Categorized | Climate Change

Planning for Climate Change Across Sectors

Over the last several months, Oregon’s state land use planning agency has been leading an interagency effort to develop a cross-sectoral framework for climate change adaptation planning. The final document (including a separate executive summary) was released last week. This report was requested by Governor Ted Kulongoski and was intended to be a first assessment of how the different agencies can help Oregon’s communities and ecosystems respond adaptively to future climate change. The result was a joint effort of the state’s natural resource, energy, transportation, and public health agencies.

This new state adaptation framework is in many ways a first crack at a very difficult nut. The process was limited somewhat by a short timeframe and severe limitations in the state budget, but it was also a valuable opportunity for representatives from a diverse set of state agencies to sit down at the same table and talk about their plans for preparing for climate change. Perhaps most importantly, it helped identify adaptation strategies that would benefit multiple sectors – for example, rehabilitating riparian areas to improve natural water storage on the landscape, which can benefit cities, agriculture, and wildlife – and to look for areas where adaptation strategies in once sector might unintentionally undermine efforts in another sectors. The process really highlighted the importance of coordinating adaptation planning to avoid duplicative or counterproductive efforts.

I participated in developing this framework as part of an ongoing contract with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and I was impressed with the willingness of the diverse set of agencies at the table to think about the challenges and opportunities of climate change in an ecological context. Everyone around the table clearly recognized the interconnectedness of human and natural systems and was eager to find solutions that had multiple benefits across multiple sectors. Likewise, everyone recognized that technologies that benefited one sector at the expense of others were likely to fail in the long run.

At the same time, our conversations made it increasingly clear that there are not a lot of easy answers when it comes to climate change. The goal was to identify inexpensive actions for short-term implementation – the low-hanging fruit, as it’s often called – but in a world where climate conditions are changing rapidly and both humans and wildlife are already struggling to keep up with those changes, these kinds of solutions are hard to come by. I think this highlights the importance of making significant early investments in both mitigation and adaptation efforts, even at a time when budgets are tight. This problem will only become more intractable and more expensive the longer we put those investments off., and climate change itself will soon start having significant negative impacts on local, national, and global economies. Kudos to Oregon for being one of the first states to start having these difficult conversations and mapping out the best way forward.

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- who has written 5 posts on dotWild.

Sara O'Brien is the Private Lands Conservation Associate at Defenders of Wildlife. Sara’s work for Defenders focuses around biodiversity conservation on private lands. Her primary priority is to create and support non-regulatory tools that encourage private landowners to conserve and enhance wildlife habitat and manage their lands sustainably.

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dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.