policy

New video: Water is at the center of climate change adaptation

Produced by Arup for the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), this is a great summary of why climate change policy needs to become better integrated with sustainable water management.

AGWA: Water is at the heart of climate change adaptation from Arup Visual Communications on Vimeo.

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Infrastructure of Conflict? Mitigation-Adaptation War

Right now in Bonn, Germany, the UN climate change policy meetings are starting — a kind of pre-meeting for the big cheeses this December in Paris. And right now, we are sowing the seeds of climate conflict. Read More...
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Energizing Water, Aquifying Energy

Energy and water are intimately interconnected. Water is required for nearly all energy generation processes. In turn, energy is required to extract, transport, and treat water. Climate change is placing even greater pressure on both of these sensitive sectors; understanding linkages between them and incorporating cross-sector planning is essential for their sustainable management and development. Read More...
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US policy perspectives: climate change risks, science, responses

An event last month co-sponsored by the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute and Environmental Change and Security Program and George Mason University brought together speakers who discussed science of climate change, the assessment of impacts, risks and the current state of international negotiations. The event was targeted for the general public and most of the information presented by the speakers could be a review for professionals working in the field, nevertheless parts of the discussion would be interesting even for the acquainted experts.
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Climate-water technical capacity: some political recognition?

In Celebration of World Water Day and their 1st anniversary, the US Water Partnership (USWP), founded by Sec of State Hillary Clinton to mobilize water expertise from public, private, research, and NGO circles, announced the addition of two new Signature Initiatives. One of these is focused on developing technical capacity on climate adaptation and resilient water management.
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Revenge of the Nerds: Climate Change and Water at the World Water Forum

Three years ago, I attended my first World Water Forum in Istanbul. These meetings occur every three years, with each Forum in a different country. For me, Istanbul marked the beginning of several key alliances and initiatives. It was the Forum that happened before the Copenhagen COP in particular, and climate change discussions were already at a fever pitch by March and contained a strongly optimistic view of what might happen that year on mitigation policy. This was also the first period when we saw the extended water community begin to discuss adaptation in a more serious, sustained way.
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New publication: Water rights in a changing world

The landscape of rights of access and management of water resources is changing rapidly, both for hydrological and political reasons. The UN has recently weighed into this debate, and this blog and many other sources have documented the shifts that are occurring in terms of water timing, quality, and quantity. The intersection of this debate is extremely sensitive — and basically agua incognita. A new publication from Hydrology.nl explores these issues in a compelling way. Read More...
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A federal freshwater adaptation law in the US? Pat Mulroy - Part 3: Consensus & Economics

Part 3 — Consensus and Economics (and the first piece of US freshwater adaptation legislation to come before the US Congress!)
In the third and final part of Pat Mulroy’s interview, she discusses how policy, economics, and climate change come together — both in the Colorado river basin and around freshwater management across the US. Climate impacts in hydrology and ecology are altering the economic landscape across the region, and policymakers and the public are faced with difficult and often expensive choices.

Perhaps most remarkable, Pat Mulroy discusses the first domestic piece of climate adaptation legislation at the national level in the US, which has been proposed in the US House of Representatives by Lois
Cardin of California and in the Senate by Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, Barbara Boxer of California, and Harry Reid of Nevada (where Pat’s office is located).

For more information on this first piece of climate adaptation legislation and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, select Read More. Read More...
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The first adaptation-only climate change legislation in the US

With stealth and no acclaim, a group of US federal legislators have submitted the first-ever climate adaptation federal legislation for approval to the Congress. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that this bill is focused exclusively on water management. Called the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act of 2012, the legislation is designed to assist city-level water infrastructure in the US. You can download a copy here. Read More...
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New UN adaptation and vulnerability site

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have jointly launched a new website for PROVIA – the Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation. Read More...
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New PLoS Biology paper: The water-climate-infrastructure nexus

What happens when an engineer, a hydrologist, and an ecologist -- all working on global climate adaptation issues -- get together for a beer? Almost inevitably, a paper, more beer, and a bad hangover. The offspring in this case just published in the September 2011 issue of the journal PLoS Biology, entitled Converging Currents in Climate-Relevant Conservation: Water, Infrastructure, and Institutions. During the February 2011 conference by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the lead author of the paper gave a talk in a symposium on the practice of sustainable resource management in the developing world. The talk focused on the themes of water and climate change, and how infrastructure -- especially infrastructure designed to manage water for hydropower, agriculture, and cities -- was a key point of both conflict and potential convergence between the environmental and economic development communities. An editor from PLoS Biology came up afterwards and said, Could you turn that into a paper? The results are expressed both in print and in a short video below that the authors produced.

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Interviews with thought-leaders in climate change: Engineering at the IDB

AdaptationAction.org is a new sister-blog of CCW that launched during World Water Week two weeks ago. While a lot of content has been planned for the site, the first focus has been on talking with some of the emerging thought-leaders in climate adaptation -- people who are at the edge of climate adaptation, conservation, economic development, and sustainable resource management. The first interview is with Fernando Miralles-Wilhem, an environmental engineer with the Inter-American Development Bank (usually just referred to as the IDB). Fernando is extremely unusual — an engineer who works with ecosystems, an academic with two decades of research into “applied” questions, and — rarest of all — a person who somehow combines science with policy and economic development. Affiliated with both Florida International University and the Inter-American Development Bank, Fernando describes how his work on wetlands has evolved into climate adaptation and climate-sustainable development.

Changing Currents: Filling the Stationarity Gap from John Matthews on Vimeo.

