October 20, 2016
Building a Network of Networks: The 2016 Great Lakes Adaptation Forum
There are many climate adaptation conferences across the world, but few seek to build collaboration and a true ‘network of networks’ like GLISA’s Great Lakes Adaptation Forum. A number of themes emerged from the conference – all of which emphasized the need to act, the need to research, and the need to work together to build a resilient future in the Great Lakes region.
Adaptation practitioners came together in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a three day forum in early October that was hosted by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments Center (GLISA). The attendees at the forum were individuals from a wide array of backgrounds, including community leaders who implement projects and inspire youth, to scientists providing climate data for adaptation, and to municipal staff trying to get a handle on how to adapt, fund and lead on climate adaptation.
The forum began with a Climate 101 presentation from climatologists and scientists who spoke about the history of human development and climate change, the trends in climate indicators across the Great Lakes, and impacts already being experienced in the Great Lakes Basin as a result of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Kimberly Hill Knott from Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, one of the speakers in the opening plenary panel, had the following to say during her remarks about the importance of collaboration: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Given that the forum was hosted in the Great Lakes region, attendees learned how climate change and its impacts will manifest in a unique way. The Great Lakes themselves will alter how impacts occur and how climate trends differ locally. More specifically, it is expected that the lakes will buffer extreme temperature to some extent through their moderation effect; however, they will enhance lake-effect precipitation events.
“People don’t care about climate change. They have so many other things to deal with: putting food on the table, working two jobs. But change the conversation to where they can find cheap vegetables down the street for their kids’ lunches and you’ve got their attention. That’s climate change adaptation.”
Vel Scott (Climate Change Champion in Cleveland)
The Great Lakes Adaptation Forum, through concurrent panel sessions, working groups, training sessions and networking events sought to bring attendees together to address these unique challenges to our region. Attendees were also given the opportunity to participate and contribute to the development of research papers and tools to assist practitioners in carrying out their work across numerous sectors.
One such working group was hosted by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS). Their team presented on their tools available for natural resources and forest management (available here) and asked the working group participants to contribute ideas and willingness to review their new tool being developed in water resources and water management.
GLISA also hosted a working group on a Climate Model Ensemble they are developing for the Great Lakes region. Participants were polled regarding their climate information uses on a daily basis, their needs and their ideas for improving guidance on climate model data available online. This initiative seeks to recommend which datasets or models are best suited, based on their ability to incorporate the great lakes, for adaptation across the region. Did you know that only 5 of the global climate models (GCMs) include the Great Lakes? This working group was meant to address this by identifying additional regional climate models that could help fill this gap, and opportunities for additional engagement in the future.
In closing, the Great Lakes Adaptation Forum was a reminder that we need to act together now based on what we know, but also be ready to correct the course as science progresses to help us learn more. Another interesting takeaway was that adaptation does not always come in ‘typical forms’ when you hear about it. For example, planting gardens for healthy eating and access to greenspace was identified as an incredible case study ongoing in low income neighbourhoods of Cleveland, OH. As Vel Scott, a local climate change champion in Cleveland told me: People don’t care about climate change. They have so many other things to deal with: putting food on the table, working 2 jobs. But change the conversation to where they can find cheap vegetables down the street for their kids’ lunches and you’ve got their attention. That’s climate change adaptation.