Climate Change Adaptation Needs Assessment

Project Leads: Juliette Finzi Hart, Phyllis Grifman, Susanne Moser, Adina Abeles, Julia Ekstrom, Monique Myers, Susan Schlosser

The Problem

Communities in California recognize that there is a pressing need to consider the impacts of climate change in future planning and governing decisions (commonly referred to as climate change adaptation). There is also a considerable need for coordinated and location-specific information and training on how to plan for climate change impacts.

Our Solution

In order to more precisely identify community needs, I served as the co-Principal Investigator, along with Phyllis Grifman and Susanne Moser, and led the development of CA-wide information, research, and tools needs assessment survey directed to coastal decision-makers in the coastal CA counties (administered in July 2011).  This effort was conducted while I worked at USC Sea Grant and in partnership with 15 key local, regional, state and federal organizations (see below).

Major Findings

Current Coastal Management Challenges

  • Current coastal management challenges are worsening.
  • Top management challenges will be exacerbated by climate change.
  • Current management challenges make adaptation planning and decision-making difficult.
Climate Change Concerns, Knowledge, and Actions
  • Attitudes and knowledge about climate change are strongly supportive of adaptation action.
  • Attention to adaptation has increased markedly over the past five years.
  • Adaptation planning and implementation is still in the very early stages.
  • There is limited familiarity with innovative adaptation approaches.
Information, Technical Assistance, and Training Needs
  • Organizational missions, job responsibilities, and legal requirements shape common information use.
  • Ease of access to information is the overriding determinant of information use.
  • Specific information needs differ by professional group.
  • Critical opportunities exist to meet coastal professionals' information, technical assistance, and training needs

The Role of Science

There is the perception that if communities only had access to the best science, they would be able to begin planning.  However, what this study and earlier ones have demonstrated (e.g., Moser and Tribbia, 2005) is that the needs of coastal communities go beyond access to scientific information.  While making science more accessible and readily usable and understandable is critical, this study also highlights the need to build capacity within communities to allow planning for climate change to become a priority.