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Workshop on water & climate in the Americas

You are hereby cordially invited to a workshop on water and climate change adaptation in the Americas to be held on September 7-8, 2011, in the World Trade Center in Mexico City, as part of the “Workshops of the Americas’ Targets and Solutions Groups on the road to the 6th World Water Forum”. This workshop will focus on key messages that affect water-based climate change adaptation, such as social organization, equity and poverty alleviation, hydro-climate information systems, institutional capacity development, infrastructure development and use of financing, and ecosystems. Read More...
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The Stockholm Statement from World Water Week

The Stockholm Statement to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20 Summit)
Water is the bloodstream of the green economy. Water, energy and food are interlinked and interdependent; securing them is central to alleviating poverty and to creating a climate resilient and robust green economy. Population growth, expanding cities and accelerating economic activity increase the demand for energy and food and create unsustainable pressure on our water and land resources. By 2030, in a business as usual scenario, humanity’s demand for water could outstrip supply by as much as 40 per cent. This would place water, energy and food security at risk, increase public health costs, constrain economic development, lead to social and geopolitical tensions and cause lasting environmental damage.
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UNFCCC update from Bonn: Substance in the SBSTA?

Recent entries here have described a process which has been in preparation for some time but is now, finally, under active debate in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): the development of a coherent “water program” under a group called the SBSTA to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation activities. Background entries can be found here and here.

Alex Simalabwi is the UNFCCC negotiator at the
Global Water Partnership and he was a fellow rapporteur on the “coping with climate change” theme last year at Stockholm World Water Week (you can see us pictured together in the report we put together). Alex is now in Bonn at the UNFCCC meeting and has been sending reports to a small group of colleagues about the SBSTA meetings over recent days.


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Water & Climate Coalition: How do we get water into the UN Bonn meeting?

WCC_logo
Proposals for the Climate Change Negotiations, Bonn, Germany, 6 - 17 June 2011

As a folllowup to the broad issues I describe in another recent entry, I’ve included below the text from a briefing document prepared by the Water and Climate Coalition (http://waterclimatecoalition.org) that describes how water should be targeted during the upcoming UN Framework Climate Change Convention meeting in Bonn, which begins next week. While somewhat legalistic and formal, this is an excellent means of describing how water can be approached in a practical framework from both mitigation and adaptation perspectives in global climate change policy. Read More...
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The UN's Climate Policy: Integration at Last?

While sitting on a panel at the international Dialog for Water and Climate, I stated something along the lines that one of the reasons the water community was really interested in the UN’s climate policies was that we were afraid of the UN making our work around water management even harder than it was. It’s hard to get water right, and the UN’s climate change convention has historically been posed to hurt water and all that water touches — agriculture, energy, the environment. Thus, our primary reason to be involved was to minimize the negative impacts of climate policy. On the other hand, I said, there is actually a small chance that the UN could play a positive role and really bring a lot of coherence and integration to water management.

Well, the chance for doing something good is about to come up. In a few short weeks, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (the UNFCCC) will have one of its
intersessional meetings in Bonn, Germany. The global water community is focusing hard on a critical vote that will occur during this meeting -- the outcome of over a year of hard lobbying and coordination between a large group of organizations, particularly the Water and Climate Coalition. Read More...
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The Problem of Coherence: Mitigation vs Adaptation

Climate mitigation — the control of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere — has long dominated the discussion about how to address human-induced climate change. Adaptation was such a minority topic that it was often ignored in global policy discussions or referred to only in very general terms, such as the so-called Adaptation Fund. But the tide has been turning towards adaptation in global policy, especially since the US Senate lost its brief window to ratify any global climate treaties in November 2010. Climate adaptation is probably the odd “winner” as a result. But with adaptation becoming a more clearly understood topic has come an increasing complexity of issues. There are a lot more shades of gray. And one of those shades of gray is a debate of the conflict between energy and water. Read More...
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Everyone a Hydrodiplomat

I was in South Africa, just a few weeks ago in late March. A branch of the UN had organized a small conference in honor of World Water Day. I had never been to South Africa, and the crowd seemed blended between hyper-traveling water people like myself and African-centered groups. The meeting was almost intimate compared to most of the big water conferences I attend. I knew a lot of the people there, the crowds were small, and you could have quiet, unrushed conversations over coffee and easy dinners in the cool evenings.
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World Water Day: Secretary Clinton on Water

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton On World Water Day
March 22, 2011
The World Bank
Washington, D.C.
 
SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you.  Good afternoon in this absolutely glorious fora with so many people who do the work every day that makes the World Bank such a respected institution.  It is my pleasure to commemorate World Water Day with you.   
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UN must act soon to address threats on water in Africa, globally

As water in Africa is under grave pressure from climate change, and these threats will become more severe and complex in coming decades, the United Nations climate change body (UNFCCC) must formally address the need to integrate water issues with development aid, adjustment to climate change impacts, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This was the joint message from African ministers and water experts attending a three-day UN-Habitat World Water Day conference in Cape Town.
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Guest blog: "Loss & damage" and adaptation at COP16

Sandeep Chamling Rai, WWF-International, lead climate adaptation negotiator for WWF
Even with ambitious mitigation and adaptation efforts take us off business-as-usual trajectory with 4+ degrees Celsius there will still be residual loss and damage resulting from climate change impacts due to existing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Impacts such as sea level rise, glacial retreat, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, land and forest degradation in many or all cases cannot be prevented. An international mechanism on “Loss and Damage” would address the question of how to compensate for climate impacts that simply cannot be avoided and those that are irrevocable.
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Guest blog: Bridging the water & climate divide

Hannah Stoddart, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Stakeholder Forum
The closing plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) on Saturday 4th December represented a major breakthrough for water in relation to the UNFCCC. Six countries, from across three continents, proposed that water be addressed as an agenda item under the next session of the SBSTA in June 2011.
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The proposal was put forward by Ecuador and Sudan, and supported by Chile, El Salvador, Sierra Leone and Syria. This is the first time that countries have called for water to put on the global climate agenda, and should be seen as a major achievement.

