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ClimateWise E-news January 2013

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Geos Institute


ClimateWise® E-news January 2013

  • Project Launch! Protecting Vulnerable Communities in the Gulf (National Estuarine Research Reserves Take Action)
  • What’s at Risk from a Changing Climate?
  • Assessing Vulnerability and Developing Solutions in the Sierra Nevadas
  • Finding Funding and Assistance for Planning
  • What will be the Legacy of Hurricane Sandy?

  The Geos Institute is developing ClimateWise® in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, including the Florida Keys. Look for a feature on the Florida Keys and the Alaska projects in a future E-news.


Project Launch! Protecting Vulnerable Communities in the Gulf

by Keith Henty, ClimateWise Project Developer

Coastal communities and ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events as climate change accelerates. Sustainability coordinators, community managers, scientists, elected officials and others are already deeply involved in ongoing climate adaptation planning to protect their regions.

Lydia Ann Lighthouse, Texas. Photo: Kiersten Madden (Mission-Aransas NERR) 

The National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs) are already active in community education and coastal stewardship. (Estuaries are located where rivers meet the sea.) There are 28 NERRs around the U.S.; many are located in fragile coastal areas that are especially vulnerable to climate change. The reserve system is a networked partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and coastal states. The Gulf NERRs and the Geos Institute share NOAA’s strategic goal: A climate-literate public that understands its vulnerabilities to a changing climate and makes informed decisions.


Public marina, Apalachicola, Florida. Photo: Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection

The Geos Institute is delighted to begin collaborating with those at work in the Gulf of Mexico to initiate a series of ClimateWise® processes. One new multi-community proposal for 2013 focuses on developing climate change preparedness for National Estuarine Research Reserve Communities in Texas and Florida. To accomplish this, the Geos Institute is collaborating with planning leaders at two National Estuarine Research Reserves (or NERRs); the Mission-Aransas NERR in Port Aransas, Texas (near Corpus Christi), and the Apalachicola NERR in Franklin County, Florida.  


We acknowledge the people who are largely responsible for launching a ClimateWise® collaboration to prepare for regional impacts of climate change. They are:

Sally Palmer
  Sally Morehead Palmer
  Director, Mission-Aransas NERR (TX)

Kristen Hicks

  Kristin Hicks

  Coastal Training Program Coordinator

  Mission-Aransas NERR (TX)

Heather Wade

  Heather Wade Coastal Planning

  Specialist-Texas Sea Grant,

  University of Texas

  Marine Science Institute

Rosalyn Kilcollins
  Rosalyn Kilcollins
  Coastal Training Program Coordinator
  Apalachicola NERR (FL)

Click here to see the mapped National Estuarine Research Reserves project areas and surrounding communities.


Assessing Vulnerability and Developing Solutions in the Sierra Nevada

The California Landscape Conservation Cooperative has stepped up to fund a large-scale project for the Sierra – From Awareness to Action: A Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Strategies for Focal Resources of the Sierra Nevada.

Fall color near Conway Summit, Mono County, CA. Photo: Mike Baird

For this project, the Geos Institute is partnering with EcoAdapt, the Conservation Biology Institute and the US Forest Service. The Sierra Nevada is rich in biodiversity, providing a range of natural resources and ecosystem services. It is host to a large portion of the state’s water supply along with important cultural and recreational resources.

Projected climate change in the region is expected to significantly impact natural systems, which already suffer from severe air pollution, resource extraction, and an influx of invasive species. Ongoing conflicts over water resources, residential development, and use of federal lands will be heightened by climate change.

Our collaborative work is beginning with a science synthesis of climate change impacts for the Sierra Nevada. The project will feature two large workshops to review the science, assess resource vulnerabilities, and develop adaptation strategies. Anticipated products include online vulnerability assessment results for focal species and habitats and a portfolio of adaptation options that helps prioritize where, when, and how to implement actions.



For more information about ClimateWise® send an email to Keith Henty or call the Geos Institute 541 482-4459 x310.






What is ClimateWise®?

ClimateWise® is a process designed by the Geos Institute that helps communities develop climate change preparation strategies that are science-based and integrated across natural and human systems. It brings together local leaders and experts to design ecologically-sound and interdisciplinary solutions that increase synergies and cost-savings. The process is adapted to each community, based on local vulnerabilities, economic drivers, climate change impacts, values, and traditions. Read more about ClimateWise® services.


What’s at Risk from a Changing Climate?

By Marni Koopman, Ph.D., Climate Change Scientist, the Geos Institute

Climate change has been communicated and viewed largely as an environmental problem. Yet climate change is already affecting all sectors of local communities, including infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, human health, emergency response, water supply, native American culture and customs, and many others. As climate change accelerates, extreme events are becoming more common and will eventually become the “norm” instead of the “extreme.”

People will respond to these extreme events in a variety of ways based on their level of preparedness. Unfortunately, when people respond to extreme events, such as drought, storm surge, or hurricanes, they often feel compelled to take action quickly. This often bypasses impact assessments and consideration of alternative strategies.

For example, when hurricane Irene hit the Northeastern U.S. in 2011, state and federal governments declared a state of emergency, allowing the widening and armoring of streams and rivers without permits or review. Unfortunately, such actions came too late to reduce damage to towns and roads, but they resulted in millions of dollars in damage to previously pristine and economically important rivers popular with visiting anglers. In fact, the response to the storm was far more damaging to ecological systems than the storm itself.

Coastal communities have already experienced severe impacts from rising seas combined with storm surges and human-caused stressors, such as drilling and runoff pollution. On a relative scale, however, these impacts will seem small compared to those expected in the coming decade. It is imperative that coastal communities put plans in place now to reduce their vulnerability and increase their resilience.

In areas with extensive and unique biological diversity, it is especially important that climate change preparedness supports both natural and human communities in a synergistic manner. Our attention is focused on communities adjacent to highly vulnerable barrier islands, ecological reserves, and intertidal and marine ecosystems.

We seek to prepare communities for extreme events by developing interdisciplinary and collaborative solutions that will reduce unintended impacts and conflict while increasing synergies and cost-savings through the ClimateWise® process.


Finding Funding and Assistance for Planning

Are you looking for help preparing your community for climate change? The Geos Institute can help. With full-scale ClimateWise® processes completed in seven western communities, and new partnerships developing in Texas, Florida, and Alaska, we have the experience and expertise to assist you in determining your local vulnerabilities and developing strategies to address them. Part of our mission is to help communities prepare for climate change, and we would like to help your community determine its next steps, including securing funding from public and private sources. We are glad to brainstorm and share ideas with you. Email to start the conversation.


What Will Be the Legacy of Hurricane Sandy?

NYC, October 2012. The East River begins to surge from the high winds of Sandy. Photo: NY Times


The tragic impacts of Hurricane Sandy have sparked renewed interest in preparing for “extreme climate events.” It is a wake up call with an increasingly clear message: Climate change is here; it is happening now. We need to take action now to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. We are hopeful that we will come together as a country and start to take the steps necessary to protect our communities and the ecosystems they depend upon. Let’s start planning together.


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