Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adaptation advancing in the Western United States

By Aliyah Kovner

On June 30th, the Western Governors Association (WGA) signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to advance climate services and better educate resource managers, organizations, and businesses affected by climate change in the region.
The agreement has three objectives:
  1. Reduce risk of extreme events (droughts, fires, floods, and cyclones) and improve the resilience of coastal, marine, and estuarine areas through an improved flow of information to support management.
  2. Coordinate with other federal efforts to address climate change and response.
  3. Work collaboratively in the region to identify key vulnerabilities and options to improve planning and response
Vice Chair Gov. Chris Gregoire said in the WGA press release, "A good working relationship with NOAA in providing the science and information services states need will help us all build healthy and resilient communities and economies."

Similar to the WGA and NOAA collaboration, the recently developed regional Climate Science Centers (CSCs) represent a strong partnership of managers and scientists. An order signed last year by the Department of the Interior outlined the goals of the Energy and Climate Change Council to help build upon the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Centers, first created by the U.S. Geological Survey. The CSCs act as regional research branches, providing climate change impact and analysis data to people and organizations planning or implementing adaptation measures. In addition, the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) also serve to spread information to involved parties. Broken up into 21 distinct zones, all areas of the United States have a cooperative designed to preserve the land, water, and wildlife of the region. The LCCs partner government with private agencies to ensure that best practices and new knowledge are available to anyone seeking to apply climate change information into practice.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Adaptation Mavens Hit Washington, D.C.!

By Lara Hansen and Jennie Hoffmann

From June 22-24, around 80 people actively engaged in adapting natural resource conservation and management for climate change gathered in Washington D.C. for Adaptation 2011, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation to encourage practitioners to share ideas and move the field forward. The crowd had a good mix of federal, tribal, state, non-profit, and academic representatives. Many participants arrived fresh from a meeting of the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy workgroup.

The meeting included presentations on a literature review and practitioner survey done in preparation for the meeting, as well as on characteristics of climate-smart conservation, frameworks and processes for adaptation planning, and the implications of climate change for conservation goals. The most interesting presentations, though, were a series of four panels on regional adaptation efforts: the Colorado River system, the Southern Sierra Nevada, Maryland, and the Bering Sea. Hearing different perspectives from each system provided a rich view of the projects.

There were also several breakout group sessions. One of the most interesting discussions in one of our groups was on the need for a climate change adaptation “reference librarian.” There has been a recent explosion of adaptation portals and toolkits (see an excellent blog on Portal Proliferation Syndrome from Geoff Barnard) aimed at making it easy for the curious to find the information they need, but alas the number of “one-stop adaptation shops” has led many practitioners to feel that they’re drowning in a sea of information with few easy ways to find what’s worthwhile and the relevant to their work.

While we may eventually see some portals settle in as the go-to sources within a few sectors, the need for person-to-person interactions is likely to remain strong. A 2009 survey of land managers and restoration practitioners in California found that while web-based tools were seen as relatively unimportant, one-on-one interactions were seen as very important and also hard to come by. An adaptation reference librarian (or suite of librarians) could be a great source of such one-on-one interaction. People could write, call, or email with a question about particular types of case studies, tools, etc., and the reference librarian (someone skilled at searching through the vast trove of information) would help find something best suited to their needs—kind of like an adaptation extension service with the librarians serving a similar function to extension agents. The librarians might even get to be field librarians, sometimes leaving the library stacks to drive the adaptation bookmobile of knowledge to the unsuspecting prospective reader. The challenge will be finding a funding mechanism. Many private foundations aren’t interested in providing funds for this sort of effort, and while NOAA’s National Climate Service could have been a good home for adaptation reference librarians, it appears to be dead in the water at least temporarily (thank you, Congress!).

Another idea that floated at Adaptation 2011 was the need for an opportunity for larger groups of adaptation practitioners to convene, share lessons and learn new tricks. This is currently being explored as a National Conference on Climate Change Adaptation and it hopes to see the light of day in 2012. If you are interested in such a meeting, let the Adaptation Mavens know. Send us a line at info@ecoadapt.org with a testimonial for the need for such an event, your interest in helping make it happen, or an offer to help financially support it!