Geos Institute helps communities build resilience in the face of climate change

Author: Christina Mills

Media Release: Climate Resilience Organizations Call for a Nationwide System of Climate Resilience Services and Offer Assistance to the Federal Government

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Tonya Graham – Geos Institute – 541.778.0718/tonya@geosinstitute.org
Kathy Jacobs – Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, University of  Arizona – 520.405.7395/jacobsk@arizona.edu
Lara Hansen – EcoAdapt – 206.201.3834/Lara@EcoAdapt.org
Richard Moss – Climate for Science Action Network – 202.468.5441/rmoss@climateassessment.org
Beth Gibbons – American Society of Adaptation Professionals – 202.904.9946/bgibbons@adaptpros.org  

September 9, 2021 – Today, over 40 climate resilience organizations called on the federal government to develop a nationwide system of climate resilience services to help communities reduce emissions and build resilience to accelerating climate impacts, such as extreme heat, flooding, sea level rise, drought, and wildfire. Many more communities need to take action if the U.S. intends to meet its climate goals. 

The statement outlines 10 principles for such a system to ensure that it is an effective investment that moves the U.S. toward its climate goals. Signers are offering to assist the Biden Administration, Congress, and federal agencies in developing this system so that communities can find the information and assistance they need to address the climate crisis.

“Communities are facing the brunt of climate change – and in too many places, they have nowhere to turn for affordable, locally relevant assistance. Strategic investment by the federal government can lift a nationwide climate services system that integrates the data, tools, resources, and experts communities need to take meaningful action. – Tonya Graham, Geos Institute

“Congress urgently needs to support state and local decision makers by authorizing and funding a federally supported national system for climate resilience services. While state governments, academia, and nonprofit organizations have stepped in to fill the void created by four years of inaction, the federal government needs to strengthen and build on that capacity to close the gap between our climate goals and our current progress.”  Richard Moss, Science for Climate Action Network

“Under-resourced communities are falling behind everyday in the race to address local climate impacts and transform their energy systems. A nationwide system that offers climate planning support to all communities, regardless of size or affluence, will go a long way toward helping the Biden Administration fulfill its climate, social equity, and racial justice commitments.” Lara Hansen, EcoAdapt

“Climate adaptation and resilience practitioners have been working for years to determine the best way to scale up and deliver the climate services needed to meet the challenge of the climate crisis. We are ready to help the administration and Congress turn its climate resilience vision into reality.” Beth Gibbons, American Society of Adaptation Professionals 

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IPCC’s latest climate report delivers an odd inspiration

You may have seen the International Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report on the state of our climate. If not, I don’t recommend it. As with all IPCC reports, it is scientifically precise, but not what you would call a good read. And there is a fair bit of depressing news, as there always is in climate science reports.

Here’s their summary: “Scenarios with low or very low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (SSP1-1.9 and SSP1- 2.6) lead within years to discernible effects on greenhouse gas and aerosol concentrations, and air quality, relative to high and very high GHG emissions scenarios (SSP3-7.0 or SSP5-8.5). Under these contrasting scenarios, discernible differences in trends of global surface temperature would begin to emerge from natural variability within around 20 years, and over longer time periods for many other climatic impact-drivers (high confidence).”

Essentially, it says what we already know: aggressive action on climate is needed in the near term. We have until 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 50%.

It’s also telling us something critically important: we will see a difference in surface temperatures within 20 years depending on which path we take.

Tonya with arms around two of her children. They are facing the camera and standing among a variety of plants.We are now deep enough into the climate crisis where we, and our children, will experience different futures based on decisions we make today and over the next few years.

Here at the Geos Institute, we are working to address the reality of the climate crisis by establishing a system of climate services to help communities do their part nationwide.

Our research of all fifty states is almost complete. What have we found? Climate action is happening in all states, even in those where state government has abdicated its responsibility. In those cases, civic organizations and academic institutions have stepped up to the plate. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our state summaries. We will use this information to encourage federal investments that support and build on what is already happening on the ground.

I find inspiration in the IPCC report precisely because it is telling us that we will see a different future based on how we respond. We have the power now to create the future we want. Something about that timeline kicks us out of thoughts of the “future” being far away and fuzzy.

The future is not far away and fuzzy. No. The future is in our lifetimes. At the Geos Institute, we are leaning in hard to make sure that we hit the necessary climate targets while building resilience in the face of the impacts along the way. Thank you for supporting our work and for all you are doing to lean in too.

A real opportunity to build a nationwide system of climate services

At long last, we are beginning to see investment from the federal government to help communities build climate resilience. The Biden Administration’s commitment to both climate and equity is seen in the recent funding opportunity released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This funding is likely to total $4 million with investment potentially tripling starting in year two of the four year program. For those of us who held on through four years of the Trump Administration followed by a year of COVID, during which local government resilience efforts largely ground to a halt, this new program is welcome news!

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British Columbia poised to lose ‘white rhino of old growth forests’

In the public imagination, British Columbia is swathed in green and famous for its towering old growth forests. But while the provincial government says 23% of BC’s forests are old growth, a new study finds that a mere 1% remains with tall trees.

