Category: Features

A journey across Alaska to discover climate change: Part 2

A journey across Alaska to discover climate change: Part 2

By Brooke Larsen and Alastair Baglee

Brooke Larsen and Kailey Kornhauser are bicycle riding across Alaska. Unsupported and self-propelled, they recently won a ‘Lael Rides Alaska’ women’s scholarship to ride 1001 miles from the coastal town of Seward in the south, all the way to Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean in search of stories about climate change.

In Part 1 we saw Brooke and Kailey reach their journey’s half way point at Fairbanks. Now the real challenge awaits as they head north to the town of Deadhorse on Alaska’s North Slope high in the Arctic along the remote, steep and unpaved Dalton Highway.

Before setting off on the Dalton Highway, we listened to more stories from folks in Fairbanks and reflected on the impacts of a warming world we had witnessed thus far. We couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation with permafrost researchers at Eight Mile Lake off of Stampede Road, not far from Denali National Park and the place where Chris McCandless of Into the Wild died. Once we reached the research site, after biking up a series of short but painfully steep hills, we had to walk along narrow wood planks over thawing, muddy ground. We learned from the Northern Arizona University research team that Alaska has always had to deal with seasonal uneven ground, but now areas that once remained frozen are starting to thaw.

A rapidly changing landscape

Researchers from Northern Arizona University.

Historically permafrost has acted as a carbon sink, but as temperatures warm, permafrost thaws and becomes a carbon source. This is a big deal. Arctic permafrost currently stores more carbon than all the carbon humans have emitted into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. While thawing permafrost escalates global climate change, it also has serious implications for the land and ecology of the Arctic. Drainages will change course and composition, the ground will sink, tree lines will move further up in elevation, and animals will change migration patterns. The people that rely on these lands for subsistence and spirituality will lose their way of life.

The researchers all reflected on the emotions of studying such dire science. I remembered a term I had heard from a climate scientist back home: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The term resonated with the team, and some questioned whether instead of measuring data they should be in the street demanding action. However, Megan, one of the lead researchers, concluded, “We contribute in the ways we can.”

Scott Rupp, the Deputy Director of the International Arctic Research Center.

In Fairbanks, we continued to learn more about the changes rapidly occurring across Alaska from Scott Rupp, the Deputy Director of the International Arctic Research Center. Scott tries to quantify uncertainty by building climate change models that can help Alaskans adapt to a warming world. He noted, “Here, there is such an immediate need for information that there isn’t a lot of time to think about impending doom.” He emphasized that climate change is already impacting almost everybody across the state, even if they don’t realize it yet. Personally, he’s observed big changes in wildfire in the area. While his models show that climate change will increase wildfires in the Boreal forests of central Alaska, Scott has witnessed the increase first hand while living in Fairbanks the past 20 years.

Beyond the science, though, we also heard stories from those on the frontlines. Esau Sinnok, an intern with Native Movement and a student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, comes from the Inupiaq community of Shishmaref. Melting sea ice and rising seas have pushed the 600-person Inupiaq community to repeatedly vote to relocate since 1973. Esau expressed skepticism about the community receiving the 250 million dollars needed to relocate. He said, “FEMA won’t do anything until after it falls apart.” The lack of federal assistance stings even deeper when considering that the Inupiaq people didn’t live permanently in Shishmaref prior to colonization. It was an important place for hunting sea life, but not a place for year-round inhabitance. Esau is the lead plaintiff in the case Sinnok v. State of Alaska—a climate lawsuit brought by 16 Alaskan youth. He is focusing on quickly finishing his studies at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks so he can continue to fight for his people. “It’s my responsibility to go back to my community. All 600 people raised me,” he said.

1,000 miles on the Dalton Highway

After meeting with people for a few days in Fairbanks, we finally set off for the most challenging part of our 1,000-mile ride: the Dalton Highway. We were pleasantly surprised by the road condition. Most blogs make the Dalton seem horrible. There was some loose gravel and potholes, but a decent amount of the supposedly unpaved road was paved, and for the most part, the gravel was in better condition than the deep, sandy unpaved roads we bike in the American Southwest. What challenged us more was the road’s grade. In the section known as the “rollercoaster,” hills were so steep we often had to get off and walk our bikes. When we slowed down, mosquitos and gnats swarmed, forcing us to quickly pull out our bug head nets.

