Topic: Newsletter

Rebuilding Paradise

Rebuilding Paradise – Avoiding Hell

An Update on California’s Efforts of Moving toward Climate-Safe Infrastructure

Contributed by Susi Moser, Ph.D.

As I write this, I’m returning from California, where the smoke-filled air has finally cleared, but the atmosphere is still filled with the horrors of the Camp Fire, which all but destroyed the town of Paradise. Every conversation I was in, every story I listened to, involved some experience of living through the devastating blaze, the urgency of recovery right now, or the difficult-to-imagine task but also the determination of rebuilding an entire town.

Just think away everything in the neighborhood, the city in which you live. Everything. And then try to put the pieces back in place, bit by bit: homes, businesses, and all of the infrastructure that allows people to run normal lives: electricity lines, communication towers, traffic lights, schools, health facilities, a whole new water sewage/treatment system (Paradise, before the fire, was one of the largest cities in California still entirely on septic), and of course stabilizing the hillsides through rapid revegetation, which some day may serve again as scenic landscapes and recreational areas that people might enjoy.

How do you even begin when you have lost all town government offices, the entire tax base, not to speak of every city official – Mayor and Council members included – having none of their own homes to go home to at the end of each grueling day?

At this point, there is no room for subtlety: the work ahead is about rebuilding Paradise – the actual one, and all the other “Paradises” that exist in the state. It is about avoiding hell. Making sure that whatever infrastructure gets built from now on – and California will build lots of it given population trends, the need to refurbish old and outdated infrastructure, and remake much of its electricity and transportation infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – is built with climate change and extremes in mind, rather than blind to the unfolding reality. It must be adaptable, resilient and sustainable if the money is not to be wasted. In a word: it must be made climate-safe, and for everyone, not just the rich.

The purpose of my trip to California was to brief the legislature and the State’s Strategic Growth Council on a report I helped produce this past year, released earlier this summer: Paying it Forward: A Path Toward Climate-Safe Infrastructure in California. With the legislative staff back at work and rolling up their sleeves for the next session, we reported on a project mandated by Assembly Bill 2800 (Quirk).

The 25 staffers in the briefing room were eager to find useful angles to take back to their elected members. All the right state Senate and Assembly members, Committees and Appropriations folks were represented. Just like the Mayor of Paradise, they asked, “where to begin?”

Our answers, detailed in the report, launch from a three-pronged vision of climate-safe infrastructure, which contributes to the stringent emissions reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement, ensures safety even if climate change turns out much worse, and does both with a central focus on social equity. Our report offers a systems approach for realizing this vision, which involves (1) user-relevant forward-looking climate science as well as socioeconomic information; (2) improvements in the project planning process; (3) updated standards, codes and guidelines; (4) improved economic analyses and financing tools; and (5) much greater attention to the things that help with appropriate implementation (e.g., workforce development, procurement and contractual language, incentives, waiver guidance). The ten recommendations we offer in the report address each of these five components.

After two hours of briefing and engaged questions and answers, we learned that a Republican State Senator will work to advance a previously begun initiative (ACA-21) to pass a constitutional amendment in the state that would establish a permanent funding source for infrastructure. In the revised version, language from our report is being cited in the legislative findings. Climate change is now a recognized motivation for moving this forward! You can track this over the months ahead to see if it passes. Chances are good. The incoming Governor may well support it, too. For now, it’s encouraging to know that “paradise” for climate-safe infrastructure funding may come out of the ashes of hell!

Mentorship Spotlight: Climate, Networks, and Communications

Climate, Networks, and Communications

Leslie Brandt is a climate change specialist with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science and the U.S. Forest Service. Her work focuses on climate change adaptation and outreach for natural resource managers in the Midwest and Northeast. She currently coordinates a regional climate change adaptation project for Central Hardwoods ecosystems in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri and an urban forestry adaptation project that was piloted in the Chicago region. She has a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota and a BA in Biology from Gustavus Adolphus College.

John Phillips has worked for the King County Wastewater Treatment Division for 19 years. He is currently the combined sewer  overflow program manager. Over the last ten years he has worked on the Combined Sewer Overflow Control Program and is currently managing the program and implementation of the Long-Term Control Plan. John developed and manages the Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) and Climate Change Adaptation programs and his climate work has been referenced in both the IPCC and National Climate Assessment reports. He is also a Past President of the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA). He serves on sustainability and climate action teams at King County. John has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Science from Oregon State University and served six years as a sonar man in the U.S. Navy on-board nuclear submarines.

Leslie and John covered a wide variety of subjects over the course of their sessions. Topics such as expanding networks across sectors, the importance of soft skills, getting buy-in from potential collaborators, and future career opportunities made for robust discussion. A highlight of what John has learned about Leslie is that she is a bright and passionate individual who really cultivates an inclusive thought process for reaching out to communities.

In turn, Leslie has enjoyed learning how John is connected across sectors in his community as well as with his counterparts nationally. John believes building these types of strong networks is germane to becoming a leader in the adaptation field.

Another area they’ve enjoyed focusing on—one many climate professionals are challenged by—is media engagement. Leslie was preparing for a call with a reporter and was seeking advice on how to approach the call effectively. John offered this advice from his personal experience from interacting with news reporters:

  1. Keep things concise. People have a tendency to ramble, and you can end up saying something that might be taken out of context.
  2. Be OK with not having answer. Some people think that they need to answer every question a reporter asks. If you don’t have the answer to a question, you can say you don’t know or recommend another expert who may be able to answer that question.

Great advice, John! Thank you both for participating in the Mentorship Program and sharing the highlights of your experience!

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Can People Cultivate More Urgency Than Dollars?

