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

From the Executive Director

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

For Immediate Release

Tonya Graham – Geos Institute – 541.778.0718/
Kathy Jacobs – Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, University of  Arizona – 520.405.7395/
Lara Hansen – EcoAdapt – 206.201.3834/
Richard Moss – Climate for Science Action Network – 202.468.5441/
Beth Gibbons – American Society of Adaptation Professionals – 202.904.9946/  

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.

IPCC’s latest climate report delivers an odd inspiration

From the August 2021 Cornerstone Network Email

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.

A real opportunity to build a nationwide system of climate services

From the July 2021 Cornerstone Network Email

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!

On fireworks, climate change, and the 4th of July

From the June/July 2021 Cornerstone Network email

I have been struck lately by how fast our world is changing.

Here in southern Oregon, our county commissioners have declared a drought emergency for the second year. Our drought last year set up the conditions that led to the devastating Almeda fire. It killed three people and destroyed 2,400 homes and 100 businesses last September. And left thousands homeless in what had already been a tight housing market.

Now here we are in similar conditions in the early days of the 2021 fire season. This past May was the driest May in 127 years. With reservoirs at historic lows, farmers are facing a very short irrigation season and residents are encouraged to conserve water.

Then the heat dome rolled in on top of us, taking temperatures in southern Oregon to 115 degrees F. Communities scrambled for cooling shelters as the first wisps of smoke from a fire in northern California crept over the mountains.

Let’s keep pulling on the part of the rope we can touch

From the May 2021 Cornerstone Network email

Earlier this week I served on a panel at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM’s) workshop: “Motivating Local Action to Address Climate Impacts and Build Resilience.” Our panel focused on “Reactive and Proactive Local Actions and Data Translation for Decision Makers.”

A lot of words, and wonky titles, but the conversation was fascinating, and I was glad to participate. It reminded me, once again, that climate resilience work is happening on many fronts and from many different perspectives.

On the road to a Climate Ready America

From the April 2021 Cornerstone Network email

As you know, our focus has been ensuring that all communities, no matter their size or affluence, can get the high-quality climate planning help they need.

The Biden Administration’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis is opening several doors for us. Doors that we couldn’t have even dreamed possible at this time last year.

But what we still need is a nationwide system of climate services. Local leaders need help to address both the causes and impacts of the climate crisis. They need a system that helps them move toward climate solutions that are good for all people and the environment.

El Paso gets it right – building climate resilience to extreme events

From the March 2021 Cornerstone Network email

In the world of climate resilience, we measure the bad things that don’t happen, which is not always (or even mostly) an easy feat.

But today I’m happy to share with you an important example of what happens when a community gets it right in their efforts to build climate resilience.

View of El PasoThis month we watched a slow-moving tragedy unfold across Texas as a deep freeze covered the state causing malfunctions at power plants right as demand was surging due to the extreme cold.

Most of Texas is one power grid, which they set up intentionally to avoid federal regulations in the 1930s. But El Paso is on a different grid, one that crosses state boundaries and allows them to call on a larger power grid in emergencies like this. Which is exactly what they did with this deep freeze.

Funder for a day

dwpp logo teal

From the February 2021 Cornerstone Network email

I want to share with you one of my favorite things about being the Executive Director of the Geos Institute. It’s the day I get to help select the winners of Drinking Water Providers Partnership grants.

In the fall of each year, we work with our partners in the Drinking Water Providers Partnership to issue a call for proposals for projects that restore watersheds that provide drinking water for communities in Oregon and Washington. Applicants are partnerships that include local water utilities, federal agencies, and often, local watershed councils. Proposals are required to show how the project will improve both drinking water sources and native fish habitat.

Applications arrive by early January and then the fun begins! Each of the partner organizations assigns a representative to review and score the applications. Then we meet to discuss the merits of each proposal and come up with the final list of grant awards. I’m fortunate to represent Geos Institute in this process.

The Biden Administration has hit the ground running in addressing the climate crisis

From the January 2021 Cornerstone Network email

Yesterday, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis Here and Abroad. This order comes on the heels of others to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement, to pull the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and a presidential memorandum that protects government scientists from political interference. 

Earlier this week, the administration announced an effort to free up roughly $10 billion at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to protect against climate disasters.  

It is most definitely a firehose of federal climate action, but a welcome one. Given the events of the past several weeks at the Capitol and across our nation, these aggressive and early moves to address the climate crisis are sweet music to our ears. Especially those of us who have been staring down the climate crisis without the support of our federal government for the past four years.  
For the first time ever, the US is taking a “whole of government” approach. It is badly needed given the lateness of the hour and the transformational change required to meet the climate challenge.

New opportunities for Geos Institute in 2021

What a difference a day makes. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until I started to breathe again after the November election.

The last four years have been hard – and the pandemic has put an exclamation point on these last 9 months.

We still have a ways to go before we can hug friends and family, dance together, do our grocery shopping without masks, and stop worrying so much about our loved ones who are at high risk. But the light is visible at the end of the tunnel and it is time to prepare for how we emerge from this global challenge.

Here at Geos, we are focused on the incoming administration and how it can create a nationwide system of climate resilience support services. We want every community, no matter its size or wealth, to meet the challenge of the climate crisis – and do it in ways that are ecologically sound and socially equitable.

We’ve been talking with congressional staff, agency representatives, and allied organizations about how to get this done so that action can be taken on a scale that matches the need. The response has been so positive that our excitement just continues to build as we enter the new year!

Supporting community leaders in facing both the causes and impacts of climate change hasn’t been easy during the Trump administration. Funding has been difficult (to say the least) and the pandemic only made it worse.

We are still dealing with that reality, but we are excited by what the future holds for Geos and for the work we do to help local leaders protect their people and the environment in the face of the climate crisis.

Thank you so much for your generous and consistent support of this critically important work. Knowing we have so many individual supporters who believe in our work and are willing to invest in a vibrant climate future has made all the difference as we have weathered the Trump storms.  

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