~ Design or Reform Institutions

An important facet of capacity building as an adaptation strategy is ensuring that institutional support is sufficient and appropriate to address the widespread effects of global climate change at multiple scales. This strategy includes:


Create New Institutions

This strategy includes creating new institutions, such as committees, working groups, or advisory bodies, that can develop, guide, and implement adaptation activities. At the federal level, action is being taken that may enhance adaptation efforts in the Great Lakes region. For example, the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force was created to provide national adaptation recommendations in order to support federal agency action. The Task Force created working groups to develop adaptation strategies related to different sectors.82 For example, the Water Resources Adaptation working group, comprised of federal representatives from the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), developed the 2011 National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate.83 This plan includes six priority recommendations to improve and guide federally-coordinated freshwater conservation and management in light of climate change:

  • Create a planning process for water resources management adaptation
  • Improve information access to support decision making
  • Assess vulnerability of water resources
  • Improve water use efficiency
  • Support Integrated Water Resources Management
  • Increase training and outreach efforts.

This strategy is also being applied in multiple Great Lakes states and cities. In Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and the City of Chicago, working groups have been created to organize climate research and adaptation strategy development. The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) was created to support the efforts of multiple stakeholders charged with identifying vulnerabilities and developing adaptation strategies. WICCI is supported by a Science Council, an Operations and Outreach unit, an Advisory Committee, and Working Groups. The Working Groups were created to assess impacts on specific sectors or geographies and to develop adaptation recommendations; the groups include those focused on Adaptation, Agriculture, Central Sands Hydrology, Climate, Coastal Communities, Coldwater Fish and Fisheries, Forestry, Green Bay, Human Health, Milwaukee, Plants and Natural Communities, Soil Conservation, Stormwater, Water Resources, and Wildlife.84

The Michigan Climate Coalition, a public-private partnership modeled after the WICCI, has also formed sector-specific subgroups that organize climate change activities, research, and initiatives around agriculture, coasts, education, energy, forests, health, inland waters, municipalities, planning, and wildlife. The Coalition organizes conferences and symposiums at an annual or more frequent basis to facilitate communication and information sharing between the working groups. The subgroups summarize and translate climate-related work being done on their particular sector, identify where there are gaps in knowledge, identify opportunities for collaboration, and work to bring together people that otherwise would not have an opportunity to connect.85

The Pennsylvania Climate Change Advisory Committee created four sector-specific working groups to develop adaptation strategies; each group – Infrastructure, Public Health and Safety, Natural Resources, and Tourism and Outdoor Recreation – was led by two to three co-chairs representing governmental and non-governmental interests. The groups worked individually to identify sector-specific impacts and develop adaptation strategies.86 Finally, the City of Chicago created an Adaptation Advisory Group to provide high-level aid and guidance for the city’s adaptation efforts, including implementation, monitoring success, and communications.87

Non-governmental organizations have also been active in creating institutions to provide technical assistance and support for adaptation planning. The Center for Clean Air Policy created the Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative in order to serve as a resource for local governments looking to develop and implement climate-resilient strategies dealing with land use and infrastructure; three cities in the Great Lakes are current partners, including Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Chicago (Illinois), and Toronto (Ontario).88 In Quebec, Ouranos, a non-profit consortium of 400 scientists and other practitioners, was created to support the “[acquisition] and [development of] knowledge on climate change, its impact, and related socioeconomic and environmental vulnerabilities, in order to inform decision makers about probable climate trends and advise them on identifying, assessing, promoting, and implementing local and regional adaptation strategies.”89


Increase Organizational Capacity

Adequate internal organizational capacity is needed in order for adaptation strategies to be planned and implemented appropriately. This strategy includes enhancing internal institutional knowledge by training staff and developing or obtaining resources so that climate change can be understood and institutionalized within an organization’s day-to-day practices.