Contributed by Rachel Jacobson, ASAP Senior Program Manager

In September, I was haunted for days by this New York Times story about Casey Dailey’s death during Hurricane Harvey. Today, as I mourn the losses of the 63 people killed so far in the Camp Fire, I brace for notifications of additional “direct” deaths and for information about the hundreds more whose deaths may be “indirectly” attributable to this disaster. I grapple with understanding these losses, especially the “indirect deaths”, in the context of my role as an adaptation professional: to be able to articulate why they happened, how climate change is to blame, and what I can do to decrease the number of losses projected for the years ahead.

Personally, my motivation as an adaptation professional is to reduce lives lost from climate change. It’s incumbent upon me, and all of us, to ask ourselves how each of the strategies we use in our work affects how we achieve that goal. ASAP’s Values and Beliefs, elaborated through the Code of Ethics and Living Guide, implore us to be systems thinkers and apply co-benefits. Twelve years ago, the Stern Report made a compelling economic case for action. Last month’s IPCC report put our failure to act, and perhaps with it the failure of the economic case, in sharp relief, giving us just twelve more years to leap forward. And yet we continue to refine our methodology for evaluating the economic benefits of climate action and the costs of inaction.  

But we must think beyond economic costs. As fires continue to ravage California and hurricane season comes to a close, we are approaching a reckoning with 2018’s climate change death toll. As a cross-sector community of practice, we are uniquely positioned to strengthen responsive professional capacity and reduce harm by sharing lessons learned and staying connected. Public health professionals turned the world’s attention back to the deaths caused by Hurricane Maria, using proven methodology for calculating excess mortality and outlining a research agenda for how to adapt those methodologies to the demands of climate-related disasters.

We must strive to build an accountability framework that significantly reduces loss of life. The field of public health consistently sounds the alarm about how climate change is impacting determinants of health such as clean air, water, food, and shelter. I ask those ASAP members who are part of both the climate adaptation and public health communities to step forward and help us integrate best practices for determining and communicating the human cost of climate change. We must bring the strengths from each of these communities of practice to bear and build capacity together.

Here are a few places to find public health and climate adaptation at the intersection:

The Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative has 5 Quick Guides on Climate Change & Public Health. For those at the American Public Health Association (APHA)  conference this week, here is a list of climate change related sessions. Read this article from the APHA newswire on Accessing environmental health services: ‘This is community engagement 101’ and learn more about an environment and public health collaboration with the American Planning Association called Plans4Health. You can also attend the Health and Environmental Funders Network 2018 Annual Meeting on Environmental Health and Justice Majority: Raising Voices, Building Power, taking place in Pittsburgh November 28-30, 2018.

Read our full newsletter from November 16, 2018

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For A More Resilient Rural America   

Contributed by Gwen Griffith, Model Forest Policy Program 

(a shorter version of this story appears in our ASAP member newsletter June 28, 2018)

Rural communities are highly dependent upon natural resources that are affected by climate change. These communities also face particular obstacles in responding to climate change that increase their vulnerability to its impacts.” National Climate Assessment 2014

Across America, less than 20% of the population (~ 60 million) lives on 95% of the land that we call “rural” America.  They are the vital stewards of the sparsely populated landscapes of small towns, watersheds, forests, grasslands, deserts, and farms. These lands provide nature’s services that 80% of Americans depend on for air, water, food, fiber, habitat, and recreation. Despite the importance of managing rural lands for climate resilience, underserved rural communities lack the capacity to tackle climate impacts on their own.

Recognizing this critical challenge, the Model Forest Policy Program is embarking on a new approach to meeting the particular needs of rural adaptation with the Resilient Rural America Project (RRAP),  developed in collaboration with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), EcoAdapt, Geos Institute, and the NOAA Climate Program Office and funded by the Climate Resilience Fund and Harmonic International, Inc.

The overarching goal is to accelerate rural climate action by strengthening the ability of adaptation professionals to meet the needs of underserved rural communities and operate from a more sustainable funding stream.  The project objective is to co-produce and beta test an innovative adaptation training module that enables and motivates rural leaders to take action on a specific, priority adaptation strategy. Using a co-production model, the training content and delivery methods are developed in consultation with rural users and adaptation service providers. The selection of the training module topic depends on input from adaptation professionals and rural users to understand their priorities and needs. The resulting training module will be a time efficient process that fits the particular needs of rural leaders. The first step in user engagement is the rural resilience service provider survey, which is available at this survey link. We strongly encourage climate professionals of all disciplines to take this survey now and contribute to the design and success of the project. The survey findings and training module will be a resource for all adaptation professionals and rural leaders. Thank you for taking this survey and contributing to rural resilience where ever you are!

Survey Link:

https://icmaresearch.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8cOLnOdsz2Wc53D

Baby Out With the Stormwater? Congress’ Chance to Fix the NFIP

Photo Credit: NASA

 

For homeowners in flood-prone regions, July means two crucial things: hurricane season is here, and there are only three months left to chart the future of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

(more…)

Strength in Local Leadership

Together, we can create the future we envision. Photo credit: @benjaminthacker

We are the American Society of Adaptation Professionals. Every day, we change and adapt, responding to threats imminent and distant, to create a better future. Yesterday, we were handed a new challenge. Today, it’s time for us to do what we do best—adapt. (more…)

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Adaptation Field Review – Promising Practices

ASAP members are invited to participate in a rapid review of the (1) best practices, (2) needs, (3) and existing resources across the climate adaptation field in the United States. We are preparing the initial review of resources and insights on best practices and needs ahead of the National Adaptation Forum. During the Forum we will provide an opportunity to further refine the resource lists and identify best practices and needs. We hope that you will participate in this review in one or all of the following manners: