Category: Features

Acclimatise leads new NCEI study on the US Drought Monitor and its applications to the livestock sector

Acclimatise leads new NCEI study on the US Drought Monitor and its applications to the livestock sector

By India Young

The U.S. livestock industry generates more than $100 billion in annual revenues and is the world’s largest producer of beef for domestic consumption and export. Ranching depends on viable pasture and rangeland for grazing and as such, growers and ranchers must understand current drought conditions to make timely, critical decisions regarding land management. Cattle ranchers and industry stakeholders depend on the US Drought Monitor (USDM) maps and narratives to assess drought severity and make informed management decisions. The USDM is produced in consortium with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), the National Drought Mitigation Center and the US Department of Agriculture.

Having access to the USDM to monitor drought in near-real time is important to ranchers as well as a range of other industry stakeholders like livestock prospectors and traders, landowners, livestock associations, and federal and state agencies administering drought-relief. Drought poses serious concerns to livestock ranchers who depend on access to good quality pastures for livestock production. In recognition of this, several ranchers interviewed for this study highlight the importance of preserving the integrity of the land. “When we first started, our priorities were production of the livestock,” says Jim Faulstich, owner and operator of Daybreak Ranch in Highmore, South Dakota. “We soon learned that shouldn’t be where our top priority is. We switched to natural resources.”

Drought impacts the quality of pasture lands and the quality and quantity of forage availability for livestock. During drought ranchers must make management decisions such as whether to purchase additional feed, or sell of a part of their herd that they cannot afford to sustain. In order to avoid these outcomes ranchers create drought management plans, where certain actions are trigged by the persistence of drought. Rancher defer to the USDM’s drought severity rankings in order to make these time-sensitive decisions. For example, if drought conditions are persisting a rancher may decide to liquidate herds sooner than later. Further, ranchers also monitor the USDM’s drought designations to determine whether they will be eligible for relief under a federally sponsored disaster relief program.

NCEI, one of the USDM co-producing agencies, supports the USDM through the contribution of meteorological inputs and rotating authorship. The convergence of knowledge approach, whereby the USDM is produced through merging scientific inputs with on-the-ground observations, by rotating authors from participating agencies, makes this product robust and widely useful to livestock producers and federal agencies alike.

Acclimatise, in partnership with Global Science & Technology Inc., conducted dozens of interviews to identify how ranchers, and federal agencies that support drought relief efforts, use the USDM for decision-making. These findings have been compiled into a report, video and infographic:

Download the report by clicking here.

Watch the video:

Download the infographic by clicking on the image below:


Click here to visit NCEI’s website and learn more about the US Drought Monitor.

Cover photo by Skeeze/Pixabay (public domain).
Transforming climate science into services: Create value instead of pushing concepts

Transforming climate science into services: Create value instead of pushing concepts

By Atte Harjanne

Climate services are promoted as a solution to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and economic and political decision making. While focusing on user needs and developing new business models can indeed support climate change adaptation and mitigation, the eager talk about climate services may hide some critical challenges.

The risks of climate change have been known for long, yet the mitigation efforts have not been on par with what we know to be necessary. And even as it becomes painfully clear that we are likely to experience dramatic climate shifts in the future, we are yet to see sufficient adaptation actions either. Indeed, statistics from the insurance sector hint that many societies are not even adapted to the climate as it is, much less to what it is becoming.

This gap between information and action has spurred interest in developing new ways to bring scientific data and knowledge about climate into action. The rise of climate services can be seen as part of this development. Climate services are defined in many ways, but typically the definition boils down to ‘providing climate science based information for end-users according to their needs’. The idea of such services has been around for a while and has been actively promoted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for the about ten years, with the EU joining the choir more recently.

Discourse highlights importance and potential – but what about challenges?