Training Staff

Governmental and non-governmental organizations in the Great Lakes region have invested in staff training. Some of these trainings have been facilitated by other groups; for example, the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan, sent a team to the Institute for Sustainable Communities’ Climate Leadership Academy for training to help identify relevant mitigation and adaptation tools and resources to support staff in understanding how climate change could affect the programs they manage.90

Other trainings have been created by individual organizations to support internal efforts. New York Sea Grant held a Climate Change Literacy Workshop for Extension Educators in August 2010 with funding through the Sea Grant Coastal Climate Change Adaptation Initiative. Forty participants, including Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York and Lake Champlain Sea Grant Extension, and National Weather Service staff, attended the meeting where sessions focused on how extension educators can communicate climate science to different audiences.91

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network provided a “train the trainer” workshop during its Annual Meeting in October 2012 to train its outreach/extension educators on climate change impacts and adaptation planning.92 The Chicago Wilderness Climate Change Task Force is creating climate clinics, which are aimed at building the internal capacity of member organizations to implement measures recommended in the Climate Action Plan for Nature.93 Finally, Chippewa National Forest hosted a training workshop for all staff in March 2011 on climate change impacts and adaptation responses on forests and grasslands94; this workshop was developed as an extension of the U.S. Forest Service Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science’s Training in Advanced Climate Change Topics (TACCT) series. TACCT is a one-week course for natural resource practitioners that “provides advanced instruction on climate change science, concepts, and strategies for managing ecosystems for an uncertain future.”95

In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created three training modules that cover projected climate impacts, adaptation planning options, and tools aimed at educating regional organizations looking to incorporate climate change into their work. The first module presents an overview of predicted climate change impacts in the Great Lakes region and is designed to assist local decision makers in understanding the potential range of variability in climate change predictions and how they are likely to impact local communities. The second module presents a planning process to help communities conceptualize the effects of regional climate change predictions so they can assess their vulnerabilities, and describes strategies for stormwater management, drought, infrastructure, ecosystems, and urban heat. The third module highlights tools that have been developed to assist local communities with assessing climate change vulnerability and adaptation planning. The modules can be tailored towards specific communities and may be administered by Sea Grant Extension Staff or downloaded for personal use.96

Resource Development & Acquisition

NOAA funded a Great Lakes supplement to the report, Adapting to Climate Change: A Planning Guide for State Coastal Managers, which was created to help coastal managers develop and implement adaptation strategies and plans.97 The supplemental report was produced to provide more specific information on impacts on and guidance for the Great Lakes region, including case studies of climate change activities underway.98


Coordinate Planning & Management

The effects of climate change will be felt at multiple scales and across jurisdictions and boundaries. Cross-jurisdictional and sectoral coordination can enhance adaptation planning and implementation. This strategy includes both informal and formal mechanisms; for example, enhancing information sharing and communications on one side and establishing partnerships to share resources on the other.

Regional coordination efforts are strong in the Great Lakes. For example, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative involves a great deal of coordination at the federal level. The members of the Initiative’s Task Force include the CEQ, Department of Agriculture (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service), Department of Commerce (NOAA), Department of Defense (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), Department of Health and Human Services (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Coast Guard), Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of the Interior (Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fish and Wildlife Service, Geological Survey, National Park Service), Department of State, Department of Transportation (Federal Highway Administration, Maritime Administration), and the EPA.99 Working together, this collaborative Task Force prioritizes and administers grants for restoration projects in the region.

Two other federally-funded efforts are the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) and the U.S. Forest Service’s Climate Change Response Framework. GLISA is a collaboration of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and Michigan Sea Grant. It is comprised of leading climatologists, social scientists, and outreach specialists working to bridge the gap between producers and users of scientific information. Specific goals of GLISA include:

  1. Developing an integrated network of stakeholders that will contribute to production of policy and usable science
  2. Conducting scientific research to address gaps in current knowledge
  3. Compiling, synthesizing, and comparing existing climate knowledge in the region and developing new approaches to enhance usability
  4. Developing best practices for the use of climate projections in impact analyses and decision making

The GLISA website provides numerous resources including climate change education materials, news and events, current research projects, decision support tools, and funding opportunities. The group focuses on adaptation to climate change and variability for regional sectors, such as agriculture, watershed management, urban management, and natural resource-based tourism in the watersheds of Lake Huron and Lake Erie.100