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COP16: Minsterial-presidential high-level panel on water & climate

Program of the High-Level Panel on Water and Climate Change
Mexican Pavilion, Cancunmesse, Cancun, Mexico Wednesday December 8, 9:00 – 11:00
Aims and objectives:
Present the key messages coming from the first week of the Dialogs for Water and Climate (D4WCC), for them to be debated between a select group of decision-makers made up of representatives of national governments, intergovernmental organizations, IFIs and NGOs.
Reinforce the political commitment needed for water-based adaptation to climate change to be formally recognized as a necessary measure to face the growing consequences of climate change, which will further help the climate change adaptation debate.
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COP16: A little progress on water

On Saturday night, a Chilean negotiator saw me at a party and ran over and gave me a huge, celebratory hug. I handed him a huge margarita. We toasted in the name of el Agua. Why would this happen? I can promise it was not my svelte, smooth sense of fashion and style.

The reason is that on Saturday, after long lobbying, Ecuador moved that water be added to the SBSTA under the UN climate group (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC). Six nations stood up with Ecuador. About 10 others were prepared to follow up with that. And, tacitly, many others supported the motion too.

Why does that matter?
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Guest blog: Water begins to enter the UN climate negotiations

Countries Call for Water to be Addressed in the Climate Negotiations
by
Lovisa Selander, SIWI

Over the weekend, six countries from around the world at COP16, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, called for water to be put on the climate agenda. The countries highlighted the fact that climate change stands to have a significant impact on water resources, and stressed the need for further discussions on how this issue can be addressed within the climate framework. Read More...
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COP16: GWP climate-water session

COP 16 Side Event 6 Dec_logos_1000

Side Event at COP16, Cancun, Mexico on 6 December 2010
 
Water, Climate and Development: Linking up Development Agendas and Putting Water Security First
 
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COP16: Dialogs for Water & Climate Change in Cancun

Please accept an invitation to take part in the Dialogs for Water and Climate Change (D4WCC) on the occasion of the COP 16, a series of events organized between December 1st and 6th by a group of partners, led by the National Water Commission of Mexico (CONAGUA), and including specific segments organized by the Mexican Federal Government, the World Bank, UN Water, IDB, and other partners. You will find more information on the events on www.d4wcc.org.mx.
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COP16: Water & Climate Coalition events

Welcome to the Water and Climate Coalition’s Events at COP-16, Cancun Coalition session as part of CONAGUA Dialogues on Water and Climate Change Time: Friday 3rd December, 2.15pm Place: Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Hotel This session, hosted by the Water and Climate Coalition, will make concrete proposals on how the issues raised and addressed in the CONAGUA Water and Climate Dialogues can be translated into political commitments under the UNFCCC. Speakers include: •    Hannah Stoddart/Karin Lexen – Water and Climate Coalition Secretariat •    Hugo Von Meijenfelt, Climate Envoy, Netherlands •    Adrián Fernández, Mexico’s National Ecological Institute •    South Africa Delegation Representative (tbc) •    Civil Society representative (Progressio) Read More...
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COP16 and Global Adaptation Policy: Feliz Navidad for Opportunties in 2010?

The global climate change policy landscape is littered with acronyms and insider language that’s not friendly to newcomers. Additionality, technology transfer, COPs, REDD versus REDD+ (and REDD++)… the terminology is messy and has a steep learning curve that often obscures the actual issues at stake. But these issues are quite important to understand for interested citizens. Here, I’d like to focus on an upcoming opportunity around the international climate change policy meetings scheduled for December in Mexico. This is a long entry, but the issues are complex and non-intuitive. I beg for patience. For those new to climate change policies at a global level, I have provided a simple background paragraph to frame some of the necessary terms.
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An invitation: A dialog on Water and Climate Change in Cancun

Please find attached an invitation to take part in the Dialogs for Water and Climate Change (D4WCC) on the occasion of the COP 16, a series of events organized between December 1st and 6th by a group of partners, led by the National Water Commission of Mexico, and including specific segments organized by the Mexican Federal Government, the World Bank, UN Water, IDB and other partners. You will find more information on the events on   www.d4wcc.org.mx.
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Flowing Forward: Managing infrastructure in a shifting climate

The impacts of climate change are most visible in the dramatic changes occurring to the planet’s freshwater resources, says a new report written by WWF for the World Bank. The report, Flowing Forward and available at FlowingForward.org, finds both “visible” water such as rivers, lakes, precipitation, glaciers and snowpack, and water used for crops and livestock, health and sanitation services, hydroelectric and nuclear power as well as manufacturing and business are heavily influenced by climate change.
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Climate adaptation, water, and governance: An emerging nexus

Update: Session now available for download here. When the roundtable session begins after the introduction, sound quality drops. You can skip forward to 59:26 to hear the roundtable summaries (very interesting!). The panel discussion and questions begin at 1:41:00.

Changing Climate, Shifting Institutions: Building Governance and Capacity through Freshwater Adaptation

Efforts to respond to the impacts of a shifting climate in the water community have widely focused on particular eco-hydrological changes in freshwater systems, such as floods, droughts, and higher water temperatures. From this perspective, climate change is defined largely as a problem with an engineering (or engineering finance) solution. Engineers themselves, however, have declared that the current measures for designing long-lasting water infrastructure assumes that the recent historical hydrological information is a fair representation of future conditions — an assumption that has recently been declared “dead,” since historical statistically “normal” hydrological states are expected to shift, but without knowing how much or often even in what direction. Climate change thus causes increasingly uncertain hydrological futures for decades and possibly centuries.
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Guest Blog: Communicating impacts and adaptation: Scientific guidelines

Many of us know from experience that opportunities arise at unlikely moments. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” was the famous line from Barak Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel. As the summer of 2010 dishes up one weather-related crisis
after another, environmental-minded individuals and organizations around the globe may feel compelled and obligated to respond – both on the ground and in public statements about the genesis of these events. Is climate change to blame? In this season of extreme weather, we have an opportunity to solidify our messages and our standing as the conservation organization that can help policymakers and the public separate fact from fiction. But we must tread carefully.
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Global Strategy Forum: Water Policy in a Shifting Climate

The Bled Strategic Forum: Global and National Water Policy for the Next Decade
30 August 2010, Bled, Slovenia