In my recent paper I study how climate services have been framed by experts within the WMO community: Why are climate services needed, what are they good for and how should they be organized? Several themes recur frequently in the discourse: Climate services are necessary in the face of global climate challenges; there is major demand for climate services in several industries; climate services are economically beneficial; new technology enables new, superior services; and current ways of delivering climate information are insufficient. A quick look at the EU Roadmap for Climate Services shows that it makes use of a similar logic.

While such assumptions are not necessarily incorrect, they harbour the risk of narrowing the viewpoint too much. Providing actionable information helps only little if regulation incentivizes maladaptive behavior. Tailoring climate information sounds good, but the inherent uncertainty may still render it practically useless. User centric service development also takes time and effort on both sides – it does not only require new perspective, but learning a lot of new practices as well.

Outsiders see it differently

Based on my own experiences, I find it somewhat bold to claim that there is major market potential for climate services as they are defined now. True, there are a lot of instances in different sectors where better use of climate information can improve, for instance, efficiency or safety. But, in reality, few people outside the field have even heard the term “climate services”, let alone are able to explicitly describe their needs for climate information. Climate issues are intertwined in a multitude of decisions on different streams of activities on different time scales. From the user side, the way we experts conceptualise climate services might not make sense at all.

Climate information is valuable and climate issues need more emphasis on decision-making both in public sector and private companies. But, the development of climate services, as we call them now, should be based on actual value, not expected interest or pushing theoretical concepts forward. The language and terms we use need to resonate with their audience. Since climate services have no intrinsic value for businesses or policymakers, they have to be provided with information that helps improve or safeguard their core activities; that’s valuable for sure.  Finnish Meteorological Institute and Acclimatise are currently co-operating with a wide network of leading European research and development organizations in two European Union funded research projects that aim to do just this – to identify the value and find ways to deliver it.

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Atte Harjanne is a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.  
More information:
Cover photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash.
Landsat imagery shows reservoirs are down in India

Landsat imagery shows reservoirs are down in India

By Adam Voiland

Monsoon rains began arriving across India in early June 2016. For many Indians, it was not a moment too soon. After three underwhelming monsoon seasons, broad swaths of the country have been gripped by drought. An estimated 330 million people have been affected by depleted water supplies.

Collectively, India’s 91 major reservoirs stood at 16 percent of their storage capacity on June 9, 2016, according to the nation’s Central Water Commission (CWC). That is about 58 percent of the water that was available in June 2015 and about 79 percent of the 10-year average. Some of the hardest hit states were Uttarakhand (storage down 77 percent compared to June 2015), Tamil Nadu (down 69 percent), and Maharashtra (down 67 percent).

Of all of India’s reservoirs, Panchet Hill in Jharkhand was among the lowest compared to the 10-year average. In the first week of June 2016, the reservoir stood at 4 percent of capacity; the average for June is 40 percent. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured images of the reservoir on June 10, 2015 (top) and June 12, 2016 (second).

Image: Panchet reservoir, India, in June 2015 and June 2016. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and India’s Central Water Commission.

According to the Times of India, the city of Mumbai had just 25 days of water supplies left in its reservoirs. Several water supplies—including the Upper Tapi reservoir in Maharashtra, the Kabini reservoir in Karnataka, and the Sholayar reservoir in Tamil Nadudash—were not just low; they were reported as empty. The chart above, based on data from India’s CWC, shows the water level in major reservoirs compared to the long-term average water level for that site in June.


This article was originally published on NASA’s Earth Observatory. Read the original article by clicking here.
Cover photo by Tehniyatshaikh/Wikimedia (CC by SA 3.0)
ACCCRN Champion Will Bugler: Communications in climate issues can move public opinion to change policy

ACCCRN Champion Will Bugler: Communications in climate issues can move public opinion to change policy

By Arfiana Khairunnisa

Will Bugler is Senior Communications Consultant at Acclimatise and was chosen by ACCCRN as one of its champions promoting urban climate change resilience through their work.