The U.S. Forest Service has created the Climate Change Response Framework, a highly collaborative approach that helps land managers understand the potential effects of climate change on forest ecosystems and integrate climate change considerations into management. The Framework is being applied in three regions – Northwoods (northern areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan), Central Appalachians (eastern Ohio, the eastern panhandle of Maryland and West Virginia), and Central Hardwoods (southern areas of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana). The Framework stretches across forestlands owned and managed by private individuals, forest industries, tribes, and state, local, and federal agencies. It includes vulnerability assessments for forest ecosystems and guidance on how the assessment results can be used to develop adaptation strategies within current decision-making and planning processes.

As part of the Northwoods Framework, a collection of resources was compiled for northern Wisconsin forest managers to help them incorporate climate change considerations into management and devise adaptation strategies. The resources included a description of the overarching Framework, a menu of adaptation strategies and approaches directly relevant to forests in northern Wisconsin, a workbook process to help incorporate climate change considerations into forest management planning and develop adaptation strategies, and examples of how these resources can be used in real-world situations.101

Tribes and states are also working to coordinate regional efforts. The Manajiwin Project, funded by the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative, is a collaboration between university scientists (University of Michigan, Lakehead University, Michigan State University, University of Toronto), tribes (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Anishinabek Nation), The Nature Conservancy, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. The project is aimed at improving tribal and First Nation engagement in cooperative natural resource conservation efforts under changing climate conditions. Tribal and First Nation representatives are collaborating with scientists and managers to develop principles respective of tribal values and traditional ecological knowledge that can be incorporated into regional resource conservation frameworks, and assess climate and land use planning initiatives and projects being implemented by tribes and First Nations in the Great Lakes.102 At the state level, the Michigan and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on climate change adaptation and science.text

82 Gregg, R. M. (2010). Creating a National Adaptation Strategy for the United States: The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force [Case study on a project of the White House Council on Environmental Quality]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

83 Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. (2011). National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate. Washington, DC: Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.

84 Gregg, R. M. (2012). Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts: A Bottom-Up Approach to Developing Climate Change Adaptation Strategies [Case study on a project of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

85 Kershner, J. M. (2012). The Michigan Climate Coalition: Enhancing Networking and Collaboration, Communication and Action Around Climate Change in Michigan [Case study on the Michigan Climate Coalition]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

86 Gregg, R. M. (2012). Climate Change Adaptation Planning at the State Level in Pennsylvania [Case study on a project of the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

87 Gregg, R. M. & Hitt, J. L. (2012). A Roadmap for Action: The Chicago Climate Action Plan [Case study on a project of the City of Chicago]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

88 Center for Clean Air Policy. Urban Climate Adaptation.

89 Ouranos

90 Kershner, J. M. (2012). Climate Adaptation in the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan [Case study on a project of the City of Ann Arbor]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

91 Dunn, K.L. (2010). NYSG Hosts Climate Science Workshop for Educators. New York Coastlines, Fall 2010.

92 Personal communication with H. Stirratt, NOAA, September 2012.

93 Feifel, K. M. (2012). The Chicago Wilderness Climate Action Plan for Nature [Case study on a project of the Chicago Wilderness]. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

94 Rickers, M. (2011). Chippewa National Forest Hosts All-Employee Climate Change Workshop.

95 Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science.

96 Feifel, K. M. & Hitt, J. L. (2012). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Climate Initiatives [Case study on projects of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012).

97 NOAA. (2010). Adapting to Climate Change: A Planning Guide for State Coastal Managers. NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

98 Feifel & Hitt 2012: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Climate Initiatives

99 Gregg, R. M. (2012). Great Lakes Restoration Initiative [Case study on a project of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

100 Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments

101 Kershner, J. M. (2012). The Climate Change Response Framework: Supporting Climate-Smart Conservation and Forest Management in the Great Lakes Region [Case study on a project of the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program (Last updated October 2012)

102 Manajiwin Project

103 Memorandum of Understanding Between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to Establish and Implement a Partnership for Climate Change Adaptation.