Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What does the Paris Climate Agreement have to do with....the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan?

By Lara Hansen

Bainbridge Island, WA is a long way from COP21 but climate change is not just a conversation for Paris. The agreement from the City of Light gave us the foundation for a path forward, some aspiration and some new commitment. However it does not give us the whole solution to the global climate conundrum we’ve created for ourselves. Solutions will need to be at the global level, like those we’ve started in Paris, but they will also need to be at the local level, like those people are developing in towns such as Bainbridge Island.

This fall while negotiators were preparing their positions and balancing their willingness to compromise, citizens of Bainbridge Island have been discussing the update of the city's Comprehensive Plan. Just like everywhere else that has such a plan, they are considering how to frame their collective desires around issues like transportation, housing, land use, water, utilities, the economy, and the environment. But they are doing something a little different. The community is also considering how climate change will affect their island home and how the Comprehensive Plan could be made more durable in the face of that change, so they can get better long-term outcomes despite their vulnerabilities.

Just like we don't know for certain if the Paris Agreement will be enough to get us on the right path, we'll have to watch what happens on Bainbridge Island to know if it's successful. So stay tuned...and in the meantime, get your own community working to develop climate-informed actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and plan for the effects of climate change.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A global climate deal is in the works, but its success may be a matter of degrees

By: Rachel M. Gregg

As David Horsey's cartoon indicates, coming to an international agreement on climate change has been a long and laborious process. However, an agreement to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may finally become reality this month. The 21st Conference of the Parties (or COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is convening in Paris, and all signs indicate that a deal may be imminent, although challenges still lie ahead. 

COP21 builds off of previous agreements and attempts to finalize a global compact on climate change, such as the UNFCC and the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCC, signed during the 1992 Earth Summit, officially acknowledged climate change and the significant contributions of human activities to GHG concentrations, particularly from developed countries. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol then set GHG reduction commitments for developed nations by 2008-2012, but essentially failed without the backing of the United States. Since then, COP delegates have gathered annually to discuss ways to create a legally binding climate agreement, resulting in various “plans to plan for a plan.” For example, COP15 in Copenhagen resulted in an agreed upon goal of capping increasing temperatures at 2° Celsius[i] but no plans were produced on how to achieve the needed reduction targets.

An encouraging difference between COP15 and COP21 is that countries submitted individual commitments towards reducing GHG emissions before the Paris meetings. Top polluters such as China, the United States, and India have all made pledges to voluntarily curb emissions and pursue renewable energy technologies. Concerns remain as these plans are not legally binding and some estimates indicate that even with these cuts, temperatures may still rise 2.7°C by 2100.

Other significant challenges include:

     The question of whether or not any agreement will be legally binding under international law, as well as how effective any deal can be without the support of every single country.

     The 2 degree limit is too high for some COP21 delegates. Countries comprising the Climate Vulnerable Forum that are most at risk from the impacts of climate change have argued strongly for any Paris deal to focus on the tougher limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would require countries to cut emissions to zero and adopt 100% renewable energy sources by 2050.

     It is not clear how well any new policies or technologies will be financed.  

There are however, reasons to be hopeful. Over 20 years of negotiations have led to this moment. The draft agreement calls for both mitigation and adaptation responses by every party; for example, the proposed plan prioritizes the conservation of forests and open spaces to enhance carbon storage potential and additional ecosystem services, such as clean water, healthy economies, and overall resilience. Mitigation is clearly important as countries seek to curb emissions, and adaptation continues to be important as the world is already committed to the climatic changes associated with past emissions. While the world waits to see if COP21 will produce the climate compact we need, consider taking some steps yourself to reduce your carbon footprint and become a climate-informed global citizen.

[i] For insight into why the 2 degree limit is so important, check out this video by SkyNews, along with its series on the consequences of a 3 degree, 4 degree, or even 5 degree temperature increase, which becomes more likely should countries fail to act.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

White House FACT SHEET: Actions to Build Resilience to Climate Change Impacts in Vulnerable Communities

