Policy as an practical, operational process: A recent talk

Last Friday, I gave a talk at the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The talk was the last in a series of "climate policy" talks, and I was excited to speak at a podium where at least three presidents have talked. But I also wanted to be clear — my strength is more on the operational, implementation side. I wanted to talk about how policy was crystallized and structured as decision-making processes and institutional structures and how this mattered (and was appropriate as a way to connect technical and policy knowledge.

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ClimateIsWater: Daniel Murdiyarso's Tales from Indonesia

Daniel Murdiyarso is the principal scientist on forests and the environment at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). I met him here in Oregon, en route to Washington, DC, and some regional meetings there. He has a strong scientific, policy, and implementation background on forests, forest carbon, climate adaptation, and tropical wetlands. He has worked closely with Ramsar, and acted as a deputy environment minister for Indonesia. His work with the UNFCCC goes back to the Kyoto Protocol days. He is an interesting example of a scientist who has worked hard to cross the policy and action divides.
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The Island of Difficult Choices: A Climate Adaptation Story from the Pacific

Christine Chan is a consultant based in Hong Kong with extensive experience in climate change issues and a member of the steering committee of AGWA. At the World Water Forum in Korea in April of this year, she spoke movingly on a panel about a recent trip she made to the central Pacific and the difficult choices and challenges that one small island nation there faces around climate change for its long-term economic development.
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Normal Rainfall in Oregon's Drought: When Is a Drought Not a Drought?

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The media presentation of climate change impacts overwhelmingly emphasizes the role of disasters — too much or too little rain, extreme blizzards, super-cyclones and hurricanes. The reality of climate change is often different, a reality often masked in how we talk about and imagine precipitation. A basic issue is the role of when precipitation comes and what form it takes.
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Tell Your #ClimateIsWater Story! An Invitation to Be Interviewed

This year — 2015 — promises the most the important for climate change policy since 2010 and the Copenhagen conference. There are many differences between this year and then, but one of the biggest is that the level of seriousness is much higher and more intense. The stakes are also higher, as we set new standards and create new institutions. That's why it's important that we tell policy and decision makers why climate change is water change, and why we need to combine these efforts. This post is a call to have you engage on the issue by telling your story to the world. So far, we have had stories from the US, Pakistan, and France, and later this week we will hear from Indonesia. If you reach out to us and give us 15 minutes of your time by Skype, we will interview you as well. Alternatively, click on this entry so you can conduct your own #ClimateIsWater interviews to tell the story of those around you. All you need is a smart phone, three questions, a well-spoken friend, and a way to send the interview to us.
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A Drought in Adaptation Finance: An Example from the Adaptation Fund

Climate finance is traditionally viewed as one the main pillars of climate adaptation policy: how do we get enough money to the correct, most vulnerable groups, in order for them to be able to adapt enough and in time? My highly personal view is that climate finance is an obstacle, but it is not the obstacle it has most been described as. The issue of the volume of money is important. But the issue of how we spend money — whether that money is tagged to climate adaptation or to other issues — is at least as important. For instance, using statistics from the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund available in April 2015, about 300 million USD has been channeled into adaptation to date. At least 90 percent of this money is connected to water management projects, though these are often tagged as "water projects" — they are described as agriculture, urban projects, disaster resilience, environmental projects, and so on. The risk here is that by not seeing these as essentially water projects we may not be capturing the available knowledge of how to manage water resources in a way that is most robust, effective, and efficient for enduring climate adaptation. The question about water and climate change policy is not how much money we are spending. The question is, How well are we spending that money?
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Explaining adaptation and water...the video!

From the Rhone-Mediterranean Corsica Water Agency comes an excellent overview video of what adaptation (especially the adaptation of land use and water management) can look like…. with a strong, rollicking disco beat.
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ClimateIsWater .... in Pakistan!

I was fortunate enough last December at the UN climate convention in Lima to meet Usman Mirza from Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD Pakistan). Usman is a young professional man who speaks eloquently about the needs and hopes and resilience of Pakistan and how climate change presents challenges and opportunities for this region and his country.
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The Economics of Water and Climate Change: A New AGWA Video Series

Just released today is a new video series of 20 short-segment discussions by Kathleen Dominique of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)'s Environment Directorate. Kathleen is a friend as well as a great environmental economist now based in Paris. The first is embedded below, but check out the whole series at https://vimeo.com/channels/916116. You might also enjoy an excellent report she wrote on the topic of water and climate change as a national level development challenge — many useful and important insights.

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Workshop on Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty

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Deep uncertainty is a relatively new term that has taken on special meaning around climate change. Deep uncertainty refers to potentially very large risks that are very difficult to estimate or quantify, especially risks that are new or that have not been encountered historically (or in the interaction between risks). And especially in situations in which we badly need or have traditionally expected that we had known, quantifiable risks. Deep uncertainty is perhaps a reframing of "wicked problems." Many of the big threats we face connected to climate change — and many of the big challenges around climate adaptation — are ultimately about deep uncertainty. Flood risk management, fresh water supply, energy, telecommunications, defense, transport, and infrastructure are all examples of fields with challenges related to deep uncertainty. Many investment and policy decisions in these and other fields have significant and often long-term consequences. Moreover, long-term objectives often require near-term decisions. Making sound near-term decisions is critical, yet we live in an increasingly unpredictable dynamic world governed by competing and changing beliefs and preferences. When decision makers and analysts face a deeply uncertain future (e.g. due to climate change), they need more than traditional prediction or scenario-based decision methods to help them to evaluate alternatives and make decisions. Fortunately, there are new methods and tools that can help them to make sound decisions in the face of these challenges.
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ClimateIsWater ... in France!

The second installment of #ClimateIsWater shows André Flajolet — mayor of Saint-Venant, France, and president of the Basin Committee Artois Picardie. Mayor Flajolet addresses how climate change has affected his community and the benefits of taking preventative actions.
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Getting Started Professionally in Adaptation? Some Reflections at a Mid-career Inflection

A lot of people in their 20s or early 30s come to me with questions — how did you get started in climate adaptation work? How should I get started? What kind of education or training should I have? A big question particularly is, How can I get my first job in adaptation? Here are some highly tentative and generalized answers. I hope others pitch in and comment on their own experiences!
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