Conservancy Expert Joins Conversation on Innovation to Face Climate Change

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Learn

Our society’s ability to successfully adapt to rapid change may depend on embracing new science and new ways of building our cities and planning for our future.

This theme was the topic of discussion this week when Frank Lowenstein, The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader, appeared on Innovation Hub, a WGBH 89.7 radio show, to talk about innovating to deal with climate change. You can listen to the full conversation here.

Host Kara Miller, who interviews local “innovative thinkers” about solutions to today’s challenges, asked Lowenstein what climate change means for New England.

Some changes are already playing out, Lowenstein said. For example, extreme heat in the region (New York saw 104 degrees Fahrenheit last summer) and flooding: one study showed that heavy precipitation events in the Northeast have increased by 67 percent from 1957 to 2007.

The annual tapping of maple trees for their sap, underway now, is a $65 million industry in the Northeast. But it may be a fading tradition in New England as temperatures warm, for maple trees may be more suited to Canada in the climate of the future.

On the show, a panel of experts, including representatives from Oxfam America and the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, discussed how a sustainable future may depend on a meshing of old ideas from both the development model, where nature is pushed out, and from the conservation model, where nature is set aside and people are kept away. Instead, in a climate-altered future, solutions to sea level rise and disaster preparedness may involve bringing nature and people together, for the benefit of both.

Other guests discussed game-playing to come up with climate solutions, and the concept of “living shorelines,” in which natural areas such as barrier islands and coastal marshes are incorporated into cities’ defenses against the sea.

Nature can help us innovate, said Lowenstein, noting that the online Coastal Resilience tool, developed by the Conservancy and partners, can help people visualize how natural areas may help protect their shorelines in the coming decades as rising sea levels interact with surging waves during storms.

“The best science is giving us, every day, better information about what we can expect in the future,” Lowenstein said. “Let’s start using the science, the best science… to make the decisions that we need to make to protect ourselves and our future.”

Lisa Hayden is a blogger and conservation writer for The Nature Conservancy

Photo by: Flickr user melodramababs (A sugar maple tree tapped to collect sap for making maple syrup. Maple sugaring is a New England tradition, but warming temperatures may threaten the region’s production.) Used under a Creative Commons license.

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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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