As a result of climate change, population growth, environmental degradation and increased demand for food and energy, almost half of the world's population will have lived in areas of high water stress by 2030. With longer droughts, more frequent extreme meteorological events and changes in precipitation patterns, global warming affects particularly the water cycle. Climate change will impact on the most vulnerable communities in developing countries, multiplying the effects of poverty, poor governance and political instability. Read More...
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Guest Blog: Pakistan Flooding: Impacts, Attribution, & Adaptation Solutions

by Hammad Naqi Khan, WWF-Pakistan Programs Director

We cannot attribute these floods in Pakistan solely to climate change but labeling them as an extreme weather event that probably has a climate change component is logical; the current seasonal monsoon rains and flows in the Indus river and a few of its tributaries are a 1 in 100 year event. The signature of climate change will take some time to quantify, but 2010 has a confluence of weird weather that probably has a link to human-induced climate change. Consider: 2010 is the globally warmest year on record to date, the record high temperatures and wildfires in Russia, the exceptionally high rainfall and mudslides in China, the below average rainfalls in Bangladesh and most of India, and extremely high rainfall and flows in northern Pakistan rivers (which carry snow/glacier melt).
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For US readers: action requested on legislation

I am writing this post for ClimateChangeWater.org with the hope that you will sign on to a letter to policymakers to help us send a clear message to the US Congress on pending legislation about the importance of protecting our wildlife and natural resources from the impacts of climate change.
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Briefing paper: the road to COP16

WWF-International and GermanWatch have put together a briefing paper assessing the state of global adaptation discussions and the road forward to COP16:
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Guest Blog: U.S. National Adaptation Summit results

by Nick Sundt, WWF Communications Director for Climate Change
"While nations negotiate at international conferences about future global commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, and while Congress talks but continues to delay adoption of a strong greenhouse gas reduction program for the country, we're already seeing the effects of the pollution we put into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution" said  New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at the summit.  "That's why we have to  begin adapting to climate change today -- not tomorrow."

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Video: Red Eyes in Copenhagen: Adaptation at COP15

Red Eyes in Copenhagen: Climate Adaptation at COP15
7 mins, December 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark

In December 2009, representatives of 192 nations met in Copenhagen, Denmark, to negotiate a new international climate change agreement. Most of these efforts focused on climate mitigation — reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases in order to slow down the rate of climate change. These results received widespread analysis. But there were also heated if less publicized negotiations to help the poor and vulnerable of the world adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. Filmed within hours of the conclusion of the Copenhagen Accord on 19 December 2009, this film shows the sleep-deprived thoughts of WWF staff about the impacts and efficacy of the Accord for international climate adaptation policy. These staff have worked on these issues for many years.
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The Future of Climate-Water Talk: WWW's Conclusions

World Water Week has come up several times here. Every August, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) hosts what is probably the most important water event of the year — certainly one that’s more fun and focused than World Water Week, which is ridiculously large. This week, SIWI has just pubbed their year-end review of World Water Week’s “results,” compiled by the rapporteur teams for each subject area. For 2009, I was the one of six rapporteurs for the
climate change theme, which felt like a great honor to me. Our part of the report has what I think are some interesting implications for the state of the water and climate change policy dialog internationally. Which might be an encouraging contrast to the more disappointing news from Copenhagen. Some highlights:
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A Final COP Postcard: The Longest Day

The COP is finally over, and I’ve had about 36 hours to begin to absorb its truths and promises. Written so soon after the negotiations have ended, I have no doubt my reflections will achieve at best a facile and tenuous first draft of history (or a poor excuse for journalism). But I must write something to describe where climate adaptation — our efforts to prepare ourselves and other species for the coming climate — is headed since the conclusion of the Copenhagen sessions.
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Video: More Water Asks at the COP

Quick update: a video on the UNFCCC COP15 site of me speaking last week on water and climate from an event sponsored by the Global Water Partnership, Stakeholders Forum, and the Stockholm International Water Institute. Read More...
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Joining the Strands at the COP

My interest in knitting probably marks me as one of the more visibly peculiar members of the WWF delegation to the COP, but knitting is a great asset in a high-stress setting. Some of the oldest knitting in the world was found in bogs in this part of northern Europe — perhaps five or six thousand years old. Knitting is essentially the ability of taking a single length of yarn and looping it back against itself in order to make fabric and clothing. It was a simple, brilliant invention. And it can be quite beautiful. The idea of taking strands of yarn and creating something new, functional, and strong is a calming image as I listen to the needles clicking in my room. Especially given how the COP has been developing.
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Video: The Language of Climate Change Is the Language of Water

At a recent event sponsored by TERI and the Yale School of Forestry, WWF-US CEO Carter Roberts spoke to a small distinguished group in Denmark’s Kronborg Castle about the vulnerability of freshwater species and ecosystems — and communities and their livelihoods — to climate change. Read More...
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Video: Voices on water, biodiversity, and COP15

The Dutch government and its environmental assessment agency organized a great series of events over two weeks here at the COP on climate adaptation issues. If you’re interested in water, it would be hard to leave the Holland Climate House. I’m involved in a total of four side events there, with one remaining. Read More...
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Teenage Angst at the COP: At the Hinge

A week of prelude is over. The real work has begun in Copenhagen.

Last week was intense, fast paced, and frantic. Most people here are profoundly exhausted. But we’re at the hinge now. Negotiation teams are shifting from delaying and positioning to taking firm and often oppositional stands. More senior level staff are engaging in the government delegations — and more loudly. The hinge of the week has turned.
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Asks for the COP: More Water, Please!

