Posts Tagged ‘Climate Resilient Communities’

An Inconvenient Sequel

Join HRWC at the Michigan Theater, August 3rd or 5th

FOR An Inconvenient Sequel, part two to the Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” that opened our nation’s eyes to the climate change problem a decade ago.

Thursday, August 3, 7pm
Saturday, August 5, 4:30 and 7pm
Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ticket prices:  $10 for general public and $7.50 for Michigan Theater members, $8 for students/seniors/veterans

Get TICKETS from the Michigan Theater.

Come for a post screening talk There’s Still Time: Climate Change Solutions, August 7th

Monday, August 7
6pm – 8pmClimate Reality Project
NEW Center, 1100 North Main Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Free and open to the public
Please REGISTER for the talk by emailing kolsson@hrwc.org.

Join HRWC’s Watershed Ecologist Kris Olsson and Watershed Planner Rebecca Esselman for a presentation on potential climate change impacts and threats as well as hopeful and exciting trends in clean energy and community activism. Learn how a changing climate will affect the Huron River and how HRWC is working to help our watershed communities become more climate resilient.

This past March Kris traveled to Denver Colorado for “Climate Reality Leader Training” and joined the thousands of volunteers in 135 countries who have been personally trained by former Vice President Al Gore to educate the public about climate change. “I learned that while the scale of the problem is monumental, the opportunities to fix the problem are tremendous, with renewable energy costs plummeting and capacity skyrocketing. U.S. states and cities and many countries are already turning to solar, wind, and energy conservation at record rates.”

Moving the needle on climate adaptation

naf-mississippiriver-panelAfter four days with climate change adaptation professionals from throughout the U.S. it was clear that efforts to prepare both people and ecosystems for the impacts of increasingly altered climate systems have only amplified as the Federal Administration tries to cast doubt and roll back progress. This is heartening at a time in our society where good news is harder to come by.

Over 1000 people convened in May at the third National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul, Minnesota on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Over the 6 years this biennial conference has occurred, I have watched the field of climate adaptation advance at a lightning pace. Cities are upgrading stormwater systems to handle more rain. Coastal towns are utilizing natural shorelines to protect people from rising sea levels. Natural resource managers are considering a new paradigm—transforming ecosystems rather than restoring them. Front line communities are demanding environmental and climate justice and bringing innovative community-based solutions to the task at hand.

I wanafpresentations proud to represent HRWC and the progress we have made to prepare both the river and our towns for a changing climate. I presented our Preparing the Huron River for Climate Change work (that you can learn about in this short film) along with a stellar group of organizations finding climate solutions that benefit both nature and people. Our work was featured in a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society released during the conference.  And we were honored as a finalist for our Climate Resilient Communities work by the American Association of Adaptation Professionals.

HRWC has the history, relationships, knowledge and trust necessary to help Huron River communities become more prepared. Organizations like HRWC all over the planet are moving the needle on adaptation.  But we need your help. Preparation will only help to a degree. What we need is to rapidly and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for our warming planet.

Here are two immediate opportunities. If you live in Washtenaw County, come to our Solar Power Hour June 6th to determine if your home is a good candidate for solar and get access to discounts. And, no matter where you reside, consider joining HRWC and the Michigan Climate Action Network to help elevate this important issue in our state. It will take all of us.

 

Fostering Resiliency in our Tree Resources

This piece was written by guest blogger Mike Kaminski who worked as a intern at HRWC last summer and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan.

Resiliency is the capacity for a system to absorb disturbance without shifting into a qualitatively different state. In this case, the system we are talking about is the Huron River watershed’s trees and forests, and the disturbance is climate change. Healthy tree communities enhance stormwater infiltration, filter pollutants picked up by rainwater, keep our rivers and streams cool, and help to preserve the overall health of the Huron. Unfortunately, the River’s tree resources may be at risk due to the impacts of climate change and the extreme weather events that are expected to come with it.