“Talk more and talk better,” said Will Bugler when he pointed to other practitioners and communicators in the field of climate change resilience. “As a researcher or a scientist, you can increase the impact of your work by taking your findings to the communities that you feature in your research,” he continues.

When he was 5 years old, Will moved from London to a farm in rural Herefordshire (in the west of England on the Welsh borders). His formative years were spent on the family farm, staying up late to help with lambing in the spring, climbing hay bales in the summer, and apple picking in the autumn. “It was a good place to grow up – I appreciated the space and the freedom of the outdoors. But I think on reflection it also gave me a real understanding of how the world is shaped by nature – you can’t escape it on the farm – your days are dictated by the weather and the seasons, your crops succeed or fail, it is a good year or a bad one,” Will recollected about his childhood.

His work on communicating climate change began when he got an internship position at the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, working as a researcher in their ‘adapting to climate change team’. He remembers, as one of his first jobs, being asked to write a definition paper on ‘sustainable adaptation to climate change’ for the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). “‘Talk about an exercise in futility!’ I thought, if anyone didn’t need a paper from an over-enthusiastic, recent graduate about what constitutes ‘sustainable adaptation’ it was the highly-educated professionals at the SDC,” said Will.

From there, he worked in a couple of other policy-related jobs and then did a short stint at the Ecologist Magazine. He found that he enjoyed writing about environmental issues, and grappling with the challenge of presenting scientific work in an engaging way. He continued his writing on resilience issues by setting up the Get Resilient website (www.getresilient.com) which he still manages today.

In 2011, Will took a job with Acclimatise, one of the few consulting firms in Europe that specialises exclusively in climate adaptation and resilience. “It was through my work there that I became fully aware of how central communications is to the issue of climate change.” Will has done a lot of work on climate change communications in urban contexts. He leads Acclimatise’s work on communication. They have given him a lot of freedom to explore this area of work, and the people are only just beginning to understand the potential of climate communications to drive change. “In many ways, our collective failure to successfully tackle climate change is one of communication. Given my job – I would say that. But the science around climate change has been as certain as science gets for decades.” said Will.

Speaking about inclusiveness in communicating climate change resilience, Will thought that one of the most important questions that we need to ask is resilience for whom? This is where communications comes to the fore. For him, it’s not just a matter of raising awareness of climate change resilience, but we also need to create new forums for dialogues that allow for new voices to be heard on climate issues; voices that are too often ignored. “I think that effective communications on climate issues can do a huge amount to move public opinion, and change policy.”

In building awareness on climate change resilience, said Will, there are many challenges, but above all we need to develop more communications on climate resilience that resonate with people who hold conservative values, or who are not necessarily archetypal ‘environmental activists’. This means several things: changing the way we frame our messages, the stories we tell, and importantly accepting that sometimes we’re probably not the right people to deliver the message. We need to find trusted messengers to engage new audiences.


Will’s recommended reading: Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement by Adam Corner and Jamie Clarke
Will’s recommended documentary video: Dr Joanna Jordan’s short documentary, The Lived Experience of Climate Change
Cover photo: Will with the local community, working on the ACCCRN programme in Udon Thani, Thailand. Photo credit: Acclimatise.
Three financial tools that could change the climate finance world

Three financial tools that could change the climate finance world

By Caroline Fouvet

The OECD estimates that climate-induced market damages could rise to over 3% of global GDP by 2060. Innovative financial tools are necessary to address these risks and limit the cost of climate change impacts. But in order to tackle a problem as complex as climate change, new financial tools are needed. Here I present three of the most promising financial instruments that could change the world.

Contingency finance and insurance

Contingency finance is essentially emergency insurance that pays out quickly in times of crisis. It enables countries and individuals to react in the aftermath of a disaster and improves their responses to unforeseen shocks. Establishing contingency funds is a way to disburse funding at a faster pace in a post-disaster situation than only relying on the mobilisation of humanitarian assistance. The African Risk Capacity (ARC) for example is an index-based sovereign risk insurance pool and early-response mechanism of the African Union that combines the concepts of insurance and contingency planning. Governments receive pay-outs from the ARC Insurance Company Ltd. to implement pre-approved contingency plans targeting extreme weather events and natural disasters. At the micro level, microcredits can also provide recovery loans after small income shocks to poor households.