Much of the practice of creating climate resilient, sustainable water management is already well known and described in policy statements such as the Dublin Principles of 1992, The Hague Ministerial Declaration on Water Security of 2002, the Brisbane Declaration of 2007, the Nairobi Statement on Land and Water Management for Adaptation to Climate Change of 2009, and the Stockholm Message to Copenhagen of 2009. I stand proudly with these documents and their authors. A comprehensive international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the rate of climate change is essential. But as we approach international efforts to reduce the negative impacts of climate change, especially the COP15, I ask negotiators and policymakers to focus their efforts on climate adaptation on these principles:
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Trust: Why We're Here in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is very open city. For instance, it’s really rare to see a bike in a stand that’s been locked. This is amazing, given the actual number of bicycles here in Copenhagen. There are counters at some of the major intersections that show the number of bikes that have passed by that day, and walking past one of these counters around noon I saw that over 10,000 bikes had passed. And this is in weather that has been hovering around freezing, very windy, and extremely wet for the past week.
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Moving beyond despair: Copenhagen, trail running, and the persistance of hope

I’ve been thinking a lot about loss recently. Right now, there’s a hush of expectation globally right now around climate change. The world is preparing for what is probably the most important international climate change meeting since at least 1992. And everything seems up in the air — or, worse, like the agreement may go badly awry. Several key government players like the United States and Denmark have been reducing expectations for what might be reasonably achieved in the meeting in Copenhagen in December. And even the BBC’s news unit has announced that they plan to send a smaller number of reporters to Copenhagen.
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The Watery Road to Copenhagen Livecast: Water & Climate Change Symposium!

Looking back across the last twenty years, there have been several notable climate change policy and science events. The 1992 Rio Convention helped define the shape of climate change policy for the next decade and created the IPCC as a science advisory board. The Ministerial Declaration of the Hague on Water Security in Twenty-First Century captured many key concepts on water and climate change, linking policy, water management, and the need for a new paradigm. And the Brisbane Convention on environmental flows in 2007 marked a major consensus between policymakers and ecologists and hydrologists that flow regime was the most important aspect of freshwater ecosystems to focus on for sustainable use. This is a good time for reflection on where we've come, and where freshwater conservation and development needs to go next. And fortunately, the Fuller Symposium on 3 and 4 November — titled Securing Water for People and Nature in a Changing Climate — is just in time.

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Water & Climate: Not Everything Is Negative

I had a bit of press coverage during World Water Week last August. I'll spare you from the article that appeared in the People's Daily Worker in China, but ThinkGloballyRadio.org conducted a nice 30-minute interview (and I didn't say "uh" too much either, which was a relief). You can stream the interview at the station's website and clicking on the episode listed (at the top right of the window) as 091011. I talk about the impacts of climate change on freshwater ecosystems, the ability of climate change to bring disparate groups together, and the state (as of August 2009) of international freshwater adaptation policy leading up to COP15. Read More...
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Speaking Water to Power: An Address to Ministers in Advance of COP15

Does the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change help anyone with adaptation practice on the ground now? Can we improve international adaptation policy? Here, I was asked to speak by the Stockholm International Water Institute on behalf of the CSO/NGO community to a group of minister/cabinent-level officials involved with water and development from six different countries. The "high-level panel" occurred in late August 2009 during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. By way of backstory, I was pretty angry by the time I got to talk. Most of the ministers had gone way over their allotted 5 minutes, and it was clear they weren't very interested in listening to me anyway. I felt a bit of passion by the time the discussion came around to me. Their statements were deeply theoretical -- lacking in people and places, removed from practical issues. They were cold. I felt hot. 7.5 min. Below is the written text of my presentation. Read More...
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The Watery Road to Copenhagen: Video Interviews from World Water Week

The water community gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 2009 to discuss emerging and critical issues, and adapting to climate change was easily one of the most prominent topics discussed. Read More...
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The Watery Road to Copenhagen: Podcast with Three Groups

Lets take two scenarios.  On the 18th of December, the world walks away with a new global deal on climate change.  The agreement includes progressive emission targets for rich countries, nationally appropriate mitigation strategies for developing countries, financing for adaptation and a good institutional framework. Read More...
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World Water Week: Climate & Water Interviews!

Stockholm’s World Water Week is one of the critical meetings each year for discussing water issues. Read More...
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One Talk, Two Heads: Bloviating on Climate Adaptation in Two Languages

This video is a fair representation of the overview adaptation talk I've been giving for the past few months, describing how climate adaptation differs from much of the economic development and conservation work up to now and how climate adaptation has some special challenges and opportunities for the water sector. Read More...
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Guest Blog: A National "Climate Service"?

Paul Fleming works on freshwater climate adaptation issues for the US City of Seattle, Washington. Seattle obtains much of its water from large rivers, and much of that water during the summer and fall is derived from the melting of annual snowpack — a process that is shifting rapidly as a result of climate change.
Among his other responsibilities, Paul helps the city’s water supply utility think about how to manage their water resources in fiscally prudent, flexible ways, given that Seattle’s “normal” climate is altering rapidly. In early May, Paul spoke before the U.S. Congress in regard to the Waxman/Markey bill (discussed in several previous blogs here, most recently here) about the need for a National Climate Service — modeled in part on the existing National Weather Service. Such a group would likely focus on delivering analytical services for how climate is changing in critical parameters in particular regions — an excellent idea, which would be a great boon for facilitating and groundtruthing climate adaptation efforts. Below is his statement, as well as the statement of marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, who is now the head of NOAA, which is the agency that would host both the Weather Service and the Climate Service. Many thanks to Paul for supplying his remarks! — JM
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The Road to Copenhagen 1: Setting the Agenda in Bonn


The next stage in the process leading up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Copenhagen meeting (usually referred to as a “cop” or council or consultation of the signatory parties) began this week in Bonn, Germany. I’m not able to attend, but the process is important and I’ve been receiving almost hourly updates from colleagues there. You can see some of their progress and concerns on a
video blog in order to get an idea of what being there is like. The most obvious issues are US climate mitigation policy, such as the Waxman/Markey bill (discussed in previous entries). But climate adaptation finance — the “adaptation fund” — is showing up a big second topic as well. Some background on adaptation finance was covered as well in previous entries here indirectly and here for more general issues. However, a “side event” has been planned to continue the process associated with the Nairobi Guiding Principles for freshwater adaptation and the water sector. What are those goals? And why does Bonn matter? Read More...
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News: Climate Adaptation Webcast

