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Planning for Local Government Climate Challenges: Connecting Research and Practice
As the Southwest US moves into a 21st century climate that is likely to be increasingly different than anything we’ve experienced in the modern era, elected officials, city managers, urban sustainability offices, planners, and resource managers will all face decisions that could be informed by ongoing research about the climate, impacts from changes, and the most promising practices for adapting to climate change. In an effort to both inform these important stakeholders and learn from them, the University of Arizona’s Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) program has teamed up with colleagues from Arizona State University on a project that seeks to create a collaborative environment among municipal leaders (e.g., city managers, planners, and resource managers) and experts in climate-related research to stimulate and support climate adaptation and resiliency efforts across the state. The project—funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sectoral Applications Research Program—has two goals: 1) provide useful and state-of-the-art knowledge about climate variability and change to municipal leaders so that climate science may be incorporated into long range decision processes, such as comprehensive plans; and 2) work with urban managers and planners to develop tangible products that will help planners and decision makers incorporate climate information into planning documents, processes, and policies.
One of the underlying assumptions of this project is that local adaptation efforts are limited by a lack of access to available information and support. We will attempt to overcome this barrier in two phases. First we convened a small group of municipal leaders (approx. 30) from across the state and a small group of international experts from physical and social science fields to exchange useful and state-of-the-art knowledge about climate variability, climate change, adaptation, and the unique challenges facing municipal leaders in Arizona. That workshop was held in Tempe, AZ on October 18-19, 2012 (workshop agenda includes links to videos of all the presentations).
Buidling on the group that attended and ideas discussed at the November 2012 workshop, phase 2 of the project involves identifying and carrying out up to three short-term city- and town-specific projects that have a high probability of helping support local government action on climate adaptation. These projects are underway (as of spring 2013) and will be completed by spring 2014.