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Climate Change

Climate change is currently the greatest threat to our planet’s diversity of life

Tundra Swan, climate - Jim Cruce
Tundra Swans are one of several Oregon bird species impacted by climate change – Jim Cruce.

Climate change is currently the greatest threat to our planet’s diversity of life, and its impacts are already being felt by not only wildlife and plants but also by humans. Changes in temperature are rapidly altering ecosystems around the world, and for birds, these shifts place many species in danger of accelerated population declines and even extinction.

Birds can, however, show resiliency in the face of a warming world, especially if we protect remaining habitat strongholds that will likely be buffered from the effects of climate change. Improving already impacted habitats also makes a difference, as do broader efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Climate change can feel like an overwhelming issue to tackle, but there are tangible ways to make a difference. Help shape the planet’s future by facing this threat head-on.

Jump to: Updates | Birds and Climate Change | Our Work | How You Can Help | More Information

Update - Climate Action Plan

April 10, 2015: The Audubon Society of Portland has submitted comments about the Portland Climate Change Action Plan, and calls out the City of Portland for developing a strong plan on paper while simultaneously adding to the problem by moving towards approval of a massive fossil fuel export facility. Read the comments.

Birds and Climate Change

Over the past two decades, hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have documented ways birds are responding to and being impacted by a changing climate – for example, many species are shifting their ranges and some are laying eggs earlier in the year. Significant climate-related threats to birds include:

  • Range shifts could expose birds to new diseases and increased competition with species they have not coexisted with historically. 
  • Warmer and drier conditions are leading to more frequent droughts, which add significant stress to birds during migration and breeding seasons.
  • Birds’ life cycles may become out of sync with the availability of food sources. For example, if hummingbirds start migrating earlier in the year because of warming temperatures, they may arrive in their summer territories before nectar-rich flowers bloom.

In a new study produced by the National Audubon Society, scientists have used the latest climate change modeling techniques and community-science data to predict that 314 North American bird species are likely to experience population declines and potentially extinction in the next century if we don’t reverse or mediate impacts from a warming planet. Of the species that are regularly found in Oregon, 189 are threatened.

Our Work

The Audubon Society of Portland addresses climate change from several angles, each a part of broader conservation goals that shape our organization's work. Here's how climate ties into these goals:

  • Make Portland the greenest city in the United States: We have participated in the development of urban plans that address the local impacts of climate change; examples include the Regional Conservation Strategy, Portland Climate Change Action Plan and Portland Comprehensive Plan. The Audubon Society of Portland also opposes environmental zone amendments that would allow for the installation of a propane facility in Portland: In September 2014, the Port of Portland announced plans for Pembina Pipeline Company to build a propane export facility at the Port’s Terminal 6.
  • Protect Oregon's most important bird habitats: Our habitat conservation work includes efforts to restore landscapes threatened by increasing water shortages, like Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Klamath Basin refuges, and providing protection for floodplains and river habitats that are threatened by climate-related increases in flood risk.
  • Preserve mature and old-growth forests: We have worked for decades to preserve forest ecosystems that serve as carbon stores.
  • Promote the responsible development of renewable energy: Recently, we have helped develop the Colombia Plateau Wind Guidelines, participated in the drafting of part 5 of the Territorial Sea Plan, and promoted wildlife-friendly wind development in eastern Oregon.

How You Can Help

Here are some ways to take action in the Portland-metro region and across the country.

  • Write to your elected officials to express your support for legislation and policy that reduce carbon emissions, and keep up the pressure over time. Find contact information for your federal senators and representative, state senator and representative, and governor.
  • Vote for candidates who are committed to addressing climate change.
  • Get involved with 350 PDX, the local chapter of international climate organization 350.org.
  • Sign up for Audubon Society of Portland action alerts, which provide updates about activist opportunities.
  • Create wildlife habitat in your yard to provide relief to urban birds whose natural habitat is impacted by climate change and to reduce urban heat effect. Portland Audubon and Columbia Land Trust's Backyard Habitat Certification Program is a great way to get started if you live in its service area, but anyone can provide shelter and food for wildlife – learn how.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. If you live in the Portland-metro region, visit the Metro website for information about recycling and properly disposing of various materials.

More Information

To learn more about how climate change is impacting birds, visit the National Audubon Society website and read the latest State of the Birds report.

For more information about the worldwide impacts of climate change, view the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2014 report. It provides a clear and current account of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change.

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