The Wilson Center is a policy thinktank in Washington, DC. They’ve got a webinar planned on climate adaptation, presumably from a policy perspective, scheduled for 10 June. I’m not familiar with the speakers or their organization, so I can’t comment on any more on the presentation itself. Their notice below.
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NEWS: Crypto-Adaptation Legislation Leaves Committee


Late last night, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy Committee (the so-called Waxman committee, named after Henry Waxman, the current chair) managed to push an important climate change bill (usually referred to as the Waxman/Markey bill, after the sponsors of the legislation) out of the committee so the rest of the House can vote on it.
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Report from Kenya: The Nairobi Guiding Principles of 2009

So many critical issues surround climate change adaptation (and so much bad news keeps popping up from climate impacts science), I sometimes find knowing where to focus very difficult. But sometimes there is good news. I’ve just returned from a very fast meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, at the United Nations compound. Under the sponsorship of the Danish government, a new global framework and set of guiding principles for climate adaptation has been created (available as a PDF download). These principles are aimed at three distinct audiences: participants in and observers of the big UNFCCC CoP meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009, those institutions that are funding climate adaptation work right now, and the international movement to define climate adaptation theory, policy, and practice in coming decades. Here, I will provide personal reflections on my attendance on the discussions leading up to, at, and beyond the Nairobi meeting.

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The U.S. Politics of Climate Adaptation: The Waxman Committee

Climate adaptation is finally entering the consciousness of important policymakers, trickling up and through organizations. But these shifts are not occurring smoothly or without controversy and a lot of injured fingers and toes. And we seem to be moving towards two views of how to adjust to our emerging climate: “adaptation” and “Adaptation.” The state of conflict between these two views in the U.S. is globally important right now because the U.S. has been the silent watcher on climate issues for the last decade. The U.S. government has not substantively participated in climate talks, and because the U.S. economy is so large, competing economies must keep par — for good or ill. This rule is widely understood for climate mitigation issues (regulation of greenhouse gas concentrations), but it’s also true for climate adaptation costs as well, which will also become an increasingly major element of economic spending. Finally, U.S. policymakers are going to have this debate, probably as a result of the climate change bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives last fall.
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Certain Uncertainty: Models and Climate Change


Of course, very few of us really claim to know the future with much certainty, and climate science has none of the pretensions or divine endorsement associated with those who make dramatic predictions. From a policy perspective, prognostication is fraught with much risk. How do you make important, costly decisions when you are unsure what the future will be like? Of course, uncertainty about the future is nothing new, and most policy can best be described as risk avoidance and minimization: how can we balance the probability of certain events with the costs of addressing them? But climate change puts a powerful new twist on the situation. Climate is important to much of what we do as a species, and we are very sure that the climate is rapidly changing. But knowing exactly how the climate is changing in a particular place by a particular time is extremely difficult — and arguably impossible. The most that scientists (such as those at the IPCC) are willing to endorse is that to provide a range of scenarios or a set of probabilities around one scenario. Read More...
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Growing an Adaptation Community


Those of us working in climate adaptation often work alone and in isolation within our organizations. It’s hard to find each other to learn and grow professionally. Moreover, we know we need support — emotional as well as professional, since climate adaptation is challenging and draining work whether you work in DRR, conservation, policy, or economic development. There have been a growing number of online communities that focus on climate adaptation. Here, we’re launching a new one called ClimateAdapt.Info. Read More...
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My Conventional Intervention at Ramsar

I speak frequently in public. After a year and a half in this job, I estimate I’ve given something like seventy talks, whether as a formal presentations, running workshops, or sitting on panels. I am fortunate in that I do not get easily nervous, especially since I seem to have experienced everything from hecklers to total equipment failure in mid-speech — mic, projector, support staff. But the occasional fit of anxiety does hit, and then I comfort myself: this talk is not that important. Nothing really critical depends on the outcomes of my delivery. But this rationalization has its limits.
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Istanbullish on Water


World Water Forum must be one of the largest conferences on the planet. Occurring every three years, the venue shifts through the developing world. Two weeks ago, the fifth Forum occurred in Istanbul, Turkey, couched between Europe, Africa, and Asia. I heard estimates of between 20,000 and 30,000 attendees for the week. Though we were all there nominally in the name of “water,” I’m not sure how unified or clear the focus the meeting is or even can be. Our conservation booth was located near the massive and predictably colorful “Italy” booth but also near a cluster of dam builders. On one adaptation panel, I sat between the representative of professional organization for water engineering and policy consultants and a labor union representative for water supply and sanitation workers. The conference had the coherence of a river that has reached its floodplain, spreading out and slowing down. Nonetheless, there were some interesting trends in water with climate change and climate adaptation. Read More...
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Wetlands 1: The Real Estate Crisis in Protected Areas

This entry will be the first in a series over the coming weeks. I have a series of talks and will be attending a number of unrelated events that are focusing on wetlands as a theme, so I will in turn inflict some of these thoughts on you, gentle reader. A serious contradiction exists with protected areas — places likes natural reserves and parks — and climate change. On one hand, these places have been designated because they are “special” and unusual parts of the landscape, having qualities that make them distinct from other places and thus worthy of being a protected area (or PA). Think of this as the spatial element of a PA. On the other hand, these areas are generally special because some mixture of climate, geology, and biological history combine to make them distinct during some window of time. At a different period in either of those three elements, the special qualities may exist in a very different combination at that place, or even over a different range of places. Think of this as the temporal element of a PA. Of all the most common types of PAs found worldwide, wetlands may be the most climate sensitive. And that has very important implications for how we define and protect wetlands PAs everywhere. Read More...
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Ozy(mandias)fest 2008: Political v. Climate Change

The past ten days in the U.S. have been quite dramatic politically, even by the standard of being near the end of a very long and tight presidential campaign. A financial crisis on a scale with the the beginning of the Great Depression of 1929 looms, our once-close ally Pakistan has exchanged shots with U.S. troops in a border skirmish, and the two presidential candidates have had their first and quite volatile debate. But climate change issues have not gone away, and we’ve seen important statements that carbon dioxide emissions are speeding up particularly in the developing world, and several articles (and an excellent editorial) in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (arguably in the highest tier of general-science journals) review the latest analyses of realistic paths and rates of climate change and suggest that we may need to “start panicking.” Unfortunately, all of these pieces of news are not isolated from one another. Read More...
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Are Dams Evil?


