As with the best exchanges of ideas in higher education, the bi-annual National Adaptation Forum of the adaptation minded left me with more questions than answers.  Four days, 100 people and over 60 sessions held the potential to solve my adaptation conundrums and unveil fresh areas to investigate. Here are five of the most challenging and exciting ideas gleaned from the three-day forum:

Managed Retreat

Anne Siders – social scientist, lawyer building adaptive governance solutions for climate change and a Stanford University Ph.D. candidate – cited Federal Emergency Management Administration data showing that over the past 17 years, over 1,000 communities in 40 cities have experienced managed retreat.  See here.

Now, in a general sense, MR is the deliberate setting back of the existing line of defense to obtain engineering and/or environmental advantages. More specifically, MR is the deliberate moving landward of the existing line of sea defense to obtain engineering or environmental advantages. It often refers to moving roads and utilities landward in the face of shore retreat.

So, the puzzler: Why are we not considering managed retreat for (to pick one of hundreds of communities that are candidates) Hollywood, Calif.?

Mental trauma and climate change

Joe Hostler, an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program in Northwest California, revealed the multigenerational trauma among salmon fishers from the collapse of the Chinook and Coho salmon fisheries along the Klamath River. It promises misery for four fishing tribes along the river. Already a suicide crisis has emerged among young men bereft because they can’t provide for their families. This, of course, indicates that climate change, a contributor to the lack of salmon, can trigger mental health issues.

The puzzler: What preventive measures must our public health systems adopt to prevent further suicides and mental health-related challenges?

Public health and climate change

Related to the mental health challenge, climate change is impacting public health – whether it’s concern that tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue to, say, Europe or North America or the impact of vanishing salmon on the lives of fishing tribes. This piece offered by a representative of PDQ Public Health,  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-012-0513-6, explores how health-related adaptation messages can inspire action.

The puzzler: How can the adaptation field piggyback on the general acceptability of public health advancing adaptation principles?

Water Risks

Raj Rajan, Ph.D., Ecolab’s RD&E vice president and Global Sustainability technical leader, offered a way to monetize water risks. And Trucost, the London company that estimates the hidden costs of companies’ unsustainable use of natural resources, has worked with industry to derive it.  See here.

The puzzler: If major financial market influencers such as Trucost (now a part of Standard & Poor’s) are embracing ways to put a dollar value on risks to water, how can we increase the uptake in measures beyond carbon reduction for, say, green bond evaluation?

Adaptation and Build

Designers have many ways to conceive of adaptation in buildings and three different ways were presented. They included architects Perkins+Will’s RELi, presented by Senior Associate and architect Doug Pierce; Arup engineering consultants’ Weathershift, presented by Associate Principal Cole Roberts, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED resilience credits.

The puzzler: With these assets available, is it time to move to city ordinances to make resilient design required as standard?

I don’t intend to wait another two years for NAF 2019 to find answers to these questions. Thankfully, through experts in the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), I have opportunities to work with practitioners and academics to create and encourage solutions.

– Joyce Coffee, President, Climate Resilience Consulting

 

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