Press Release July 9, 2015

With cities, states and tribes already confronting the costly impacts of climate change, the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that communities develop smart strategies and partnerships for building climate resilience. As part of his Climate Action Plan, the President established the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Task Force) in 2013 to help the Federal Government respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The Task Force recommendations emphasized the importance of supporting communities that are likely to be disproportionately affected, including those that already face economic- or health-related challenges. The Third U.S. National Climate Assessment also noted that socioeconomic disparities can exacerbate the vulnerability of certain populations, including low-income, tribal, and some communities of color, due to in part to limited capacity and resources necessary to prepare and adapt.
Today, the White House is releasing a progress report highlighting some of the key actions taken by the Administration that support the Task Force’s recommendations, which were compiled and delivered to the President in November 2014.  Building on this progress, the White House is also announcing a series of new actions focused on enhancing resilience in the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change that includes over $25 million in private and public investments.
Launching a Resilience AmeriCorps Pilot Program.  The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation and Cities of Service to launch Resilience AmeriCorps, a pilot program that will recruit, train, and embed AmeriCorps VISTA members in up to 12 communities in 2015.  The 2-year pilot program responds to a recommendation made by the Task Force to assist vulnerable communities that lack the capacity to address climate-resilience planning and implementation.  The AmeriCorps VISTA members will increase civic engagement and community resilience in low-income areas, and help those communities develop plans for becoming more resilient to any number of shocks and stresses, including better preparations for extreme weather events.  On July 15 at 2pm EDT, the White House will hold a Google+ Hangout to discuss the important role that community service can play in helping vulnerable communities become more resilient in the face of a changing climate.  The event will feature speakers from the Administration, The Rockefeller Foundation, Cities of Service, and community leaders engaged in building on-the-ground resilience.  Members of the public are encouraged to ask the participants questions during the livestreamed conversation using the Twitter handle #ActOnClimate.
Helping Tribes Prepare for Climate Impacts.  The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs is announcing $11.8 million in Tribal Climate Preparedness Grants to support tribes in planning for the impacts of climate change.  This funding will support over 104 awards that address tribal efforts for training, technical assistance, and capacity building needs.  In addition, today at the White House Tribal Youth Gathering, more than 90 tribal youth leaders will have an opportunity to have a dialogue with federal officials on issues of importance to tribal youth at a session, entitled “Our Natural Resources and Climate Change.”  Also today, the EPA is announcing that it will expand the Local Environmental Observers (LEO) network to tribal colleges and universities and engage hundreds of Alaska Native and American Indian students in sharing observations about the impacts of climate change in their communities.
Expanding Investment in the National Disaster Resilience Competition.  Today, in support of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), The Rockefeller Foundation is committing $3.2 million in additional support to build capacity in jurisdictions across the country that are working to increase their resilience to future shocks and stresses.  In June, HUD announced 40 states and local communities that will compete for funds awarded under the NDRC, which seeks to ensure that disaster recovery investments reflect the needs of low-income residents, contribute to stronger local economies, and provide amenities that improve the quality of life for all.  The Rockefeller assistance is expected to include expertise from a range of technical experts, participation in Resilience Academies, and a Resilience Summit for funders and Federal agencies in the fall, which will be open to all NDRC-eligible communities.  In addition, HUD will be offering a series of topical webinars, beginning July 30, for a broad audience of communities that will describe best practices and innovative tools that further investments in resilience.  The full schedule can be found here.
Expanding Opportunities in America’s Cities.  The Kresge Foundation is announcing an independent commitment to invest $10 million dollars over the next three years to support climate-resilience efforts in low-income communities through its Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative. The foundation already has awarded over $2 million dollars in grants through this effort. Launched in 2014, the initiative is focused on strengthening the capacity of community-based nonprofit organizations to influence local and regional climate-resilience planning, policy development, and implementation to better reflect the priorities and needs of low-income people in U.S. cities. 
Conducting a Climate Adaptation, Preparedness, and Resilience Seminar.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Exercise Division (NED) is working with the White House and federal agencies to design and conduct a seminar series focused on providing the knowledge and tools needed for communities to address local climate impacts and to develop locally relevant exercises supporting community resilience.  The first pilot seminar will be conducted in coordination with Florida International University and community representatives in the Miami area in mid- August.
Developing Regional Sea-Level Rise and Climate Information.  In response to the growing need for authoritative, place-based climate information to support preparedness planning and safeguard vulnerable communities, Federal agencies will work with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the National Ocean Council (NOC) to develop, for the first time ever, a set of sea-level rise scenarios out to 2100 that combine national coverage with regional specificity, and that address not just sea-level rise itself, but also the associated coastal flood hazards that create risks for communities.  This effort will launch in 2016, with an initial focus on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and a commitment to engage coastal stakeholders in the scenario-development process.  In addition, Federal agencies and the USGCRP will use locally-relevant climate-model projections to develop products that help decision makers better understand how temperature, precipitation, and other factors could change through the rest of this century.  Tools resulting from these efforts will be made publicly available through the Climate Resilience Toolkit at toolkit.climate.gov.  
