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There’s a lot of hype about adaptation these days, but just what is it? A hot new funding source? A requirement to change everything about your work? Just another buzzword of the day to apply to what you already do? Faced with all this, you’d be forgiven for wanting to throw your hands in the air and give up. But we’re here to tell you that there’s no reason to panic.
If you live in an earthquake zone, you want houses that meet minimum earthquake safety standards, municipal plans that incorporate the reality of earthquake risks, established earthquake response plans, and other measures to minimize the vulnerability of your community to earthquakes. Same if you live in a hurricane zone, or a flood zone: you want to minimize the vulnerability of the people, places, and systems you care about to known risks.
The fact is, we all live in a climate change zone now. Adaptation is how we minimize vulnerability to climate change. And while meeting the challenges of climate change on a global scale may be a big task, meeting the challenges of climate change at the scale of your own work is something you can do. Do you regulate pollutants? Run a fishing business? Make land-use or land acquisition decisions? Great—you can build climate change into the decisions you make, just as you build other risks and realities into them already.
The Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) is meant to help you navigate the world of adaptation, find the resources you need to take action and introduce you to others in the community so you can share ideas and build even better options.
Climate Change Basics
Some people who are learning about adaptation are also starting to learn about climate change. While the nature of climate change (and of the natural world in general) means that we are perpetually learning new things, there are some great resources on the basics of climate change science that can get you started.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency Climate Change site
- United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Services
- General: http://www.climate.gov/
- Climate Literacy: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/literacy.html
- Understanding Climate Change: http://www.climate.gov/#understandingClimate
- Government of Canada Action on Climate Change site
- Government of Mexico Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)
- For the more serious student, check out:
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, including the Assessment Reports and the more targeted Technical Reports and Special Reports http://www.ipcc.ch/#
- And a steadily growing body of scientific literature, the scientific journal Nature provides a regular synopsis of the latest science through their service “Nature Reports Climate Change” http://www.nature.com/climate/index.html
You can find several excellent overviews of climate change adaptation approaches in the CAKE library. Here we give you our own highly abbreviated quick-start guide.
Step One: Admit you have a problem
Yes, Houston, there is a problem. Climate change is happening and it is affecting the world around us. For those of us who live and work in this world it means that resources we rely on or are charged with managing or protecting are not going to be behaving as we’ve come to expect them to.
This means we need to broaden our perspective enough to recognize what’s changing and to consider how to respond to and prepare for it in order to achieve our desired outcomes—for conservation, resource management or development. Ignoring climate change in informed decision-making does not prevent it from adversely affecting you. Rather it increases your vulnerability and will likely result in missed opportunities to avoid calamity and improve outcomes.
Step Two: Engage and learn.
You are not alone, and you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Check out what resources are already out there:
Case studies: Find out what other people are already doing on the ground in systems similar to yours or in response to climate change challenges similar to yours. You can almost certainly learn something from the efforts of others, saving yourself some time in the process.
Virtual Library: There are heaps of reports, books, articles, videos, presentations, and more about climate change adaptation. We’ve amassed a lot of them right here so you can find what you need quickly.
Directory: Sometimes you just want to talk with someone. You may want to find someone in a position like yours who faces similar challenges or you may just want to hire someone to help you. Either way, you can track someone or an organization down the directory.
Tools: There are tools to help you visualize the effects of sea level rise, tools to help build climate change into watershed planning, tools to help with downscaled climate models, and a host of other useful tools for finding information, learning about the effects of climate change, and integrating climate change into your work.
Step Three: Do something about it
You don’t have to identify and solve all the problems climate change may bring or become a climate change specialist. Focus on your goals and what it is you (or your organization) does, and build climate change into that. It’s not rocket science, but it does require that you learn enough (or get the right partners) to do it wisely and thoughtfully. It’s a good idea to:
Question your assumptions. Do a quick assessment of why and how you arrived at your current goals, objectives, and approaches to doing things. Does climate change affect your thinking?
Convene partners. You don’t want to do this alone.
Develop a process. Successful adaptation strategies are as much about getting all the relevant parties on board as it is about coming up with good ideas and making the right decisions.
Develop a plan. We must certainly take action to reduce our vulnerability to climate change, but doing so without some thoughtful planning is unlikely to lead to the best results. And if you don’t have a plan, it’s harder to improve it as you go along.
Implement it! The best plan in the world won’t amount to much if you don’t put it into action. You won’t get everything right, but you’ll get more right by acting and adjusting than by sitting around wondering about it.
Step Four: Learn while you act
You’re not done yet! Adaptation is iterative. The climate will keep changing for decades, centuries, even millennia, and our understanding of how best to incorporate it into our work at all levels will also evolve and mature over time. Things that work in today’s climate may not work in the future’s, and what seems like a best practice based on existing knowledge may need to be adjusted as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t to achieve our goals. Monitoring climate change, its effects, and the efficacy of our actions, and using an adaptive framework to modify actions as necessary, is essential. We will keep revisiting Step Three (Do something about it) as we keep learning, talking and innovating. This is similar to the instructions on a shampoo bottle: lather, rinse, repeat with modification forever!
Step Five: Share what you have learned
Talk to your colleagues about what you do and why it’s important. Tell people what worked, what didn’t work, what resources were valuable, how you made it through your most despairing moments…Creating and participating in communities of practice provides support and ideas that can enrich our work.
Reinvest in CAKE!
- Join CAKE and sign up for our monthly newsletter Slice of CAKE.
- Use the community section
- Read the Adaptation Mavens’ monthly advice column or ask the experts your own question.
- Submit a Case Study or recommend a Virtual Library item, a Directory entry, or a Tool.
- Comment on and rate items throughout CAKE.
- Participate in the Discussion Forum.
- Tell your friends and colleagues about CAKE!
- Donate to CAKE!
Adaptation Mavens. (2010). Don't Panic. Retrieved from CAKE (http://www.cakex.org/community/don't-panic).