By George Harvey
The beginning of April saw a Climate Change Preparedness Conference in Baltimore. It was put on by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience (CCPCR) at Antioch University New England (AUNE). It served EPA regions 1 through 4, which include the eastern United States. It was held in Baltimore, partly because that city is central to the regions and because of the city’s focused leadership on climate adaptation and community resilience initiatives.
This was not a trade show, full of talk new technology and innovation. It was largely about the human side of things. It focused on the need for reaching out to local people and planning for local resilience. It concerned itself not only with care for the environment, but for local values and history. It dealt with issues ranging from motivating ordinary people to planning how to deal with the traumas widespread destruction associated with climate change will produce. This conference was about being ready where it matters, at the local level.
When Abi Abrash Walton, one of the conference organizers for CCPCR, spoke about its purpose, she said, “The goal was to deliver a strong human resource capacity, building programming for local leadership and decision makers, at the level of watersheds, regions, counties, and municipalities.” The words “capacity-building programming” were not used in relation to infrastructure, but as it applies to the abilities of local leadership to deal with the issues relating to climate change and resilience.
One keynote speaker was Dr. Mark Jacobson, of Stanford University. In recent years, he has developed a number of modeling tools that give guidance on how we can achieve, at levels ranging from local to international, complete independence from fossil fuels. Part of the good news Dr. Jacobson delivers rather consistently, is that we can reach this goal. Another part of the good news is that we will see benefits far beyond the costs.
There were a number of interesting sessions and workshops given. One was “Implementing a climate resilience program: A practical approach.” It was facilitated by David Herring of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office and Latham Stack, of Syntectic International. In its first part, participants went through a five-step Climate Resilience Toolkit in some detail. The toolkit is available online at toolkit.climate.gov.
The second part of the same workship was “Sources and Use of Downscaled Climate Data to Support Infrastructure Adaptation.” It addressed a real need for local leaders and decision makers to understand the effects of the overall trends of climate change as they play out in the local environment.
Some titles are really self explanatory, such as “Business Continuity: In the Face of Extreme Weather.” In other cases, we can see the importance and guess the contents of the “Education Summit,” merely by observing the name of the keynote speaker, Bill McKibben.
The CCPCR has a conference on climate change and resilience every two years. For those who “just can’t wait,” we have some really good news. There are webinars through most of the year about every six to eight weeks, though there will be a delay until September, as the CCPCR staff busies itself with some intense summer chores. The webinars can be found online at bit.ly/ccpcr-webinars.
Abi Abrash Walton stressed some points for local leadership and why it has special need for training, People need to feel that they are heard and that they can trust the process. “Change is never easy,” she said, “The leadership dimension is essential.”