6.3 Pairing Science and Stories to Highlight Local Approaches to Climate Change Impacts

Wednesday, 20 July 2011: 11:00 AM
Swannanoa (Asheville Renaissance)
Stephanie Fauver, NOAA, Charleston, SC; and J. Sprayberry

The Earth's climate is changing. For many coastal communities, a changing climate will mean the potential for more frequent or exacerbated hazards: heavy precipitation events; increased inundation; periods of drought; heat-related death and illness; and a shortage of potable drinking water. Unfortunately, many communities still have not begun to prepare for climate change or consider it in their regular planning processes: some are in denial or disbelief; some are overwhelmed at the thought; and some are not concerned with the projections that far in the future and have other pressing issues to address.

While impacts of climate change and climate variability may be different depending on the geography and condition of community infrastructure, the message to local decision makers and elected officials needs to be the same: climate change is happening; we are already seeing local impacts; these changes will continue to exacerbate other hazards; and we should make decisions now that consider future climate scenarios to protect our communities, both human and natural, from these impacts.

However, this essential message is a challenging one to deliver, and for local decision makers to hear and act upon. Telling local stories about the impacts of climate variability and climate change can be an effective and important step in delivering the climate change message and responding to the needs of local decision makers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coastal Services Center is partnering with state Sea Grant offices, National Estuarine Research Reserves, and others in the Great Lakes region to use climate data and information to help tell these stories to local officials. A variety of science-based climate impacts are highlighted, including lake ice, lake water levels, urban temperatures, and heavy precipitation events. These stories show how scientific and local information can be coupled with visual aids, such as maps, photographs, and charts, to communicate these issues to local officials. This effort will also help local officials identify strategies to deal with climate impacts that can be incorporated into their regular planning and decision making processes.

Many of these stories can be used by other communities within the Great Lakes region that are experiencing the same issues. In addition, other communities with similar issues can insert their own local images and charts to tell a similar story and to make it relevant for their areas. Local officials and decision makers may be less overwhelmed in tackling these issues if they see how other locations with similar issues are working toward addressing impacts of climate change and climate variability.

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