52 The past is no longer a good guide for the future: Assessing adaptation information needs, barriers, and opportunities at the community level

Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Salon B (Asheville Renaissance)
Lee M. Tryhorn, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; and A. T. DeGaetano

Increasingly it is recognized that in order for adaptation to climate change to be effective it must be implemented at the local scale, incorporate the multiple values of communities, and engage with local stakeholders. Also, crucial is the consideration of local factors that may also act to limit the potential for adaptation, such as political culture, knowledge, and perception of risk within a particular place. The physical location of a community, the level of governmental assistance provided and the ability of the community to cope with environmental change are key factors influencing the efficacy of adaptation methods.

This research is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the (NOAA) Sector Applications Research Program (SARP) and aims to increase understanding of the utility of climate information in adaptation decision-making, barriers to adaptation (e.g. regulations at different scales), and opportunities for learning from past successes or failures. This study uses case studies of climate-impacted communities in the Northeast that are representative of the adaptation challenges being faced across the region to gain insight into how communities might begin to integrate responding to climate change into their everyday activities.

One of these communities, the City of Ithaca in New York State, has spent over a decade debating a decision on a new water supply for city residents. Their goal is to ensure a reliable and cost-effective water supply for their residents in a changing climate. However, they have struggled to reach that goal. We aim to explore the social and decision-processes surrounding this water supply issue, as well as the types of climate information that could be useful in categorizing drought risk in this location. Climate change has the potential to impact the reliability of the City's water supply in a number of ways, from increasing the variability of the steamflow, to increasing turbidity problems (more chemicals are required to treat the water). The climate information we are using to examine the likelihood of future drought in the region uses a combination of different statistical techniques, including downscaling, and self-organizing maps.

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