I’m a liberal (in the left-wing North American usage) and a conservationist by almost any standard definition. In fact, my commitment to obtain a conservation-oriented biology PhD is a searing indictment of how serious my intentions are. Given that my area of specialty is in aquatic/freshwater ecology, I might be expected to oppose all non-restoration human modifications of lakes, rivers, and wetlands under any circumstances. In truth, a year ago that was probably an accurate description. But I have recently drawn fire and ire for commenting positively on dams and the people who pay for them. I will attempt to explain myself here. Read More...
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Schadenfreude Weltenschaung

A comment to a recent entry on this blog suggested that the single-most important environmental issue of our time was overpopulation. I’d like to take issue with that view here, which has been part of the mainstream of North American (or at least U.S.) conservation dogma for a few decades, though some of the old stalwarts are dying off. Paul Ehrlich put forward the argument most forcefully in books like The Population Bomb (1970): too many people were on the planet, populations were continuing to explode at ever-greater rates, and resources would soon be depleted. As humans reached some K carrying capacity (which we were just a few days or weeks away from), economic and population collapses would follow, mass starvation, warfare, and bad television would ensue. The last part came true, but somehow we’ve continued to struggle past the first two. This little idea is ethnocentric, simplistic, dangerous, and will result in policies that delay constructive action generally and foster North-South and East-West conflict in particular. Overpopulation as a global threat shows (at best) a lack of imagination and general knowledge. At worst, it is racist and forcefully ignores the real issues at stake in our time. There are more nuanced approaches (such as Jared Diamond’s Collapse). But they’re the exception, not the rule.
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Meet the Banks

Much of the emphasis about freshwater climate adaptation boils down to how we manage water through infrastructure like dams and water management plans like environmental flows. But someone has to pay for dams, and large dams are very expensive and complex building projects. In much of the developing parts of the planet, these projects are funded by lFIs: international financial institutions. In practice, this means large development banks. As a biologist, I have had little experience interacting with banks beyond my own checking account. But in the world of water, they’re important. And in Stockholm’s World Water Week, I had some enlightening perspectives on how they are engaging with climate adaptation as part of their business world. Read More...
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Meet the Press

World Water Week in Stockholm is very policy oriented. This year, much of the focus was on sanitation, but two days were spent in a series of linked symposia on water and climate. Talks ranged from more details on emerging climate impacts with the IPCC’s new technical report on water and climate to regional and local adaptation strategies and tactics. Easily two of the most novel experiences for me as a scientist were interacting with the press as an “adaptation expert” and holding some introductory climate adaptation conversations with two international development banks. I’ll write more about the banks later, but the media interaction was a good if difficult experience. Read More...
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NEWS: climate adaptation case studies

A colleague closely affiliated with WWF who is now at Australian National University has just written an excellent series of climate adaptation case studies. Read More...
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Action in the Air Conditioning

I’m in Stockholm for World Water Week. I speak tomorrow with some colleagues as part of a larger series of talks on water and climate, though I’ve been here for several days. This is an unusual meeting for me: heavy on policy and programs, light on science and what I am used to thinking of as analysis. And being here captures some of the tension that a lot of us involved in climate adaptation work feel on a regular basis: How do we balance between being in a clean, well-appointed convention center, somewhere in the over-developed (even post-developed) world, talking about “issues” with people that are often several steps removed from where the action is -- places in the developing world, out of the air conditioning and the people sampling the smorgasboard of ideas and recommendations in the cold light of energy-efficient bulbs.
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A Cheap Room in the Hotel Talk: Science as an Agent of Change

My hotel in Stockholm is called the “Talk.” I assume this is because it joins a big convention center in the city, but the name also suggests the process of conversation, discourse, and discussion. From my perspective, that suggests making policy out of the science. After all, across the sea a little to the south stands Prussia, where Bismarck suggested that the making of politics and sausage were best left out of sight. Here in Sweden, I am trying to make a little sausage. Read More...
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NEWS: Freshwater Climate Adaptation Primer

Just published online today, the ides of August, is a flyer for policymakers and water resource managers that I wrote with a good friend and colleague. Intended as a primer on climate change and freshwater conservation and economic development, it’s an introduction to some of the basic of my work. Read More...
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Nine Challeges to Freshwater Management from Climate Change

One of my key hunches is that climate change alters the framework of economic development and conservation. My proprietary and parochial interest is in freshwater ecosystems, but the insight (if insight it be) extends more broadly. Here, I propose a list of some of the climate-related elements I think we should be debating in regard to freshwater management. It is not complete, but these cover many of the big points we should probably be resolving now and over the next few years. Read More...
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The Direction of Adaptation: Is E.O. Wilson Wrong?

