Geos Institute led a working group with the American Society of Adaptation Professionals to develop official comments to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis regarding where investments should be made to strengthen climate resilience. The Committee put out the call for suggestions for actions it can take now and in the future to move federal climate policy forward at the national level.
After a year of advocacy from climate change organizations across the country, the federal government released Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment late last year.
The National Climate Assessment is made up of two volumes. The first is a science report - very dry and nearly incomprehensible for local governments. For them, the important part is the second report, which assesses the impacts of climate change on resources and populations around the country.
In late 2017 a strategy session was held in Washington DC by organizations working to protect the National Climate Assessment from the climate deniers in the Trump Administration.
Yes!! And actually we MUST have fun from time to time. It's psychology - our brains are hardwired to help us avoid long-term pain and suffering and to instead seek pleasure and enjoyment. If we want to stay in the fight against climate change, we have to figure out how to enjoy doing it.
Unfortunately, many climate events are depressing. It's the nature of the topic. Those of us who stare down the impacts of climate change on a daily basis know that we are facing a grim future if massive collective action is not taken very soon. But most people are not staring down climate change on a daily basis - and these are the people we need to help take action.
Our team is seeing an increasing number of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) coming from local governments across the nation seeking help building climate resilience. It’s great to see this forward motion for community-based climate resilience!
At the same time, we recognize that in many cases these community leaders and government staff need guidance if they are to include the critical components of adaptation planning and implementation in their Requests for Proposals (RFPs). As a field we are not at the point where there is a credential system and the process of climate resilience planning is still new for local government professionals.
The Climate Ready Communities program provides an assisted do-it-yourself option for small-medium sized communities that don’t have the resources to hire a consultant or the technical capacity to do the planning entirely by themselves.
November 30 marks the completion of the Climate Ready Communities pilot program. We are glad to report that during these first 6 months of operation, our pilot communities have begun their resilience planning processes by utilizing our Annual Support services, website, and other resources alongside the Practical Guide to Building Climate Resilience.
Many of us approached November 6 with bated breath knowing that our ability to address climate change would be affected radically by the results of elections not only for Congress, but also state governorships and legislatures.
It was a good night.
California leads the nation in both requiring climate change adaptation action by local communities as well as supporting local leaders so they can be effective in taking that action. Our team headed to Sacramento for the three day conference hoping to not only share our Climate Ready Communities program, but also to hear what new innovations are being developed in California that could be used elsewhere.
The fires and mudslides in California are confirming what we have known for several years in the adaptation field – people who are already struggling due to low-income, systemic racism, disability, and language barriers are hit the hardest by climate disruption and have a harder time recovering. This fact is putting a fine point on the need to integrate these under-resourced communities into the adaptation planning process so that their needs can be fully met through community action.
Assessing Disaster Vulnerability along the Mississippi River Corridor: A Roundtable with Mississippi River Mayors and the Insurance Industry
Our ClimateWise team recently worked with the United Nations Environment Program North America and the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative to coordinate a roundtable discussion between mayors along the river and the insurance industry.
This meeting took place between 23 Mississippi River mayors and leaders from the global and North American insurance industry. Other key stakeholders from federal agencies, foundations, and resilience organizations joined with them to discuss how to reduce vulnerability and build resilience to natural disasters within the Mississippi River corridor.
FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program – a potential resource for cross-boundary climate resilience projects
The federal government’s budget for fiscal year 2018 includes $246 million for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – up from $100 million in 2017. Funding through this program can be used for many different planning and implementation activities, including building climate resilience in communities faced with high risk from changing climate conditions.
Each year FEMA gets funding earmarked by Congress for specific tasks related to emergency management. That money is then distributed to states, tribes, and territories through grant and emergency aid programs, including the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program.
FEMA generally operates on a state by state basis and has since the agency was created by Congress. However, in 2016, we worked with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative to propose to FEMA that they create an option that would allow states to work together across state boundaries. Our goal was to create the opportunity for the ten states in the Mississippi River corridor to work together to build climate resilience along the entire length of the river.
Climate Ready Communities program launches to help small to mid-sized communities build climate resilience!
Many local governments, especially in smaller towns and rural areas, face difficult climate resilience challenges with few financial resources or help from state or federal government. Climate resilience planning can be intimidating and overwhelming.
To help these communities, we spent the last 20 months developing our new Climate Ready Communities program to get high quality, affordable help into the hands of local governments and community associations that are working to build climate resilience.
The Climate Ready Communities program includes a free, downloadable, Practical Guide to Climate Resilience Planning. This Guide is based on our 10 years of experience helping communities understand and adapt to changing climate conditions, and the proven framework - Whole Community Resilience – that our team developed during this time.
This framework uses a cross-sector, multi-stakeholder approach that is adaptive over time and creates multiple benefits across the community. Using this framework, communities develop strategies that are ecologically sound and socially equitable while building local capacity to adapt as conditions continue to change.
The Kresge Foundation has released a report “Climate Adaptation: The State of Practice in U.S. Communities” - the result of a two-year process that brought together climate change adaptation leaders from around the country with researchers from Abt Consulting to take a snapshot of adaptation in the U.S.
Through assessing 17 case studies, interviewing 50 thought leaders, and hosting 3 day-long Project Advisory Committee meetings, the research team pulled insights from across the field to try to get a handle on what we are learning from the various ways that adaptation has been tried in different regions in the U.S.
Communities around the U.S. already have, or are currently developing, greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets to combat climate change. And yet these targets and timelines are highly variable from plan to plan, based on politics, attitudes, and planning approach.
The City of Ashland’s Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP) Ad-hoc committee, which is made up of community members with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, voted unanimously to adopt science-based greenhouse gas emissions targets.
What are Science-Based Targets?
We developed our ClimateWise® program in 2008 to help communities develop solutions to climate change that meet the needs of both people and nature. We work with communities to develop solutions across 5 different systems (human, built, economic, natural, and cultural) ensuring through our process that all have a seat at the planning table.
Since that time, we have been thrilled to see the adaptation field embracing many new and innovative strategies to meeting human needs while also protecting and enhancing natural systems. What we have yet to see is the adaptation field taking the same level of action to address the disproportionate impact that climate change has on already disadvantaged people and using action on climate change as a vehicle to improve equity within our communities. In fact, in a review of 800+ individual adaptation strategies in recent city, county, and agency adaptation plans, we found that only 3 created explicit benefits for disadvantaged people.
As names for concepts go, climate change “adaptation” and “mitigation” are terrible choices. When we think of responding to climate change, “adaptation,” while uninspiring, makes some sense. But “mitigation” is a head scratcher – not because it is incorrect (technically to mitigate is to make something less severe, serious, or painful), but because in everyday conversation it brings to mind building a new wetland to “mitigate” the damage done by a housing development.
But for climate change, it means something entirely different. And it is important that we understand the difference between these two strategies and how they are both necessary to create a holistic and effective response to climate change.
"The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down. It [surpassing 400ppm] should be a psychological tripwire for everyone.”
– Dr. Michael Gunson, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The global concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide now stands at 404.83 ppm as of a July 10, 2016 reading at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. To put this in perspective, climate scientists have been warning that a safe concentration for the Earth’s natural systems and all of us who depend on them is 350 parts per million, which we passed around 1990.
Many advocacy groups and climate scientists around the world had hoped to limit atmospheric carbon dioxide to less than 400 parts per million through efforts to reduce emissions, and then to work to bring that number down to the scientifically-determined “safe” level of 350. But we have collectively not done enough to keep from catapulting over that 400 ppm line.