I think my boss is crazy. Last year we spent a month developing an adaptation plan. We finished it and got it approved by the planning commission. I was pretty sure that meant we were on top of climate change but now my boss is asking “how’s it going with the adaptation work?” What more can possibly be needed? The plan was written and it’s approved. I think we’re done. Do you think that my boss has forgotten about the plan?
Climate Safe in Cincinnati
Dear Cin Safely,
We hate to break this to you, but your work has only begun. On the positive side, you are not alone. We can help you find your way through the tunnel, down the yellow brick road and over the rainbow. Let us introduce you to the Adaptation Ladder of Engagement—your roadmap to adaptation success!
Its seven deceptively simple steps will take minutes to memorize and lifetime to master.
Let’s take you on a tour, starting at the bottom. Just like ABC, Do-Re-Mi and 1,2, 3, it is a very good place to start.
Awareness – Climbing a ladder requires that you know the ladder exists and you take a first step up and on. In the case of adaptation it is an awareness that climate change affects your ability to meet your goals, either by altering the effectiveness of the tools you use or by undermining your goal itself.
Assessment – The second rung is getting a better feel for the scope of the problem. This could be anything from a general review to a formal vulnerability or risk assessment. The key is to systematically assess ways in which climate change could affect your work or other investments of time and money. How might climate change affect your ability to achieve your goals? Will climate change make your strategy less effective?
Planning – Use knowledge of your vulnerabilities as an inspiration to develop a strategy rather than an excuse to sit around wringing your hands! Rung three moves you from pondering the problem to identifying solutions. Based on the risks or opportunities identified in Rung 2, what you can do to reduce your vulnerability and increase your likelihood of better long-term outcomes?
Implementation – It is not enough to have a plan. The next rung is to put your plan into action, whether that’s actually implementing new laws and regulations or making actual adjustments to existing processes and activities. Just like the emergency maps on the wall in public buildings, adaptation plans are only effective if you jump to your feet and get the fire extinguisher, pull the alarm, or get out of the burning building.
Monitoring – Fail early, fail often, learn quickly. Learning requires monitoring and evaluation in order to determine what’s working and what isn’t. We need lessons learned NOW to improve adaptation practice and achieve the best possible outcomes for the future. Integrate project monitoring and evaluation throughout your work to limit wasted time and effort.
Integration – Adapting to climate change is not a one-time action. It’s a process of integrating climate-savvy thinking into the way you approach your work. The sixth rung of the adaptation ladder may be formal adaptive management programs or it may simply be consciously surfing the uncertainty wave.
Sharing – It is great to build internal capacity and resilience, but our chances of long-term success are increased if we share with and learn from others. The larger we make the adaptation community, the easier it becomes to make it part of our own work.
You made it to the 3rd rung (Planning): Congratulations! While this did necessitate you stepping on the 1st rung (Awareness) you did not necessarily stop at the 2nd rung (Assessment) and assess vulnerability. So your next step is not entirely clear. In fact you may start some kind of fancy two-step in which you put one foot down to the 3rd rung and check in on the potential vulnerability of the goals and activities your plan was meant to address, as well as the vulnerability of the Adaptation Plan itself. With the other foot you should step up to the 4th rung and start thinking about implementation. Ideally your Adaptation Plan was developed with some consideration of the how and the who of making it happen. In the process of implementation you’d be well served to include some approaches for the 5th rung (monitoring) so when the time comes, you know whether or not your actions are working.
Take a deep breath. The Mavens are not here to overwhelm you. Rather we are here to serve as your spirit guides or road trip buddies on your path to adaptation enlightenment.
So take advantage of the bright spring days and get your plan off the page and into action. Feel free to take in a Cincinnati Reds baseball game while you work on it. While you’re there, start thinking about an adaptation strategy for the players who use wooden bats.
Apparently the bats made by your neighbors over in Louisville use wood from trees that are also vulnerable to climate change. We're sure the home team will be happy to commiserate about the challenges of climate change during the 7th inning stretch. Which is great because the 7th rung of the ladder is Sharing!
Adaptation Mavens. (2014, May). Batter Up! [Web column]. Retrieved from CAKE (http://cakex.org/community/advice/batter)