Freshwater ecosystems occupy approximately 1% of the earth’s surface yet possess about 12% of all known animal species. By virtue of their position in the landscape they connect terrestrial and coastal marine biomes and provide and sustain ecosystem services vital to the health and persistence of human communities. These services include the supply of clean water for food production (including freshwater fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture), urban and industrial consumption, among others. Over the past century many freshwater ecosystems around the world have been heavily modified or lost due to the alteration of flow regimes (e.g. due to damming, canalization, diversion, over-abstraction). The synergistic impacts of land use change, changes in flows, chemical deterioration, and climate change have left many systems and their species very little room to adjust to change, while future projections indicate a steady increase in water demand for food and energy production and water supply to suit the needs of a growing world population.
As managers struggle to identify actions they can take to prepare for climate change, one approach that appears promising is to modify existing conservation tools by integrating traditional conservation concerns with concerns associated with climate change. To this end, we have worked with the California Department of Fish and Game to complete a climate vulnerability assessment of bird species of greatest concern.
Traditional conservation planning has relied heavily on lists of at-risk species to guide policy and prioritize conservation actions. In 2008, the California Department of Fish and Game updated its list of at-risk bird species in the California Bird Species of Special Concern monograph. This list identifies 39 species and 24 subspecies or distinct geographic populations for immediate conservation priority. While this list is a valuable tool for many pressing conservation issues, the threat of climate change was not considered when ranking conservation priority. Hence, to support statewide climate change conservation planning, we developed a framework for assessing climate change vulnerability of California’s at-risk birds and integrating it into the existing California Bird Species of Special Concern list.
Signed in 2009, the four counties committed to developing a region-wide climate action plan.
Since 2008, adaptation has rapidly climbed the policy agenda at every level of government. Previous posts here at ClimatePrep have documented the leading efforts across the US and around the world: cities are assessing their vulnerabilities and taking measures to harden infrastructure, increase design capacities, and develop strategies to protect public health; states are taking proactive measures in wildlife management, water resource protection, and coastal planning; and federal agencies are increasingly active in areas as diverse as endangered species protection, federal highway planning, and community development programs. But as the Council on Environmental Quality – Interagency Adaptation Task Force noted in its 2010 report to the President, “[a]daptation requires coordination across multiple sectors, geographical scales, and levels of government . . . Because impacts, vulnerability, and needs vary by region and locale, adaptation will be most effective when driven by local or regional risks and needs.”
The question of how to design and implement effective adaptation measures is one that I think most adaptation practitioners are still struggling with, and will continue to struggle with, for many years to come. With hundreds of adaptation initiatives underway around the world, we are beginning to develop a set of best practices that will be valuable as we move forward with further project implementation. What many of us are finding is that adaptation isn’t a one size fits all- effective adaptation will likely vary by region and expected climate impacts as well as be driven by the local economy, demographics, and values. Where I work, The Resource Innovation Group, we are attempting to provide some insight into this challenging question of “effective” adaptation by experimenting with different approaches. We are currently embarking on a project aims to engage the greater region in collaboration around climate change adaptation through the Willamette Valley Resilience Compact.
Click the image to download a copy of Shifting Course.
“Adaptation is not a specialist issue — it’s an issue of how decisions are made, and how to utilize the information provided by specialists in the process of decision making”.
– Workshop Participant, 2011 World Water Week
Water management institutions are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that water is where we want it, when we want it, and how we want it (e.g. potable). This is an unquestionably difficult challenge considering that roughly 7 billion people and a multitude of diverse ecosystems rely on those institutions. However, while the problems associated with an ever increasing demand for freshwater resources are difficult, institutions must also become better equipped to deal with an increasing amount of uncertainty as a result of climate change.
The quality and quantity of water, as well as the timing of when water is available to us, are largely influenced by climate. As such, institutions that manage water are essentially responsible for managing the natural variations in climate. Luckily, as archeological records illustrate, humans have been managing water resources for centuries. Over time, we have become relatively good at this—and we have a number of tools that can help us to do it effectively.
With COP17-CM7 underway in Durban, agriculture has a high place on the agenda. The world’s population has just passed 7 billion people, and is due to reach 8 billion in 14 years’ time. As if the challenge of population growth is not enough, agriculture is having to adapt to a changing climate. Farmers have long been noticing the changes, and are attempting to respond accordingly. But they are often impeded by barriers that could be removed by effective policy and political commitment. Southern Africa is one region where climate change is projected to have substantial consequences for agriculture.