Regional Energy Vulnerabilities & Resilience Solutions: DOE will soon release a report, “Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector:  Regional Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions,” that will assist decision makers in their efforts to enhance energy-sector resilience to climate change by assessing vulnerabilities by region and providing illustrative examples of approaches for addressing these vulnerabilities.  DOE is also developing a report on tribal energy-system vulnerabilities to climate change and extreme weather, which will be released later this year.
Increasing Energy Security in Native American Tribes.  DOE is announcing that five Native American Tribes are receiving on-the-ground support from the Department’s Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. START is aimed at moving community- and commercial-scale energy projects closer to implementation by overcoming project development challenges and barriers, helping the tribes improve their energy security, combat climate change, and build a sustainable energy future.  The 2015 projects include validating the economics of a proposed microgrid, helping to determine the best way to transport renewable energy to tribal consumers, and better understanding the economics of expanding the use of renewable energy on tribal lands.  These projects would enable the Tribes to generate and store their own electricity while also enhancing community resilience by maintaining power in the event of a storm.
Focusing on Environmental Justice.  On June 23, The White House announced the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice’s (IWG EJ) new Educate, Motivate and Innovate (EMI) Climate Justice Initiative.  This initiative will focus on the next generation of climate-justice leaders and will expand collaborations with Minority-Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.  The inaugural EMI Climate Justice Leadership Training Workshop will be held in March 2016, focusing on the effects of climate change on communities, including those with minority, low-income, and/or tribal populations, and on understanding the relationships among climate change, human health, economic development, and environmental justice.  The training workshop will also discuss how EJSCREEN - EPA’s new environmental justice screening tool - can help identify and better understand potential community vulnerabilities.  EJSCREEN was recently released to the public and gives users powerful data and mapping capabilities to access environmental and demographic information at a high geographic resolution.
Launching a Regional Climate-Change Impact Webinar Series.  As announced on July 7, DOE is launching an eight-part webinar series today through its Minorities in Energy Initiative to discuss the regional impacts of climate change on minority and tribal communities.  Through this series, experts will: explain relevant findings from the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment and recently released Quadrennial Energy Review, outline Federal energy-policy objectives as they relate to climate resilience for underserved communities, and discuss opportunities in renewable-energy and energy-efficiency sectors to foster a growing, next-generation workforce.  This effort supports the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy’s Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, with the goal of ensuring that all students and citizens are climate-literate.
Making Climate-Smart Federal Investments.  Through its “Circular A-11” guidance document, the White House Office of Management and Budget is directing all Federal agencies to consider climate preparedness and resilience objectives as part of their Fiscal Year 2017 budget requests for construction and maintenance of Federal facilities.  For the first time, all funding requests in support of Federal facilities – from office buildings and hospitals to laboratories and warehouses – must align with climate preparedness and resilience goals.
Mainstreaming Resilience into Federal Programs.  Federal agencies continue making progress in integrating climate change considerations throughout their programs and operations.  Recent examples include:
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has established a resilience champion at the Senior Executive Service level who oversees the newly founded USACE Resilience Program.  The Resilience Program Manager has assembled a team that is preparing an initial report describing existing resilience activities and next steps.  The team is also developing a Resilience Strategy with milestones and a schedule to mainstream resilience in all agency activities.
  • On June 22, USDA announced a new Department-wide policy to integrate climate change adaptation planning, implementation actions, and performance metrics into USDA’s programs, policies, and operations.  The new policy will help better position the Department to respond to the many climate stressors that have consequences for food production, yields of staple crops, and the health and resiliency of the nation’s forests and grasslands.
  • The Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, has hired a Climate Change Coordinator to strategically collaborate with other federal agencies, Insular Area governments, universities and non-governmental organizations to leverage federal initiatives and funding sources to strengthen and implement climate change adaptation plans in the insular areas.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is currently developing coursework and training programs on leadership for sustainability and climate preparedness and resilience.  This training would equip current and future leaders with tools and knowledge to address the leadership challenges of climate preparedness and resilience. 
Providing Data and Tools for Climate Preparedness.  The Administration’s Climate Data Initiative (CDI) and Climate Resilience Toolkit (CRT), launched in 2014, have made hundreds of high-values datasets, tools, and case studies freely available to the public and decision makers.  The recent releases of the “Energy” and “Transportation and Supply Chain” themes in June 2015 mark the completion of the initial focus areas of the CDI and CRT.  Building on these early successes, content, tools, and functionalities will continue to be added as new themes – such as “Tribal Nations”– are developed.  By the end of 2015, the CRT will include a new and improved “Climate Explorer,” new topical map layers that are relevant to decision makers and planners, and a mobile app.  These efforts will be supported by an increase in targeted stakeholder-engagement opportunities.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Conference Alert: Species on the Move!