With increased temperatures and extreme weather events (especially summer drought), tree species that have long been associated with the beauty of the Huron River watershed will begin shifting their population ranges north to accommodate for the change in climate. Fall foliage characterized by the vibrant reds and golds of sugar maples and beeches will be replaced by the muted browns and yellows of oaks and hickories better suited to these new weather patterns. Even the eastern white pine, the state tree of Michigan, is expected to become more rare in this area.

Fall color of a beech maple forest (left) and oak hickory forest (right)

Fall color of a beech maple forest (left) and oak hickory forest (right)

favorability-chart

Table indicating if the future climate in the watershed will likely be favorable (+), neutral (0) or unfavorable (-) to common tree species

Many potential consequences could result from the loss of these long established tree species. High numbers of urban street trees could be lost that are not well adapted. This could mean high replacement costs for local townships. Loss of municipal services such as enhanced stormwater infiltration, air cleansing, and urban heat island mitigation may occur. With fewer native trees able to survive in the changing climate, we could also observe a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services from our surrounding parks and forests.

So, what can we do about this? Two years ago, HRWC, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), and several local environmental leaders from around the watershed formed the Creating Climate Resilient Communities Project: an effort to address local climate change impacts by building resiliency in the watershed. Among the issues the project chose to focus on were resiliency strategies for natural infrastructure (specifically trees) within the watershed.

Now entering its third year, the Climate Resilient Communities Project has compiled several great resources on improving climate resiliency in the area’s forests and trees. These include a comprehensive report on the state of climate change and its impacts on the local watershed, fact sheets on key tree species of the area, and a report of popular and emerging management strategies for resilience in forest and tree resources. These and many other useful resources have been compiled as a comprehensive toolkit on HRWC’s website.

 

A Sobering Report on Climate Change

IPCCReport

Recently, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their Fifth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis; the first since 2007.  The report chronicles the state of the science on climate change.  The impressive work is the collaborative product of hundreds of scientists from nearly 200 countries drawing on thousands of research studies.  It is the authoritative source on the subject. And unfortunately much has changed since the 2007 report and not for the better.

Overall, the report shows increased certainty pertaining to those trends you hear the most about.  Surface and ocean temperatures are warming, sea level is rising, ice sheets are melting, weather is becoming more extreme and scientists are more confident than ever that humans are the cause of this warming and the resultant impacts (95% certainty, up from 90% in the 2007 report). This is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels.  Weighing in at 166 MB of facts, figures, probabilities and citations, the full report is not for everyone.  However, if you are interested in the main messages, there is a Summary for Policymakers, that at 36 pages with highlighted key points, is much more digestible.

The hardest hitting statement for me as I was reviewing the report is that “Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped”.  With no meaningful effort to curb the release of CO2 into our atmosphere on the global table, it is certain that at the local level, we will need to respond to changes. It drove home the importance of the work of HRWC and the communities of the Huron River watershed toward achieving climate resiliency.  Climate resiliency is the ability of communities, both built and natural, to (pun intended) weather the storm. When rain events dump more water in shorter periods of time, when summer droughts and heat waves become more common, when shifts in seasonal patterns challenge the balance of nature (e.g. flowering of fruit trees ahead of potential for frost events or arrival of pollinators), will we have the systems in place to minimize the impact?

The river can be our friend or our enemy as climate changes.  The river and our watershed have an amazing capacity to absorb and slow the energy of flowing water.  Given natural areas to allow water to reach the soil and undeveloped floodplains to contain high water, the river can protect us from flooding.  On the other hand, adding more pavement and building in the floodplain can exacerbate the damage a storm can cause.  By making smart choices now, we build in protections for what may come.  We can’t say exactly where, when or how the impacts of climate change will make its mark on our place but we can take action that prepares us for an uncertain future.  Sounds good, right?

Learn more about local climate resiliency efforts on our website.


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