Private finance

Public authorities can boost the investment in climate adaptation project by providing incentives to private investors. The recent emergence of resilient bonds, as part of the Re.bound finance programme launched by Goldman Sachs, RMS and Swiss Re, is an illustrative example. Based on the catastrophe bond model – high-risk debt instruments that secure cash flows to insurers covering financial losses triggered by climate-induced disasters – resilient bonds also provide resilience benefits for disaster-prone cities. Investments in local climate resilient infrastructures could be priced as they reduce the risk of a climate-related disaster. This reduction in vulnerability would be then captured in a lower premium paid to investors, called a resilience rebate, that could then be used by cities to fund additional projects that further advance community resilience.

Climate bonds

Climate bonds can also increase the amount of money available to climate-proof infrastructure and resilient cities. They are the largest subcategory of the emerging green bond market, which could reach US$ 120bn in issuance this year. These debt securities are issued by corporations, state-owned companies and multilateral development banks and are traditionally purchased by large institutional investors like pension funds. Mexico City airportfor instance issued climate bonds in 2016, for a total value of US$ 2 billion. Issuing climate bonds for adaptation purposes has great potential for growth as it represented just 5% of total green bond issuance in 2016.

Successful climate adaptation will require a wide range of financial instruments to be mobilised. To do so, governments will have to incentivise private sector investors, and raise awareness of the opportunities arising from climate-resilient investments.


Cover photo by Adrian Cable (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Podcast: Climate finance – Stacy Swann on blended climate finance

Podcast: Climate finance – Stacy Swann on blended climate finance

By Will Bugler

In this episode of Acclimatise Conversations on Climate Change Adaptation, we speak with Stacy Swann, CEO of Climate Finance Advisors, a Washington DC-based firm that works specifically on climate finance and specialises in blending public and private finance to catalyse climate change investment. We learn how blended finance can help to boost investment in climate resilience projects, providing private investors with a multi-trillion dollar investment opportunity.

The world’s infrastructure is in need of an upgrade. Our changing climate means that existing and new infrastructure needs to be climate resilient. The OECD estimate that US$ 70 trillion of infrastructure investment is needed by 2030, just to maintain current levels of GDP growth.

As well as investing in climate resilient infrastructure, we also need to build infrastructure for resilience – that is the flood walls, early warning systems and ecosystems that will protect us from the impacts of climate change. But these investments require large amounts of capital to be mobilised quickly. Finding sufficient money to invest in projects that are vitally important but that may be riskier is difficult.

So how can ‘blended finance’ help to bridge the gaping infrastructure investment gap?


Cover photo by Lee Aik Soon (Unsplash License)
Podcast: Dr Robert Glasser, Head of UNISDR: Disaster risk reduction and climate change

Podcast: Dr Robert Glasser, Head of UNISDR: Disaster risk reduction and climate change


By Will Bugler & Elisa Jiménez Alonso

To wrap up our monthly focus on the synergies between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, we revisit our podcast with Dr Robert Glasser, Head of UNISDR.

Natural disasters take many forms, from floods, to landslides, from extreme heat to massive storms. Planning for these disasters used to be a matter of looking at similar events that happened in the past. However, climate change is beginning to change all that.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) estimates that 9 in 10 natural disasters are linked to the climate. With climate change, extreme events are becoming more severe, frequent and uncertain.

Recently the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (SFDRR) has celebrated its first birthday. The SFDRR lays out ambitions plans to cut disaster losses – but climate change could throw a spanner in the works.

As the climate warms we can no longer rely on the events of the past to help us to predict what disasters will look like in the future. So how is the disaster risk reduction community responding to this challenge?