A fabulous group of co-convenors is pulling together the Species on the Move conference to be held February 9-12 in Tasmania, Australia (that's February 8-11 for you USAers). 

Here's the description straight from the organizers:
The global redistribution of our planets’ species is widely recognised as a fingerprint of climate change, however, the mechanisms that underpin such range shifts are poorly understood. Additionally, the pervasiveness of range shifts, from poles to the equator, and depths of oceans to tops of mountains, provides us with unique opportunity to advance our theory of biogeography, evolutionary ecology and macroecology. 
Our move into the ‘anthropocene’ allows unprecedented opportunity to understand the mechanisms that drive species distributions across ecosystems and address the fundamental tenet of ecology: what lives where and why?  However, such dramatic changes also pose significant challenges for sustainable management of our natural resources. 
We see this conference targeting scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology. 
Check out the conference here!  

Monday, June 22, 2015

USDA Updates Departmental Climate Adaptation Policy

Press Release

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced additional steps it is taking to integrate climate change adaptation into USDA's programs and operations. These efforts will help ensure taxpayer resources are invested wisely and that USDA services and operations remain effective under current and future climate conditions.

The effects of climate change are complex and far-reaching and it is clear that potential changes could have important impacts on the ability of USDA to fulfill its core mission. Under the updated USDA Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation (Departmental Regulation 1070-001), USDA recognizes that climate stressors have consequences for food production, yields of staple crops, forests and grasslands, and these, in turn, affect the economic well-being of individuals.

Climate change adaptation is a critical component of climate change and a complement to mitigation planning. Both are required to address the causes, consequences and potential benefits of climate change. USDA is taking a leadership role with climate adaptation planning to safeguard a resilient, healthy and prosperous Nation in the face of changing climate.

Under the changes announced today, USDA will:
  • Integrate climate change adaptation planning, implementing actions, and performance metrics into USDA programs, policies and operations to minimize climate risks and exploit new opportunities that climate change may bring;
  • Analyze how climate change is likely to affect its ability to achieve its mission, operations and policy and program objectives;
  • Identify appropriate key performance measures to evaluate progress in climate change adaptation;
  • Participate in adaptation implementation as part of a broader commitment to developing the next generation of regional climate solutions through USDA Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change;
  • Incorporate climate-resilient decision-making into international development programs and investments of relevant USDA agencies; and
  • Develop and maintain an adaptation plan for managing the challenges and consider potential climate change impacts when undertaking long-term exercise, setting priorities for scientific research and developing performance measures.

Departmental Regulation 1070-001 implements sections of Executive Order 13653 and, where applicable, Executive Order 13677. It is consistent with the 2014-2018 USDA Strategic Plan and with guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality and the Federal Council on Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience. The regulation can be found at: www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/adaptation.htm.
For more information on USDA's Climate Change activities, please visit: www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/index.htm. This policy supersedes and replaces Department Regulation 1070-001 June 3, 2011.

Friday, May 8, 2015

California leads the adaptation charge, all while reducing GHG emissions

By: Whitney Reynier

California is again making headlines – but this time, it’s not related (specifically) to the statewide drought. 

Copyright: Sacramento Bee
On April 29, 2015, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued Executive Order B-30-15, which will reinforce and expand upon emissions reductions and climate change adaptation efforts underway across the state of the California. Read the full press release here, and check out these key highlights from the executive order:


  • Mandated 3-year updates of California’s climate adaptation strategy, Safeguarding California.
  • Mandated implementation of Safeguarding California provisions, including:
    • Vulnerability assessment for key sectors
    • Clear identification and communication of risks associated with vulnerabilities, and priority actions needed to reduce those risks 
    • Identification of a lead agency/group of agencies to head adaptation efforts in each sector. These leaders will prepare implementation plans by September 2015, and report back on actions taken in June 2016.
  • All state agencies will incorporate climate change into planning and investment decisions, with help from a technical advisory group that will be established by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.
  • California’s Five-Year Infrastructure Plan will incorporate future and current climate impacts into all infrastructure projects.
  • California will continue its climate change research program to improve understanding of climate change impacts and evaluate how best to plan for and adapt to such changes.