E. O. Wilson is arguably the most famous living ecologist and conservation biologist of our time. He’s notable for many reasons, but here I am concerned about his recent move into discussing the approach we should take for climate adaptation work. I fear Wilson has just done a lot of damage to conservation policy. Read More...
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Conservation Redemption

Although I am an agnostic in fine standing today, I am certainly betraying my childhood as a Protestant and a man bound to the U.S. South when I use the word redemption — one of the signal ideas in the European Protestant tradition. This is the prodigal son, the slaver who was once lost but has now been found, the sheep who has returned to the flock and her relieved shepherd. It’s the second chance, with hope rekindled and fanned into open flame. The language of redemption drives many of us in conservation. Most of us seem daily aware that this point in history is special, pregnant with special losses and opportunities. Some of us in more extreme forms see the outlines of Armageddon and apocalpyse — an end of what we have known and the press of imminent and ultimate battle — but that’s not my personal sense of time. I am more keen to see struggle, even if manichean in form. That struggle has largely seen defeats for “our” side. But the victories are notable too. Read More...
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Managing Water Managers

In London in late July, I met a several people who represent government and private bodies that “manage”’ the river Thames. The UK government owns the water, at least in theory, and this ownership devolves onto private businesses that manage portions of the watershed, including treating river water and sewage and moving water to houses. It’s an old an complex process, and there are a lot legacy (i.e., inherited and old fashioned) components to the systems. For instance, not many homes or businesses in the UK have water meters, so usage rates are often estimated. Many much less developed countries have much better metering systems simply because they have newer water distribution systems. Also, many of the facilities and pipes themselve are well over a century old, designed for quite different times and usage levels. Read More...
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Flowing Regimes in Central Europe

The Danube — the Donau in German — is not a Great River like the Mississippi, the Congo, or the Amazon. But in Europe, it is a critical resource, culturally and economically. And it is a complex place. I have just returned from Vienna and a swirling mixture of ideas, impacts, and people focused on the Danube. Read More...
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Dams Be Damned?

Given that there are more than 45,000 large dams in place worldwide, the central problem of freshwater climate adaptation for the coming century is the best means of managing water infrastructure like dams, irrigation systems, water treatment plants, and hydroelectric power systems. Even conservation issues in most areas of the world are going to involve carefully managing water resources that (somehow) balance development and the integrity of natural systems.
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Meteorology & Climate Change Skepticism

Your local TV meteorologist seems like she or he should be my natural ally: a person in the local media market you trust, who is educated in climate science, and who can relate climate science and climate change trends to the daily news. These meteorologists should be the local evangelists of climate change. Sadly, they are often not. Read More...
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NEWS: polar bears, the endangered species act, and climate change

DC is very hot this week — it was 97 degrees F when I landed on Monday, and yesterday was much hotter. And very humid. On landing, I needed to get to my B & B quickly and decided to opt for a cab. Taxis are a little out of favor in the climate change world, especially in cities with a decent mass transit system like DC. But I didn’t see an alternative. Popping out of the terminal, I took the first cab in line. The small man in the front seat turned to me and said in a thick accent, Hello. Where are you going? Seventeenth and Lanier, near Adams-Morgan, I said. Where’s that? I leaned back, suddenly very hot and very tired.
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Rush & climate change

Yesterday news of Senator John McCain's very public stand with Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski at a wind generation site was all over the news. McCain of course is the Republican candidate for president, and he has a remarkable record of pushing climate change in the U.S. senate for many years now. He is almost as credible on this issue as former senator and vice-president Al Gore. McCain made a strong statement with Kulongoski for reducing U.S. emissions and for the U.S. taking responsibility for our role in current levels of greenhouse gases. His speech was apparently very passionate and seemingly heartfelt, and most commentators believe the speech was very directed to western moderates and progressives — such as myself — who are worried about climate change issues. Some sections of the speech were interpreted as attacks on Bush. And he was roundly attacked today by some conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh:

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The Accent of Power

Last month I experienced perhaps my most interesting level of policymaker access to date when I was asked to speak at an embassy in the UK. Some 13 or 15 diplomats from across a large region were in attendance. They had not asked me per se to speak but they had approached our national office in that country. Two freshwater staffers were planning on going, and I was going to be arriving that morning in London on the day of the meeting. So my colleagues asked me to come speak as well.
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Good Cop, Bad Cop

My favorite means of explaining the difference between climate adaptation and climate mitigation in talks for the past few months is a simple metaphor. Imagine, I begin, that you are in a car, and you realize that you will inevitably be hitting a solid object — a wall, a major obstruction on the highway, anything. You know you are going to hit it, and you know it will hurt you and your car.

That obstruction is a changed climate. You have two basic responses you can rely on. First, you press your brake as hard as you can to reduce the rate of impact. You want to hit the obstruction at a slower speed. That's climate mitigation — the process of trying to lower the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and the concentration of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Both are essentially attempts to slow down the pace of climate change. But you will still hit the obstruction, even if you hit it less hard. Climate adaptation is the second type of response:
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Barak and the Pew Center: Girding for Battles as President?

Last Friday, Senator Barak Obama was on tour through Oregon. And Kerry managed to scarf some tickets to an Obama rally in Albany, just north of where we live. The crowd was almost exclusively white, with no obvious age bias in the attendees, was incredibly enthusiastic and cheered and clapped and yelled. People were obviously happy to be there and excited to see and hear Obama, who was a moving and inspiring speaker. We were much impressed with him. Read More...
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The Romance of Conservation

A lot of people have a romantic vision of the life of a conservation biologist, certainly for those who do fieldwork in exotic places. Perhaps I still share this vision, at least occasionally. But one reader of the first three entries here called and said, Your site is very depressing. I assume he meant it wasn’t romantic and charming.

He’s right, of course. Even by the root of the term, “conservation” is about a stopping loss, an attempt to keep from losing too much and about holding on to some notion of what’s “left” in a place -- an attempt to keep a place from passing from threatened to a state of crisis, or from a crisis to something even worse.
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The Ugly American?

At least one branch of my family arrived in North America in 1607 -- we are now entering our fifth century on the continent. And several family branches have lived in Texas for almost two centuries. We are truly of the South, intertwined with its colonial development and history. And I am clearly from the US and Texas.

But by my countrymen, I am almost universally considered a terrible example of all three categories and quite unrepresentative. Generally, this sense of being rejected by a region I love and feel electrostatically drawn to saddens me, but I've had a long time to get used to the feeling. About three decades now.
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