The vast wildness of the surrounding landscape kept our spirits high. We often biked until 10 p.m. or later, our path lit by the midnight sun. Over each hill, the Brooks Range revealed more of itself in layers of blue, green, and gray. However, alongside feelings of awe, we also felt grief. While we admired the region’s beauty, we also felt anxiety about the Trans-Alaska Pipeline snaking along a few yards from our pedal strokes. The further north we went, the closer we came to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a sacred region for the Gwich’n People under imminent threat from oil drilling.

Halfway through our journey, we reached Wiseman, where we stayed with Jack Reakoff, a famous local trapper, hunter, and tour guide whose family moved to Wiseman before the pipeline was built. He let us stay in one of his cabins, ceiling covered in sheep and caribou antlers, a grizzly bear head roaring down on us. We bathed in the Middle Fork Koyukuk River that flowed a couple hundred meters from his yard. Luckily the weather was beautiful, hovering around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6C), making the bitter cold water seem more inviting. When we returned to the cabin, we were greeted by a familiar face. My partner, Galen, was in the middle of editing a film on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and he couldn’t resist the chance to return to a part of the country he loved.

Brooke and Kailey crossing the Arctic Circle.

The next day we completed the final climb of the journey over Atigun Pass—the highest highway pass in Alaska. We felt such relief when we reached the top and couldn’t wait for a couple days of cruising through the Arctic. However, shortly after we reached the summit, ominous clouds surrounded us. As we descended, rain and mud soaked us. About fifteen miles down from the summit, Kailey’s brakes went out, pushing her into a panic attack as the fog became denser, the rain poured harder, and temperatures neared freezing.

Brooke and Kailey on the Dalton Highway. Photos by Galen Knowles.

The next few days only got colder and wetter. Visibility was so bad that truck drivers pulled over and threw us their vests. We thought the infamous mosquitos would pose the biggest challenge in the Arctic. Instead, temperatures dropped so low that the swarms nearly disappeared. When we finally reached Deadhorse, it was hard to feel celebratory in a town built solely for the oil and gas industry, especially after a miserable couple days of biking. However, spirits rose soon enough as we filled our bellies with warm food, took long hot showers, and slept.

Meeting scientists and campaigners

Bryan Thomas at NOAA’s Barrow Observatory.

Kailey and I reached the final destination of our tour not by bike, but plane. Our flight back to Fairbanks (where we’d fly out from to return home) had a layover in Barrow. We decided to extend our layover in this northern-most U.S. city to interview a few more people. Last year, temperatures reached such abnormally high levels in Barrow that algorithms removed data because it seemed unreal. We spent time with Bryan Thomas at NOAA’s Barrow Observatory, one of four NOAA observatories that contribute data to NOAA’s climate models and the famous Keeling Curve. Bryan works tirelessly to ensure that data collection instruments are functioning and working accurately. Regarding the importance of this long term observation, he said, “If we weren’t watching, we wouldn’t know.” He doesn’t believe he will see the Keeling Curve start to go down in his lifetime, concluding, “just like justice, the curve bends eventually, but it takes a long time.”

A taster of muktuk.

Alexander, a local young Inupiaq and the manager of the Airport Inn where we stayed, highlighted coastal erosion as his main climate change concern. He talked about the trifecta of rising seas, melting sea ice, and thawing permafrost that puts Inupiaq communities at particular risk. He discussed how melting sea ice not only has impacts on sea life, but also destabilizes subsistence livelihoods. Whaling is central to Inupiaq culture, and less sea ice makes this traditional subsistence practice increasingly dangerous and difficult. He reflected, “It affects us economically and spiritually.” Before we left, he let us try some muktuk from this year’s whale hunt.

Despite the dire situation, youth organizers in Barrow, Ana, Muck, and Naomi, left us with hope. They recently graduated from high school and are headed off to colleges across the country in the fall of 2018. Ana and Muck have been part of Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA). They learned how to lobby their representatives and found that communities across Alaska face similar challenges when it comes to climate change and environmental justice. They expressed concern about rising sea levels and the resulting coastal erosion. The ocean is central to their lives. Muck was born in the Philippines and moved with his family to Barrow when he was five. He said, “The ocean has always been a big part of my life.” Much of the North Slope’s economy is closely tied to the oil and gas industry. People rarely speak against the industry out of fear of losing jobs or heat to their homes. When asked about the conflict between climate action and the dominance of the oil industry, Ana responded, “We are an environmental paradox.” These young people find hope in groups like AYEA and young people standing up across the world. When asked how they feel about the pressure put on their generation, they all replied, “Empowered.” Social media has allowed them to stay connected to young organizers nationwide. Even though temperatures were well below freezing, they still stood outside their school for 17 minutes in coordination with the national March for Our Lives movement earlier this year.

