ClimateWise Director Tonya Graham receives award for climate resilience work

by Allayana Darrow of the Ashland Tidings (Read original article here)

After 12 years leading the ClimateWise team at the Geos Institute, Ashland City Councilor Tonya Graham was recently awarded the Four Generations Gen X Award for her work in climate resilience by Leaders in Energy, a global community action network focused on clean energy and sustainability solutions.

Graham’s contributions to community planning frameworks and “ecologically sound and socially equitable” strategies bolstered her selection, according to Leaders in Energy. She serves as council liaison to the Ashland Climate Policy Commission.

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“Justice is what love looks like in public”

A message from Tonya Graham, Geos Institute Executive Director

Cornel West, author of Race Matters, reminds us to “never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

Here at the Geos Institute, we talk often about the larger forces at work in the climate crisis and the need to bank hard toward collaboration, courage, and trust - and away from isolation, fear, and violence - as we face increasing disruptions that harm our communities, economies, and ecosystems.

It can be all too easy in this work to imagine that we are starting from a place where people feel safe and experience climate disruptions from a foundation of trust – that is, it can be easy for those of us who are white.

Many of us working on climate change have drawn comparisons between the global COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis, calling COVID-19 a “dry run” for the climate crisis. If that is the case, and there is good reason to believe it is, this moment is instructive and we must do our part to ensure that it is actually a turning point. 

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Review of 2020 Climate Resilience Ecosystem Workshop

The “Resilience Ecosystem” is made up of the organizations and individuals who are collectively working to create a climate resilient future in the U.S. The inaugural gathering of leaders in climate resilience happened two years ago in Washington DC and was hosted by NOAA, the Climate Resilience Fund, and EcoAdapt.

The purpose of these gatherings is to determine what is needed at the field level to propel the resilience field forward, making it stronger and more capable of delivering the services required by communities and natural resource managers as we respond to the changes already underway because of the climate crisis.

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Louisville youth coalition speaks out

Calls on Mayor to attend climate events

Local students of Louisville and people from across the globe came together in unison to spread awareness of the seriousness of climate change. These youth range from 15 years-old to 17 years-old and explained how they feel helpless when they are at school and are not able to make a difference in relation to the climate crisis. Not only students attended the march, but also various politicians, teachers, and other advocates from around the world, including countries like Sweden, France, and Turkey. Students missed out on class that day to convince Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to attend various climate events around the world.

Our ClimateWise team has been working closely with the Louisville Metro Government's Office of Advanced Planning and Sustainability to develop a climate adaptation plan for the region. Our process has involved government officials, department and agency staff, local non profits, other key stakeholders, and the general public. Working together with Climate Access, a leading organization in the field of climate change communications, our process has included significant public engagement and one on one interviews with leaders around the Louisville Metro area.

Throughout this process we have heard so many participants talk about their children or grandchildren as motivations for doing this work. It's common for us to hear reference to the next generation and leaving the world a safe and healthy place to live for younger people. All of this is true and important work, and it's just as important to make sure youth are actively included in the planning processes directly. There's nothing quite like the hope and passion and optimism of youth to get a group of adults thinking more creatively!

We're proud to have been on part of Louisville's journey and even more proud of the youth in the community who are demanding action, taking a stand, and getting involved. Now it's up to us to make sure they have a place to sit when they show up to the table.

Climate Ready Missoula

Building Resiliency in Missoula County

Missoula County, the City of Missoula and Climate Smart Missoula, a local climate focused non-profit have worked together over the past 18 months on a climate resilience planning process they christened Climate Ready Missoula.

The process was “inspired by, and generally followed, the guidelines of the Geos Institute's Climate Ready Communities program.” This is one of the first county level climate resilience plans that has been completed using the Climate Ready Communities Practical Guide to Building Climate Resilience, which was released in 2018. The plan and prior documents (Climate and Community Primer, Vulnerability Assessment) created by the Missoula team showcase many of the core approaches suggested in the Guide; within the Guide’s framework, the team shaped the process and documents as needed for local requirements and added innovations such as the 12 Guiding Principles “to guide the process of prioritizing and implementing the climate adaptation goals and actions”.

The plan has been approved by the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board as of March 3 and will be reviewed in a county and city joint public hearing of City Council and the Board of County Commissioners on April 6. Assuming it’s approved there, an implementation team will then be formed to begin tackling the plan’s priority strategies and actions.

climate ready missoula timeline

Access the plan here, and the Climate Ready Missoula website here, where you can find links to the other documents as well.

American Society of Adaptation Professionals Response to RFI on Climate Policies

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. The Committee asked for suggestions for actions it can take now and in the future to move federal climate policy forward. We developed a set of overarching and cross-cutting themes, outlined below. More detailed policy responses can be found in the official comments.

Mainstream climate. Evaluate all federal projects and policies through a climate lens that includes social equity and ecological integrity. ○ Integrate climate considerations into existing agencies and policies to the greatest extent possible. Reform and fill gaps where necessary.

  • Prioritize accessible tools for users on the ground within existing programs.
  • Coordinate adaptation, mitigation, and multi-hazard interactions to maximize the co-benefits of climate planning.

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The Fourth National Climate Assessment

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.

natlclimateassessmentvol2coverThe 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.

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Can we ever just have some fun?

climate bash 2017Yes!! 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.

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Helping communities ask for assistance building climate resilience

CreditBrianBarr GrantsPassSign3

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.

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Climate Ready Communities completes pilot program, prepares for general launch

CRC Guide coverThe 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.

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Climate Ready Communities at the California Adaptation Forum

cw caf2018California 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.

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Assessing Disaster Vulnerability along the Mississippi River Corridor: A Roundtable with Mississippi River Mayors and the Insurance Industry

MRCTI meetingOur 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.

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FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program – a potential resource for cross-boundary climate resilience projects

FEMA regionsThe 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.

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Climate Ready Communities program launches to help small to mid-sized communities build climate resilience!

CRC Guide coverMany 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.

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