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Global climate change is already impacting Oregon and discernable changes have been seen around the state and along our coastline. As we focus attention on reducing the carbon emissions that drive climate change, we must also focus effort to prepare our state, communities, and economy for increasingly adverse impacts that will continue to accrue. Climate preparedness – also called “adaptation” by specialists – is a policy field that uses scenario planning, public education, and other methods to help communities, businesses, and policymakers anticipate the likely harmful future effects of global climate change and to take proactive steps to reduce or eliminate their vulnerability to those changes.
Recognizing the challenge of building a culture of climate preparedness around the state, Governor Kulongoski appointed the Climate Change Integration Group (CCIG) in 2007 to develop a report with an initial set of recommendations. The CCIG recommended that Oregon:
- Immediately begin preparing for climate change;
- Require and encourage all government agencies to adopt and implement climate change preparation plans.
- Assess existing capacity and develop governance systems appropriate for the rate and scale of change that will accompany climate change.
- Assess existing finance mechanisms and develop new funding options as needed to account for the longer timeframes required to effectively prepare for climate change.
- Prioritize increasing resiliency within Oregon’s natural, built, human and economic systems before major impacts occur.
- Incorporate climate change effects and impacts into new transportation initiatives.
- Redesign planning tools to account for the future impacts of climate change.
- Use and continually improve adaptive management processes and contingency planning.
- Plan at larger scales to ensure that climate preparation in one sector or region does not affect preparation elsewhere.
Since 2007, Oregon’s preparedness and adaptation efforts have been led primarily by the state university system.
The Climate Leadership Initiative at the University of Oregon has launched a nationally recognized climate preparedness program that includes multi-sector and multi-jurisdictional stakeholder driven preparedness projects in the Rogue, Upper Willamette, and Klamath Basins of Oregon. In late 2009 similar projects began in the mid and lower Willamette Basin. A project in the Umatilla basin is planned for 2010. CLI is also assisting Oregon’s public health sector and watershed councils to develop climate preparedness tools and strategies.
Efforts to prepare Oregon’s coastal communities have been spearheaded by Oregon State University’s Sea Grant (OSG). It engages researchers and coastal stakeholders in assessing the impacts of climate change on the coast, understanding how that affects people and resources, and implementing strategies to adapt to those changes. OSG is working with residents of Port Orford, Oregon to map out impacts specific to them regarding storm water and flood plain issues. OSG, Tillamook Co., and partner agencies are working alongside the Neskowin Beach Hazards Committee to better understand their vulnerability to increasing wave heights and coastal erosion. The goal is to help communities build their resilience to the impacts of climate change.
For more information on climate preparedness in Oregon, please visit the University of Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative and Oregon State University Sea Grant online.