Ana, Much, and Naomi from Alaska Youth for Environmental Action.

Overall, Kailey and I left Alaska full of gratitude for the opportunity to bike across such a wild, threatened place and meet inspiring people. The journey empowered us not only as women cyclists, but also young people concerned about a warming world. The climate challenges facing Alaska are daunting. Few places provide such a powerful glimpse into how human-caused climate change is already here. However, alongside the doom and gloom, Alaskans are rising. Their resistance, resilience, and adaptability show that a commitment to place, love of community, and a locally-driven just transition away from fossil fuels are our best bets at securing a thriving, regenerative future.

You can read about each segment of our ride in-depth on our website blog. We will be posting reflections from Alaska each week, with the goal of continuing to share stories from future rides.

Thanks to Brooke Larsen for sharing her stories, head to her Instagram to see more pictures from the trip Instagram.


Cover photo by Galen Knowles, used with permission.

Read more about how climate change is impacting Alaskan communities on our network:

Video: Climate change swallows an Alaskan school

Alaskan village hit by erosion and melting permafrost is denied request for disaster declaration

Alaskan town threatened by climate change gets federal funding for relocation

Acclimatise heads to Global Climate Action Summit

Acclimatise heads to Global Climate Action Summit

With Otis Redding’s famous tune in our ears, we’re getting ready for one of the most awaited climate events of the year, the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco from 12-14 September. With so many exciting events, there will not be much time for anyone to just be sitting on the dock of the bay!

Our co-founder and CTO Dr Richenda Connell will be in San Francisco to present Acclimatise’s latest work with the financial services sector.

Find out what events she will be attending and speaking at:

11 September

12 September

13 September

  • 09:00-13:30 Climate Resilience and Adaptation Investment (CRAI): Richenda joins a panel discussion on climate resilience investment opportunities. Convened by The Lightsmith Group and Willis Towers Watson, this invite-only event focuses on the challenge and opportunity for investment created by the need for climate resilience and adaptation.

Cover photo by Alex Perry on Unsplash.
Climate information value chains: optimising the use of climate information for decision-making in Africa

Climate information value chains: optimising the use of climate information for decision-making in Africa

By Georgina Wade

In Cape Town, South Africa severe water shortages have forced the implementation of water restrictions on its inhabitants. In contexts such as this, climate information can be used to support decisions that can increase urban resilience of city, and make cities better prepared to manage the effects of climate change and extreme events. However, it is not always clear how climate information should be used to support decisions. A value-chain approach can improve the way climate information is understood and used by decision makers.

The process that delivers climate information from data providers to users can be conceptualised in the form of a climate information value chain as presented by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Source: World Meteorological Organization (2017)

This value chain presents an idealised model of the value creation process, starting with the generation and provision of weather and climate data, and ending with the improved decision-making by different types of users. Ideally, if the value chain operates well, investments in producing climate information will result in societal benefits, such as improved preparedness to extreme climatic events.

However, in order to ensure that climate information is used appropriately, a high level of engagement is needed at each stage of the value chain. The nature of engagement between the provider and the user has strong implications for the success of information exchange and information uptake.

A recent article from Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) hints at forthcoming insights surrounding engagement between climate information providers and users in African cities. These insights will be presented in a forthcoming paper that examines climate information use for decision-making on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the African cities of Lusaka, Zambia and Kisumu, Kenya.

According to the findings, one of the best conditions for climate information exchange and use is interactive, multi-stakeholder engagement. This presents an opportunity for providers and users of climate information to exchange ideas in person, allowing for immediate feedback and decisions made in line with user needs. Additionally, this method allows for a two-way engagement and collaboration on how to best prepare for and respond to climatic hazards. However, climate information providers do not always have a good understanding of particular sectoral needs and of the types of climate information that is relevant for decision-making. Climate outlook forums (COFs) were found to have no effect on the approaches and actions of sectoral managers who fail to fully grasp the complexities that accompany climate information.

