across a range of sectors. Each assessment examines the effects of natural and human-induced global change on the environment, agriculture, transportation, biodiversity, human health and more, for different regions of the U.S., and is presented to the president and to Congress. The process involves teams of authors with expertise across different disciplines in each of 10 regions. The creation of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) is currently underway, and National Drought Mitigation Center rural sociologist faculty Tonya Haigh is among the co-authors for the Northern Great Plains Region.

In addition to Haigh, who is Social Science Coordinator for the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources, UNL is represented by Andrea Basche, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture Assistant Professor and Crop Resilience Specialist. Haigh said that agricultural impacts will be a key issue that Northern Great Plains Region authors examine.   

“Our five-state region includes Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Ranching and farming are among the key economic drivers in those states,” Haigh said. “As we’ve seen as recently as 2021, extreme weather events, like the drought that hit the Dakotas and Montana particularly hard, can have wide-ranging effects beyond agricultural impacts. In conducting interviews with ranchers who have endured similar droughts, I’ve learned not only about the economic and environmental hardships that extreme weather events can cause, but also the mental health and community hardships. The NCA5 assesses how current and future risks posed by climate change could shape life across the region, and the country.”   

Haigh said that climate trends, ecological impacts, impacts on resource- and land-based livelihoods, navigating complex trade-offs and building capacity to adapt will be the key issues that Northern Great Plains Region authors examine. The previous NCA Northern Great Plains assessment examined how climate change could impact water, agriculture, recreation and tourism, energy and Indigenous Peoples. To read that report, visit: nca2018.globalchange.gov/chapter/22/

The authors began discussions of key regional issues in fall 2021, Haigh said, and the process is in its early stages, with the report scheduled to be released in late 2023. The outline of what NCA5 will cover came out in mid-January, with the first Northern Great Plains Region public engagement sessions scheduled on Jan. 24 and Feb. 7. People interested in registering for workshops that focus on regional or specific issues can do so at globalchange.gov/nca5.

“Our goal is to create a report that holistically represents the many different sectors – the environment, economy and more – and perspectives,” Basche said. “Gathering input from a range of communities and organizations is the only way we can achieve that goal. We look forward to learning more from Northern Great Plains stakeholders.” 

Haigh said that the authors use the public sessions to share information gathered during initial examinations of research literature, reports and other data-collecting efforts. Then they listen to what participants have to say and learn more about what issues may not have been addressed. Over the course of 2022 and part of 2023, the authors will work to synthesize the information and submit their respective chapters of the NCA5.  

To view the most recent NCA reports, which were released as two volumes in 2017 and 2018, respectively, visit science2017.globalchange.gov and nca2018.globalchange.gov

-Cory Matteson, NDMC Communication