Intense pressure is now being put on the remaining trees by a forestry industry eager to capitalize on nations desperate for new “carbon neutral” sources of energy, including the revamping of coal-fired power plants to burn wood pellets.

A lot is riding ecologically on whatever policy decisions are eventually enacted in BC.

Dominick DellaSala is president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute in Oregon. He specializes in studying rare ecosystems globally and says of BC’s temperate, old growth forests: “From my research, there are only two other regions on earth like it — southeast Russia and Siberia. These forests are important and rare. They have the highest richness of lichens of any place in the world, a main food source for the mountain caribou, which is circling the extinction drain. Some trees are estimated to be 1,600 years old. And they are being wasted by logging.”

DellaSala underlined the fact that old growth forests are a large, stable source of carbon: “If we are going to fight climate change, we need to get off fossil fuels and hang onto on our remaining primary forests.”

Read the complete article by Justin Catanoso published on 22 June 2020 at Mongabay

“Justice is what love looks like in public”

A message from Tonya Graham, Geos Institute Executive Director

Cornel West, author of Race Matters, reminds us to “never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

Here at the Geos Institute, we talk often about the larger forces at work in the climate crisis and the need to bank hard toward collaboration, courage, and trust – and away from isolation, fear, and violence – as we face increasing disruptions that harm our communities, economies, and ecosystems.

It can be all too easy in this work to imagine that we are starting from a place where people feel safe and experience climate disruptions from a foundation of trust – that is, it can be easy for those of us who are white.

Many of us working on climate change have drawn comparisons between the global COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis, calling COVID-19 a “dry run” for the climate crisis. If that is the case, and there is good reason to believe it is, this moment is instructive and we must do our part to ensure that it is actually a turning point.

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Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

By Marc Heller, (E&E News, May 19, 2020)

A future coronavirus aid package in Congress might become the next battleground in a fight over forest policy.

The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.

Leading the latest effort is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced a broad package he said would give forest communities an economic boost while providing wildfire crews protection from the spreading virus (E&E Daily, May 12).

Sensing that a big appropriations bill could give logging advocates an opportunity, a group of scientists skeptical of the industry wrote to key federal lawmakers last week, urging them to refrain from putting pro-logging measures into any upcoming legislation, including on climate change. Continue reading

Bringing the Earth into Balance in Times of Crisis – Locus Focus Interview

On Monday May 11, Dominick DellaSala, lead scientist with the Geo Institute in Ashland, Oregon, talks with Locus Focus. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a brutal reminder of how out of balance our planet has become. Decades of explosive human population growth and an increasingly mobile population have put us in close contact, squeezed natural habitats, and forced wild animals to occupy cities or perish. These factors play a significant role in causing and spreading pandemics, like the one that is now shutting down the world.

We’ll discuss how confined animal feed operations, poaching, overhunting, and consumption of wild animals as food or trade can also spark novel virues to jump from other wild species to humans—which is what has happened with COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic is a distress signal coming to us from imperiled ecosystems and wildlife; it is not a one-off event. The best gift we could give not just our planet but ourselves is to start viewing strong environmental policy as preventive medicine.

Listen online: https://www.kboo.fm/media/80521-bringing-earth-balance-times-crisis

Related Articles

B.C. says firms can chop down whole trees for pellet fuel if they are ‘inferior’

By Carl Meyer
Canada’s National Observer
Published April 30th 2020

Companies can cut down whole trees to be ground into pellets for fuel if they are “inferior,” says British Columbia’s natural resources ministry, a position that has led to concerns the government is “rebranding” old growth forests as low-quality in order to justify logging them.

B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told National Observer on April 27 that “timber harvesting has evolved over time” and that the industry is now focusing on sending “high-quality” lumber to sawmills.

Other whole trees, the ministry said, can get sent to plants that manufacture wood pellets, a type of biomass fuel that is burned for heating or electricity and is made by compacting together wood material. Keep reading.

Public Health Depends on a Healthy Planet

Zoonotic diseases like Covid-19 are a classic example of where ecosystems and human health intersect.

By Dominick A. DellaSala, William J. Ripple, and Franz Baumann
Published Monday April 20, 2020 at The New Republic (read auf Deutsch)

The butterfly effect is a thought experiment about how a small change in a system—a butterfly flapping its wings—can ripple through complex, interconnected systems, eventually cascading into larger events, like a tornado in Oklahoma. Despite having been popularized by the 1993 Jurassic Park movie, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.

While there’s uncertainty about how the novel coronavirus originally infected people, it might have started as viral spillover (transfer) from bats or other wild animals. One emerging hypothesis based on DNA evidence is that, because of natural habitat destruction, horseshoe bats in China were forced into cities. Under increased stress, the bats shed viruses that were picked up by people and perhaps other animals in an early infection cluster. Alarmingly, some 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases worldwide are exchanged between humans and wild animals. Think West Nile, Lyme, Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Zika. The deadly Ebola outbreak has been linked to deforestation in Africa and to virus spillover from consumption of primates or bats that places hunters, consumers, and wildlife at risk.

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