Evidence suggests that the level of engagement between providers and users of climate information has a direct effect on whether climate information is used appropriately to inform climate sensitive decisions. Therefore, it is vital that climate information providers and inter-city users engage openly and explore approaches that are suited to growing climate information needs under a rapidly changing climate.

Download the report, Value Chain Climate Resilience: A Guide to Managing Climate Impacts In Companies and Communities here.


Cover photo by Geralt/Pixabay (public domain)

 

A journey through Alaska to discover climate change – Part 1

A journey through Alaska to discover climate change – Part 1

By Alastair Baglee, Lael Wilcox, Brooke Larsen and Kailey Kornhauser

Brooke Larsen and Kailey Kornhauser are bicycle riding across Alaska. Unsupported and self-propelled, they recently won a ‘Lael Rides Alaska’ women’s scholarship to ride 1001 miles from the coastal town of Seward in the south, all the way to Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean in search of stories about climate change.

The scholarship was devised by Lael Wilcox, one of America’s, and indeed the world’s greatest ultra-endurance, long-distance cyclists. With accolades that include setting the women’s record for bicycling (or bikepacking, as it’s called now) the mountainous Tour Divide from Canada to Mexico; overall (men and women) winner of the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race, a self-supported road race across America; and the fastest known time (FKT) on the Baja Divide in Mexico, Lael is a pretty unique athlete. Spectacularly, Lael rides on average 20,000 miles a year. This scholarship is her way to encourage others to challenge themselves and take on the sort of long distance bikepacking adventures that Lael loves so much.

Lael at the end of the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race. Photo by Nicholas Carman/ Lael Wilcox

Brooke and Kailey aren’t entirely new to bicycle journeys. Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, Brooke spent the summer of 2017 bikepacking for 54 days across the remote, hot, and dry Colorado Plateau—the high desert of the American Southwest. Along the way, she listened to stories about climate change and environmental justice. Kailey joined Brooke for the first two weeks of the journey. In her article “Pedaling the Plateau,” Brooke reflects on the ride and the people she met along the way. The current journey across Alaska is a new chapter in their quest. Brooke tells us more:

Brooke and Kailey riding between Seward and Anchorage during the first week of their ride across Alaska. Photo by Cali Bulmash.

We were drawn to the Lael Rides Alaska Scholarship because of the inspiring work Lael has done to grow the women and girls cycling community, as well as the opportunity to grow as cyclists and climate organizers. Alaska has challenging terrain with steep climbs and gravel roads that go through some of the world’s wildest landscapes, making it an ideal place for adventure cycling. However, it also sits at the frontlines of climate change and fossil fuel extraction, providing plenty of stories and tangible examples to learn from as we work for climate justice in our home communities.

When not biking (and even when we are), we focus our academic research and community organizing on climate change and environmental justice. Because Alaska faces many threats from climate change –from rising sea levels to thawing permafrost– and indigenous communities have long experienced the negative impacts of a colonial extractive economy, we found it important to learn about these issues as we biked across the state. We hope by sharing stories from those we meet along the way that we can build empathy, inspire action, and increase awareness.

Watching glaciers melt

Kenai Fjords National Park Ranger Bill Kane

For miles leading up to Exit Glacier, signs note where the glacier used to reach. Kenai Fjords National Park Ranger Bill Kane has been visiting and working at the park for the past 25 years. He noted that every October he runs in the Halloween zombie race in the nearby town of Seward. It used to always snow on race day. Now he runs the race in shorts. When we asked how he emotionally copes with witnessing Exit Glacier melt, he responded, “It’s gut wrenching.” We found a mural in town titled “Remembering Exit Glacier.” For this community, climate loss is already tangible.

“What happens to marginalised folks?”

Camille Davis, ACF’s Development Associate

While in Anchorage, staff members from Alaska Conservation Foundation and Pacific Environment shared their thoughts on climate change. One staff member who could only pop his head in for a minute quickly said, “Three things: melting glaciers, beavers moving north, and melting permafrost.” Camille Davis, ACF’s Development Associate, said, “As a black young woman, I think about how we make this work tangible. As climate change affects our earth, what happens to marginalized folks?” DJ Tyson, Pacific Environment’s Arctic Program Assistant, discussed how 90 percent of Alaska’s state revenue comes from oil. He said, “I want to figure out how to get Alaska off fossil fuels.” He then joked, “But I have a degree in Psychology, so I’m not going to figure it out.” Michael Barber, ACF Director, then emphasized that one person doesn’t need to be “smarter than climate change.” He concluded, “Where hope comes from for me is I don’t have to be right. The only thing that matters is what people are going to work on together.”