Cover photo by UNISDR (CC BY SA-4.0)
Podcast: Marc Eisma: Climate change adaptation in Europe’s busiest port

Podcast: Marc Eisma: Climate change adaptation in Europe’s busiest port

By Will Bugler

In the previous episode of Acclimatise Conversations on Climate Change Adaptation we spoke with Isabelle Ryckbost of the European Seaports Association to find out about what ports were doing do adapt to climate impacts. One of the climate leaders that Isabelle mentioned was the Port of Rotterdam.

In this episode, we investigate what steps Europe’s busiest seaport has put in place to make sure that it is resilient in the face of a changing climate. To learn more we caught up with Marc Eisma, advisor at the environmental management department of Rotterdam Port Authority.


Cover photo by AlfvanBeem/Wikimedia (Public Domain)
Adapting to climate change made harder after 100 days of Trump

Adapting to climate change made harder after 100 days of Trump

Last Saturday marked Trump’s 100th day in office. It was also the day of the ‘People’s Climate Rally’ that took place in D.C, alongside other satellite marches taking place across the globe. Scientists, faith leaders, academics, students and concerned citizens took to the streets of the nations capital to demand action on climate change and a clean energy future.

The fact that the rally took place on Trump’s 100th day in office was no coincidence. Trump has used this time to recede Obama-era Executive Orders (EO) that promote climate resilience and climate data collection, propose a budget to Congress that significantly defunds programs supporting climate resilience, and establish a new EO in favor of continued dependence on fossil fuels (Grannis et al, 2017).

To understand the implications of Trump’s actions, it is important to first understand what Obama established with respects to climate programmes and policy during his time in office.

The Obama legacy

On June 25, 2013, when temperature in D.C. soared up to 35°C / 94°F, (NCEI, 2017) Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan with a speech at Georgetown University. Obama emphasised the importance of federal agencies partnering with state and local governments, on the front lines for preparing their communities for climate change impacts. The plan called for the provision of tools and resources to support programmes such as the Climate Data Initiative and the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

Some of the recommendations of Obama’s Climate Action Plan were formalised through Executive Order (EO) 13653, Preparing the US for the Impacts of Climate Change. This includes a requirement for federal agencies to update their adaptation plans, and the formation of the Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience set up to coordinate adaptation efforts across 30 different federal agencies.

EO 13653 also created the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, composed of twenty-five governors, mayors, country officials and tribal leaders tasked with making recommendations to the federal government on how agencies could better support state and local governments to prepare for the impacts of climate change. In 2014, the Task Force sent out over one hundred recommendations to the president on how federal programs and policies could be improved to support local and regional efforts. Several agencies including Flood Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), incorporated them into their plans and policies.

In 2016, Obama updated the Center for Environmental Quality (CEQ) guidance to federal agencies on how to consider climate change in environmental review documents required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA guidance requires that federal agencies analyse the environmental impacts of proposed actions, prior to decision-making. The new guidance required federal agencies to consider both the projects impact on climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, (GHG) and the impact of climate change on the proposed project (Grannis et al. 2017).

Trump’s actions

Since his election, much of Trump’s efforts have focused on trying to undo what Obama put in place. In a March 2017 EO, promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, Trump ordered the removal of “regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation” (EO 13783). This EO rescinds Executive Order 13653 and the Presidents Climate Action Plan. The EO called on federal agencies to unwind all the policies that were put in place under Obama’s EO, and rescinded the NEPA climate guidance. Trump also released a blueprint budget for fiscal year 2018 which significantly cuts the budgets of agencies that fund state and local climate adaptation efforts including the EPA, NOAA, FEMA.

There are however several Obama-era actions that have remained untouched by Trump. It remains unclear whether Trump will let these orders stand, or whether he still intends to rescind them. These include EO 13514, that requires federal agencies to consider how climate change will affect federal agency operations, sustainability and mission plans, and EO 13690, an update for a new flood risk management standard, ensuring that new projects made with federal funds are designed to be resilient to future flood impacts, including sea level rise (ibid).

