9. Engage and build partnerships with local universities

Overview

Climate change is an incredibly complex problem that requires relatively sophisticated analytic resources to address. Regional decision makers often lack guidance and understanding about how to effectively address climate impacts; they often do not have access to the latest science on climate impacts in a useful and accessible format and at relevant spatial and temporal scales; planning is often based on experience and historical observations rather than future projections from climate models; they may not have the capacity, tools, or expertise necessary to address uncertainties and incorporate the information into planning processes. Academic institutions on the other hand are particularly well equipped to conduct the detailed analysis required.

Universities are increasingly focused on climate change, both in the basic sciences and in applied fields (planning, architecture, etc.). Many are increasingly interested in working on “real-world” community issues, and are open to working with local partners to build research programs and projects. Getting to know the faculty and student groups working on these issues can be an invaluable resource regarding understanding your regional impacts, and building a plan of action to move forward.

Universities are important partners of regional adaptation collaboratives. University researchers provide relevant information and data to local policy- and decision-makers, thus leading to better reasoned and strategic planning efforts and actions on climate mitigation and adaptation. An integral aspect of this partnership is understanding that the information flows both ways: University staff must engage local practitioners to understand their data needs and policy development, and local practitioners must engage with universities to understand both the research taking place and how it can be useful to their particular climate planning and implementation needs.

“As one of the state’s land grant institutions, UC Davis has a long history of engaging in research with a focus on solving real-world problems. In the context of climate change, the UC Davis community is highly proactive in providing the research and education necessary to inform adaptation efforts. The UC Davis Policy Institute is a proud partner of Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative and seeks to be a source of credible, relevant and timely information to the region.”

– Anthony Eggert, Executive Director, University of California Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy

Among ARCCA members, universities have been strong partners in many regions. University of California Davis is a founding member of the Capital Region’s Climate Readiness Collaborative. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is a founding member and fiscal agent for the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC). The UCLA School of Public Health and the UCLA Lewis Center are both members of LARC. In addition, Loyola Marymount University is a member of LARC. The USC/Sea Grant Program is also a LARC member. The San Diego Climate Collaborative is housed at University of San Diego.

Engaging Other Private Organizations
In addition to local universities, there are benefits to engaging other private organizations such as non-profits. A given region might have one or more non-profit organizations that can provide technical assistance in the areas of regional collaboration and adaptation. Private consultants might also be engaged on a project-by-project basis.

Tools & Resources

Case Study: University Partnerships with LARC

One of the most significant research initiatives for the region was funded through a federal Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant to the City of Los Angeles. Using these funds, LARC commissioned a simulation of regionalized climate change projections in Greater L.A. Dr. Alex Hall, a leading climate scientist at UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is performing forecast research by generating downscaled data on climate change impacts in Los Angeles at the 2-square kilometer level. He has embarked upon a series of studies forecasting the future temperature, snowpack, wildfire threat, precipitation, and soil moisture projections.

This downscaled analysis is critical to developing place-based strategies that take into account differing sociodemographics, and levels of vulnerability in the region. For example, LARC is linking the increased heat forecasts to social vulnerability to show where the most extreme levels of impact are likely to be felt. Now local and regional decision makers can better anticipate climate impacts and develop targeted policies to create future-ready resilient communities throughout the LA Basin.

In addition, LARC, in partnership with USC/Sea Grant, has made important steps to build the political will and momentum to move forward on coastal climate planning by bringing together a group of coastal stakeholders to develop a sea level rise adaptation planning process for the LA region. The coalition of local governments, regional agencies, economic engines, NGOs, state commissions, academics, and federal partners reflects the broad consensus of stakeholders in our region for necessity of the coastal resiliency work, a strong willingness to collaborate, and our collective capacity to successfully avoid disruptions and damage to coastal infrastructure and communities. This effort is particularly important because the coastal zone houses critical infrastructure and engines of the local economy, including beaches, harbors, ports, refineries, roadways, and electricity providers.

In recognition of these steps towards a regional coastal resiliency effort, the California Coastal Commission, the California Ocean Protection Council, and the Coastal Conservancy have jointly funded a project to examine coastal erosion and shoreline change along the LA region coastline. The results of the sea level rise and coastal storm surge modeling will be analyzed with geo-referenced infrastructure data to assess the vulnerability of property across the jurisdiction. The study will examine appropriate adaptation strategies that could be evaluated in a general plan or local coastal land use plan. Coupled with a robust staff education and training program to enhance understanding of climate science, sea level rise projections, and adaptation strategies, the data in the study will be the bedrock upon which coastal jurisdictions can perform their next steps in coastal resiliency planning, including infrastructure and community vulnerability assessments.

California Climate Change Research Plan

Regional adaptation collaboratives in California can look to find academic partnerships by engaging in research activities that may be forthcoming through the Climate Change Research Plan. This plan presents priorities for the next three to five years for policy-relevant, California-specific climate change research, and determines California’s most critical climate-related research gaps.

Climate Readiness Institute

BACERP, the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee and their climate practitioner partners are working with academics at Berkeley, Stanford, Davis and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory under the banner of the new Climate Readiness Institute. The CRI was launched at UC Berkeley in early 2014 in response to requests for academic help from BACERP and JPC leaders. This new partnership of academics and practitioners is developing a joint agenda for research and projects to address climate impacts and greenhouse gas emissions strategies in the nine-county region. Five working groups have been formed where academic, government, non-profit and private sector climate experts together are designing projects for sea level rise, water supply, public health, impacts on natural systems, and GHG reduction. In addition, the CRI has developed two major grant proposals (pending) with national adaptation funding sources.

California Climate Change Assessments

California produces periodic scientific California Climate Change Assessments on the potential impacts of climate change in California and reports potential adaptation responses. These assessments influence legislation and inform policymakers.

Sustainable Cities Initiative

University of Oregon’s Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI) is a cross-disciplinary organization at the University of Oregon that promotes education, service, public outreach and research on the design and development of sustainable cities. SCI’s work addresses sustainability issues from the regional level down to the building. SCI is grounded in a cross-disciplinary approach to solving community sustainability issues. SCI focuses on sustainability based research and teaching opportunities, shares this expertise with scholars, policymakers, community leaders, and project partners, and develops academic courses, professional training, and certification. Our work connects student passion, faculty experience, and community needs to produce innovative, tangible solutions for the creation of a sustainable society.

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