Landslides and thawing permafrost

David Tomeo, Education Program Director with Alaska Geographic

David Tomeo is the Education Program Director with Alaska Geographic at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park. In 1997, David had his first adventure in Alaska when he and his wife kayaked along the state’s southeast coast for four months. When we asked about climate change in the park, David talked about oozing mud flows, landslides, and dropping roads from thawing permafrost. He also mentioned that as the tree line moves up with warming temperatures, Dall sheep habitat decreases. The park was originally established largely to protect the Dall sheep. As he looked out at the spruce trees surrounding his home, he talked about wildfires but then also concluded, “I feel pretty safe and secure up here. I know I’m not going to be as impacted as much as people in poorer parts of the world or Alaskan coastal communities. I feel lucky.”

We are currently in Fairbanks, just completing the first half of our 1,000 mile journey across Alaska. While in town, we are interviewing folks to learn more about climate change in the Arctic, challenges for indigenous communities, and grassroots organizing for climate justice, before setting off on the second half of our journey along the remote, steep and partly unpaved Dalton Highway. This will be the longest gravel ride either of us have ever done. We look forward to experiencing the Arctic tundra.

We wish Brooke and Kailey good luck on the next leg of their journey. Part 2 of their stories will be published once Brooke and Kailey reach Deadhorse, the end of their journey – stay tuned!

In the meantime, follow their journey on Instagram.


Cover photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash.
Podcast: The Green Climate Fund in Guyana – Janelle Christian, Head of the Office of Climate Change, Guyana

Podcast: The Green Climate Fund in Guyana – Janelle Christian, Head of the Office of Climate Change, Guyana

By Will Bugler

Climate change is already having serious impacts for Guyana, 90% of the population live on the coastal plain, less than 1 meter above sea level. 75% of the country’s economic activity also takes place in this region. In 2005 Guyana suffered a catastrophic flood, which affected over a third of its population and cost over 60% of the country’s GDP. Tackling climate change is, therefore, an urgent necessity for Guyana, but cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate impacts requires investment.

To help with the cost of responding to climate change the Green Climate Fund (GCF) has been established under the UNFCCC. But what exactly is the GCF? who can access it? and how will it work in Guyana? To learn more we spoke with Janelle Christian, Head of Guyana’s Office of Climate Change.


Cover photo by Guayana’s Department of Public Information.

Podcast with Samantha Bray from the Center for Responsible Travel: Tourism in the Caribbean

Podcast with Samantha Bray from the Center for Responsible Travel: Tourism in the Caribbean

By Will Bugler

The relationship between climate change, environmental degradation and tourism is a complicated one. On the one hand, tourism can be an environmental stressor, with tourists flocking to sometimes fragile environments and the sector accounting, by some estimates, for as much as 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, tourism is often one of the most important economic drivers of climate-vulnerable nations, bringing investment to regions that has helped them to increase their overall climate resilience.

Nowhere are these tensions more apparent than in the Caribbean. With 50 million visitors per year, it is the most tourism-dependent region on earth. At the same time, the island nations that make up the Caribbean archipelago are some of the most climate-vulnerable countries on Earth.

In this episode of the Adaptation Conversation, we speak with Samantha Bray, Managing Director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), which recently published a book series exploring the relationship between coastal and marine tourism and climate change in the Caribbean.


Find the books on the CREST website by clicking here.

Cover photo by Juan Rojas on Unsplash.
Newly launched project will boost capacity of The Bahamas to access world’s largest climate fund

Newly launched project will boost capacity of The Bahamas to access world’s largest climate fund

Press release

The Bahamas’ people, economy and environment are highly vulnerable to a variable and changing climate. Research indicates that climate change impacts could cost the economy up to $500 million per year by 2025 (7 years from now). The Bahamas is also committed to pursuing a low carbon pathway. This will reduce the country’s ‘carbon footprint’, improve energy security and reduce energy costs. While preparing for such impacts and a low carbon pathway are critical, they are costly. The Green Climate Fund (known as the GCF), offers an attractive source of funding to achieve these goals. The GCF is currently capitalized at $10.3 Billion, and is the largest climate change fund in the world.

