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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


Brent Sohngen Serves as Co-Author for Forestry Chapter of the U.S. National Climate Assessment Report

March 4, 2013

Every four years the U.S. federal government commissions a body of research known as the U.S. National Climate Assessment report to examine the effects of climate change on the environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, human health and welfare, and biological diversity, among other topics.

This massive undertaking is conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 and brings together a wide variety of researchers and scholars from the government, the private sector and academia with the United States Global Change Research Program overseeing the report process.

The U.S. National Climate Assessment not only analyzes current trends in global climate change, but it includes a number of projections for major climate change trends for the next 25 to 100 years. Additionally, the report aims to highlight significant gaps in our current knowledge of climate change, impacting federal science priorities.

The final product is delivered to the President and Congress and is used by policymakers at all levels to formulate national, regional and local policy. U.S. citizens, communities and businesses also rely on the report to guide them in making sustainable decisions.

This year’s report process includes only two representatives from The Ohio State University, one of which is AEDE’s Professor Brent Sohngen who is serving as a co-author for the U.S. National Climate Assessment’s chapter on forestry. Additionally, Sohngen is one of only a few economists tasked with working on this year’s product.

Some of the key messages from the forestry chapter include:

  • Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of forests to ecosystem change and tree mortality through fire, insect infestations, drought, and disease outbreaks.
  • Climate change, combined with current societal trends regarding land use and forest management, is projected to reduce forest carbon dioxide uptake, which currently stands at a 13% absorption rate of fossil fuels burned in the U.S.
  • Bioenergy is an emerging new market for wood; with the growth of higher wood prices, the development of a market in salvaged wood from trees killed by drought, insects, and fire could help finance salvage and restoration activities and reduce U.S. fossil fuel consumption.
  • With the changing nature of private forest land ownership, the globalization of forestry markets, and the emergence of markets for bioenergy, forest management responses to climate change will be greatly influenced by U.S. climate change policy.

The current U.S. National Climate Assessment is in a draft stage and was recently opened for expert review and public comment. A copy of the full draft report can be downloaded here; the draft of the forestry chapter co-authored by Sohngen is available here. The final report is expected to be delivered to the President and Congress later this year.

March 4, 2013