Greenhouse gas emissions:
  • Updated emission reduction targets: reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, which will put California on track to reduce emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • All state agencies will implement measures to reduce GHG emissions to meet reductions targets.

EcoAdapt is helping several agencies address climate change in the Sierra Nevada, Southern California forests, and north-central coast

Being Green at the National Adaptation Forum

We're excited to see you all next week in St. Louis, MO for the 2nd National Adaptation Forum! 

We want to make sure you not only have a great time at the Forum, but also that we keep it as "green" as possible! 

Bring your own travel mug or water bottle for all of your beverages at the Forum! 

Walk or take public transportation to the event each day! 

Make sure to recycle your paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic into the appropriate receptacles!

When serving yourself at meals, take only what you can eat to promote “zero waste.”

    Friday, March 13, 2015

    California National Marine Sanctuaries Double in Size

    By Whitney Reynier

    On March 12, 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the approved expansion of both the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Both sanctuaries will more than double in size, and together will protect an additional 2,800 square miles of critical marine and coastal waters. These sanctuaries, which are located along the north-central coast of California, harbor incredibly diverse and productive marine and coastal ecosystems that provide habitat for a diversity of species, as well as a variety of ecosystem services. View NOAA’s press release here.

    This expansion is particularly timely given the current climate change adaptation project underway in the region. The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with EcoAdapt and other regional stakeholders, is engaged in a multi-year project aimed at assessing the Sanctuary’s climate change vulnerability and developing climate change adaptation strategies for focal resources. Deemed a “cutting-edge project that all National Marine Sanctuary sites will need to follow” by the National Marine Protected Area Center, the North-Central Coast and Ocean Climate-Smart Adaptation Project is tackling marine and coastal climate change issues in new and exciting ways.

    EcoAdapt provided critical support during the Vulnerability Assessment phase of the project, and will continue to play a role in the Adaptation Planning phase with Lara Hansen serving as an adaptation advisor for the Sanctuary’s Adaptation Working group and Whitney Reynier providing technical expertise. Learn more about the project by:

    • Viewing the recent webinar, which gives a project overview, details the results from the vulnerability assessment, and explains the upcoming adaptation planning phase.
    • Visiting EcoAdapt’s Gulf of the Farallones project page.

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015

    New study says people who don't believe in climate change don't like people who do, and vice versa

    By Lara Hansen

    A new study from Nature Climate Change says people who don't believe in climate change don't like people who do, and vice versa!

    Just when you thought there weren't enough opportunities for people to not get along, its turns out our belief in the cause of climate change is another. Interesting perspective that reminds us that very few wars have ever been fought over science. Although we do have a long history of beliefs resulting in repudiation of science we don't like because it affects the status quo--think round Earth, sun centered solar system, lead as a pervasive toxin in our environment, endocrine disruptors. Eventually we come around to science and make it part of our beliefs. The lesson may not be that we are in a culture war, but we are in phase of developing new beliefs based on a new understanding of reality. Hopefully we do it quickly.

    Monday, February 2, 2015

    Climate Risk and Preparedness in Obama's 2016 Budget

    Have you ever taken the time to consider how climate change might affect your work? 

    How it might affect your investments? 

    Carsten Tolkmit

    EcoAdapt asks people to do this everyday as part of our Awareness to Action workshops and trainings. But we were thrilled to see that the U.S. Government did this as part of the President’s budget! Check it out!

    After you give it a read try it yourself. What projects did you work on today? Is climate change likely to affect any of them? How sound are your investments in that work?

    If you’re stymied, EcoAdapt is happy to work with you to try and figure it out.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Ask President Obama to be more Climate Savvy in his next State of the Union

    The White House is asking Americans to submit their ideas for the State of Union address. Today our Executive Director, Lara Hansen, submitted this:

    "Now is the time to prepare for the future. We need to create an America that can sail boldly into the 21st century on a course for success. To do this we need to let go of the outdated technologies that limit our options and hinder our livelihoods, and embrace the opportunities that equip us for the future that lies ahead. This means recognizing that our climate is changing and that change will change our country. We have a choice:
    • continue to do what we've always done despite changing conditions, risking our culture, economy and well-being, or
    • boldly address those changes and advance the United States into the coming century with the benefit of health, security and happiness."
    Share your own ideas about the State of the Union here: http://click.mail.whitehouse.gov/?qs=54d6e44aec52ae0d56493c59b87327170045f368b0d373c4eec896154a1e1649c6dd27ea97c140cd