With grant funding from the GCF, the Ministry of Environment and Housing (MoEH), in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), is launching a project that aims to improve The Bahamas’ capacity and ‘readiness’ to access GCF funds. Project activities include developing operational procedures for Government to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about the GCF and how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from it; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts (which align with national priorities) for submission to the fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

The project is approximately 12 months in duration, and will follow a country-driven, participatory and inclusive approach to training and development of the pipeline. It is being delivered by a consortium led by Acclimatise, a UK and Barbados-based climate change adaptation and climate finance consultancy, including local firm SEV Consulting. By project completion, The Bahamas will have significantly increased its capacity on accessing GCF finance.

Photograph of inception workshop discussion from 13th March 2018. Photo by: Maribel Hernandez.

The project inception workshop was hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Housing, the coordinating institution for the GCF, on 13th March 2018. Representatives from government, academia, the private sector and civil society attended. Minister Romauld Ferreira provided stirring opening remarks and stressed the importance of The Bahamas taking a collaborative approach in its response to climate change.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

About Ministry of the Environment and Housing (MoEH)

The Ministry of the Environment and Housing in The Bahamas oversees projects, programmes, policies and other initiatives to maintain the integrity of the environment of The Bahamas and works to ensure sustainable development of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

About the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC):

The Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to mitigating and adapting to climate change. CCCCC sought accreditation to the GCF in 2015 to undertake and scale up both mitigation and adaptation projects across the region in order to drive a paradigm shift in the region’s development patterns.

About the Green Climate Fund

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change. GCF helps developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change. It seeks to promote a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development, taking into account the needs of nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

It was set up by the 194 countries who are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010, as part of the Convention’s financial mechanism. It aims to deliver equal amounts of funding to mitigation and adaptation, while being guided by the Convention’s principles and provisions.

CONTACTS

Dr Rhianna M. Neely-MurphyMinistry, of the Environment and Housing: rhiannaneely@bahamas.gov.bs

Cover photo by Ricardo Mangual/Flickr (CC BY 2.0); View of Nassau, The Bahamas.
Acclimatise receives 2017 CCBJ Business Achievement Award for Industry Leadership

Acclimatise receives 2017 CCBJ Business Achievement Award for Industry Leadership

The Climate Change Business Journal (CCBJ) has announced its 10th annual business achievement awards which recognise outstanding business performances in the climate change industry. This year, Acclimatise is proud to have been awarded the CCBJ Business Achievement Award for Industry Leadership.

The award reflects Acclimatise’s position as a leading consulting firm in the climate change adaptation and risk management field. The company’s CEO, John Firth said “This award reflects a lot of hard work from the Acclimatise team. The company has been working on climate resilience for more than a decade – so it is incredibly pleasing for our efforts to be recognised by a prestigious publication like the CCBJ”.

Over the last 10 years Acclimatise has worked on nearly 400 climate adaptation projects in over 70 countries. Our approach of working collaboratively with our clients, whether they be governments, development banks, major corporations, or NGOs to build lasting resilience in the face of a changing climate, has, been the secret to our success.

“From the outset Acclimatise’s mission has been to make sure the world is prepared for tomorrow’s climate” Firth said, “our clients know their businesses and industries better than anyone, our job is to help them ask questions that they’ve never thought of asking before, like, how is climate change going to affect the productivity of my workforce?”

The Industry Leadership award noted several company achievements in 2017 including the development of Acclimatise’s Analytics business providing online risk assessments to the Asian Development Bank and the European Investment Bank. Acclimatise became a leading advisor on the implementation of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. The company also worked on national adaptation plans and climate finance for several countries and became one of the eight founding members of the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Change Adaptation (GCECA), initiated by UN Environment, and the governments of the Netherlands, Japan, and the Philippines.

“This award is well deserved and long overdue,” said Jim Hight, Senior Editor of CCBJ, “Acclimatise is truly one of the key leaders in consulting and strategic advisory services for climate change risk analysis and adaptation.”

Acclimatise will continue to promote and encourage action on climate resilience holding the firm belief that adaptation is necessary to avoid the most severe climate impacts and because it provides one of the biggest financial and business opportunities of our time.


Cover photo by Rizwan Nawaz on Unsplash.
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.  
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