Just back from the United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, Frank Lowenstein, The Nature Conservancy’s climate adaptation strategy leader, recently sat down for a conversation with Bruce Gellerman, the host of Public Radio International’s Living on Earth (click to listen to the full interview).
With extreme weather events like those witnessed in 2011 expected to become more common as the Earth grows warmer, the two discussed how people are adjusting to changes, and how nature can play an important role.
“…The first thing we need to do is to be conscious about the need to adapt and to start to put in place policies in our everyday lives, in our cities’ planning, in our states’ planning and in our national policies to help us adapt,” Lowenstein said in the interview. “We need to preserve key ecosystems that are providing services to people, which we may not even be aware of, that are helping us to adapt today. And, in some places we need to restore ecosystems that have been degraded or lost.”
For example, in the U.S. desert Southwest, where drought and wildfires have become more severe in recent years, The Nature Conservancy is working with governments, academic researchers and other partners to better manage forests to reduce erosion and risk of fire that ultimately helps to improve water supplies: healthy forests capture more snow, which helps maintain water flowing in streams and rivers longer into the summer.
The two also discussed planning for shoreline communities vulnerable to rising sea levels and damage from intense storms. Lowenstein said satellite mapping data available through Coastal Resilience, an online tool, provides easy access to information about how specific places are likely to be affected as seas rise, so that good decisions can be made about where to locate schools, hospitals and evacuation routes.
Photo courtesy Frank Lowenstein (The Nature Conservancy’s Climate adaptation strategy leader, Frank Lowenstein).
Image © TNC (The Coastal Resilience mapping tool showing potential storm surge scenarios in Branford, CT).
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