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New government tool shows Idaho and other states’ climate-related risks, projections

In this file photo, firefighters respond to the Moonstruck Fire, which was contained in early September 2021 near Lake Lowell in Idaho's Canyon County.  (Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management)
In this file photo, firefighters respond to the Moonstruck Fire, which was contained in early September 2021 near Lake Lowell in Idaho's Canyon County. (Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management)
By Kelcie Moseley-Morris Idaho Capital Sun

The White House unveiled a new website Thursday intended to provide local and state governments and businesses with information about climate-driven events and data, including real-time information about droughts, floods, wildfires and extreme heat.

The web-based tool, called Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation, contains information about current climate trends and projections through 2099, including risks such as expected revenue losses, annual number of dry days and consecutive wet days, and average daily minimum and maximum temperatures.

Representatives from the White House and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spoke at a news conference Thursday to announce the new tool, along with the mayors of Miami and Phoenix who spoke about the effects of flooding and extreme heat on their communities.

David Hayes, special assistant on climate policy to President Joe Biden, said the team developing the tool wanted it to be based in science and organized around the impacts of climate change.

“We wanted a portal that could pull together information about federal funding opportunities that frankly have been had for (local and state officials) to discover,” Hayes said during the news conference.

Many federal funding opportunities are granted based on applications, Hayes said, and communities applying for funds are expected to describe their needs in detail to support the funding request. He said the tool will include more data sets in the future that could further bolster those applications.

Hayes said some effects are more difficult to predict than others, such as wildfire, but the Biden administration’s climate team plans to update the tool with information from other agencies about recent forest management efforts as well as management plans for the future.

According to the White House, the 20 largest climate-related disasters in the United States in 2021 alone cost more than $150 billion in damages, including severe storms, floods, wildfires and tropical cyclones. Over the past five years, the cost is nearly $790 billion.

The tool provides location-specific data for counties and tribal lands across the country. In Idaho’s Ada County, the tool estimates an expected annual loss of $6.1 million because of wildfires, and $387,603 annually lost because of the effects of drought.

The climate tool also shows the number of days on a yearly basis in Ada County when the maximum temperature is above 95 or 100 degrees. Between 2015 and 2044, the data shows potentially 40 days will have a maximum temperature of more than 95 degrees annually in Ada County. By 2064, if emissions remain high, that number is expected to be 54 days.

The dashboard also shows the number of people living in disadvantaged communities across a county, which in Ada County is 3.2%, and also reflects whether county building codes are written to withstand climate-related disasters. Ada County’s building codes do not meet those standards, according to the dashboard data.

The dashboard will also be consistent with data reflected on other government climate websites, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Rick Spinrad, including climate.gov and heat.gov.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. 

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