What does this mean for state and local and federal adaptation efforts?

In his 2018 budget blueprint, Trump has proposed significant cuts to the agencies that offer programmes that state and local governments depend on for resilience efforts. These include the NOAA Sea Grant, a programme that supports coastal adaptation, FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, and the EPA Climate Change Research and Partnership Program.

Also, on the chopping block was the interagency coordination effort that helps federal agencies align their adaptation efforts. Proposed budget cuts would impact the ability of these agencies to support local resilience efforts, as well as the development of climate data tools, monitoring and technical expertise to support community efforts. For example, cuts to NOAA funding could result in cuts to satellite programs, which produce climate data used in vulnerability analyses. Presently, data.gov and the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit remain operational. However, congress controls the purse strings and makes the ultimate decision on agency budgets. Therefore, the final cuts may not be as drastic as Trump has envisioned.

At the federal level, adaptation planning activities may be affected by Trump’s EO on Energy Dependence. The EO rescinds guidance that directs federal agencies to both account for GHG emissions and consider the impacts of climate change on their operations. In light of this new guidance, agencies may revoke or amend existing adaptation plans. Despite this, agencies are still obliged to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner in long-term planning, and climate change may have an impact on the sustainability of resources. Therefore, climate change may still be accounted for, if not explicitly described as such (ibid).

100 days and beyond

200,000 people marching through the streets of D.C. show that Trump’s actions will meet resistance, however few can claim to be surprised. Pre-presidency, Trump famously stated that climate change is a hoax invented by China, that climate scientists are self-motivated and misleading the public, and that the Paris Agreement is ‘ridiculous’ (Schulman, 2017). The actions witnessed in the first hundred days may be a taste of what lies ahead on Trump’s agenda – scaling back Obama-era climate initiatives and promoting fossil fuel-driven plans and policies.

Trump’s intentions are clear, and therefore state and local governments could benefit from a plan to remain on course with adaptation actions, despite limited federal backing. This poses a challenge not yet encountered since climate change was mainstreamed in the federal policy arena during Obama’s presidency. Yet, it also provides new impetus for local and state actors to partner with non-federal entities, such as the private sector, to uncover new ways of working together to tackle mounting adaptation challenges.

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This article is based off a webinar presented by EcoAdapt, 100 Days of the New Administration. For a full recording of the webinar, please visit: https://vimeo.com/215057654

References

Grannis, J., Wentz, J., Pine, D., Gerhart, M., & Hansen, L. (2017). 100 Days of the New Administration. EcoAdapt. Retrieved from, https://vimeo.com/215057654.

Executive Order 13653– Preparing the United State for the Impacts of Climate Change. November 1, 2013. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary.

Executive Order13783 – Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. March 28, 2017. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). 2017. Record of Climatological Observations WASHINGTON REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT, VA. Retrieved May 1 from, https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/search.

Schulman, J. (2017, April 2). A timeline of every ridiculous thing Trump has said about Climate Change. Newsweek.  Retrieved from, http://www.newsweek.com/timeline-every-ridiculous-thing-trump-has-said-about-climate-change-576238.


Cover photo by Michael Vadon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Podcast: Climate adaptation and European ports: Isabelle Ryckbost

Podcast: Climate adaptation and European ports: Isabelle Ryckbost

By Will Bugler

Ports are vital hubs in global trade networks, linking all of the goods transported by sea with land-based industry and consumers. They are also vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. To find out how ports in Europe are responding to climate change Acclimatise spoke with Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General of the European Sea Ports Organisation. Speaking in the wake of her keynote speech at the recent NavClimate conference, Isabelle explains that climate risks to physical port infrastructure are only part of the story when it comes to building the climate resilience of European ports.

Listen now:

 


Cover photo by  Rik Schuiling / TropCrop-TCS / Archive CC by 3.0