Variations in climate conditions are nothing new for farmers in southern Africa. The region has long been characterised by variations in temperature and rainfall from year to year (and often within years), punctuated by climate extremes, such as floods and droughts. But recent research by Oxfam and Kulima Integrated Development Solutions with over 200 farmers in southern Africa highlights how recent observed changes are different in magnitude to what they experienced in the past.
Farmers have widely kept observations of increased temperatures and greater rainfall variability, which are consistent with meteorological records, and in-keeping with what is expected under climate change. Hotter conditions year round and changes in the rainy season, such as the rains starting later and finishing earlier, as well as rain falling in more intense bursts, have implications for the growing season and increase the risks of poor yields or crop failure. This affects subsistence farmers and commercial farmers, as well as farm labourers, whose employment is often indirectly dependent upon weather conditions. Continue reading
Imagine you are walking down the street on your way to your favorite sandwich shop. You are dreaming about the amazing chicken sandwich you are about to order when all of a sudden an activist from Veggie Lovers Unite! hands you a flyer.On the front page it says “Switch now! Become a vegetarian!” Just underneath the headline is a citation from a very reputable scientific journal. It cites the statistic: “it takes 10 times more fossil fuel to produce one calorie of animal protein than it does to produce one calorie of plant protein.”
On the back page of the flyer, there are quotes from several well-known scientists, politicians, and celebrities about how happy they are now that they switched to vegetarianism. The flyer also outlines a five step plan for how to make the switch from die-hard, meat-devouring carnivore to tofu-marinating vegetarian.
You continue walking down the street to the sandwich shop. You’re not normally a vegetarian, but you were just presented with some credible scientific evidence that switching to vegetarianism would be good for the environment, and that’s something you care about. Are you going to make the switch? Are you going to order the vegetarian sandwich?
The answer is most likely: No. Even though you are a “science-type” and hold scientific evidence in high regard, the statistic on the flyer is just not enough to convince you to make a major life change. In fact, it isn’t even enough to convince you to order a vegetarian sandwich five minutes after reading the flyer.
Now imagine you are the head of a government agency, say the City Water Authority. An environmental scientist from the World Climate Organization comes to brief you on the impact that climate change will have on your water management systems. Are you going to take his or her word and start making changes tomorrow? Probably not.
What, then, is required to make a government official, or anyone for that matter, digest new evidence and take action?
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond is a world-renowned expert on ancient societies. His now famous book, Collapse, is a study of the choices societies have made throughout history in the face of change – climate change, as well as others — and the consequences of such choices.
In early 2011, my colleague, John Matthews, and I had a chance to sit down with Diamond to talk about climate change, the challenges presented to conservation and development practitioners, and the opportunities he sees in confronting them.
Among US cities, it appears that Chicago is among the most advanced on introducing climate adaptive measures into their planning, according to this New York Times article. If current emissions trends continue, by 2070 Chicago could have a climate that resembles that of today’s southern states of Alabama and Louisiana, with 35 percent more precipitation in the winter and spring and 20 percent less in the summer and autumn. Among potential impacts cited in the article include 1200 heat-related deaths per year, deterioration of infrastructure, flooding, and termite infestation. (Termites are currently not able to survive Chicago’s cold winters.)
The article outlines a number of interesting adaptation measures the city is taking to prepare for a warmer and wetter future. The one I find most interesting will make many conservationists squeamish – the decision to stop planting common tree species, like ash and Norway maple, in favor of trees found much further south, like swamp white oak and bald cypress. In the adaptation training workshops we have conducted many participants have reacted negatively to the idea of proactively introducing species that will be resilient to a future climate, preferring traditional conservation measures that restore ecosystems to previous conditions. I suspect that in the future more of us will learn to accept the inevitable and begin following Chicago’s lead.
By Eric Perez, Queensland Seafood Industry Association
Map of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Like all citizens of the world, Australians will face the impacts of climate change. In an iconic area such as the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) the impacts will be felt on both an ecosystem and a human level.
There is near saturation in the print and television media about the primary drivers of climate change. Add to this a robust political debate on how Australia as a nation should address the problem, and then superimpose global activity or inactivity and you can see why the climate change debate ‘noise’ overshadows the actual impacts of climate change on people and businesses, and more specifically the people I represent, commercial ‘wild catch’ fishers.
The Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) have recognised this and are working together to ensure industry can better prepare itself for the impacts of climate change. The GBRMPA and QSIA have formed a climate change and fisheries partnership to confront the climate change challenge and work with fisheries managers to ensure a sustainable future for the GBR.