I have been working as an organizational development and facilitation consultant on climate adaptation in Sonoma County since 2009, when the Laguna Foundation selected climate adaptation as its main focus at their annual conference. From that conference was born the North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative (NBCAI), a coalition of natural resource managers, policymakers, and scientists working to create positive adaptation solutions for Sonoma County’s ecosystems and watersheds. NBCAI aims to pilot an approach in Sonoma County that can be extended throughout the North Bay.
What is Adaptation?
Every day, a growing number of people come to realize how the changing climate is affecting (and will affect) our lives, economy, health, and environment. The prospect of unprecedented droughts, floods, crop failures, wildfires, and public health emergencies caused by a rapidly changing climate can be frightening. Though our solutions must include bold steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we must also prepare for the coming crises – that preparation is called climate adaptation. Incidentally, that preparation for climate change also brings a host of other benefits that help our community, the natural world, and our society, thrive.
Climate responses must be based on effective greenhouse gas (GhHG) mitigation. However, beyond addressing this current need, the decisions we make now about our investments in infrastructure, community development, and natural resources will have a vast impact on our ability to remain resilient in the future.
Progress Towards Climate Adaptation
Early on, NBCAI focused on raising awareness about climate hazards and the availability of actionable projections. Since then, climate science has steadily improved, and NBCAI’s message has become common knowledge, and decision-makers’ willingness to act has grown significantly.
For public figures of all kinds (governmental, institutional, business, etc.), NBCAI’s message – to embrace fundamental changes to protect our people, social systems, built environment, and natural assets from climate hazards – Is now common knowledge.
As leverage points shift, NBCAI constantly revisits their tactics. Their agility is made possible by their structure as a non-incorporated coalition, with the core leadership comprised of Sonoma Ecology Center, Pepperwood Preserve, Laguna Foundation, Goldridge Resource Conservation District, Point Blue, and many more.
In 2015, NBCAI co-hosted a first-ever countywide Sonoma County Climate Adaptation Forum, and a well-attended cross-sector stakeholder workshop. These efforts were born from the 2014 California’s first Climate Adaptation Forum, which galvanized a wide range of partners from across the County and State.
NBCAI partners worked with an alliance of NGOs, public agencies, and businesses to increase awareness around climate change, climate adaptation, and future impacts on Sonoma County. Participating organizations include: the Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA), Local Government Commission, Sonoma County Water Agency, Sustainable SSU at Sonoma State University, County of Sonoma Energy & Sustainability Division of the General Services Department, Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Brelje & Race Consulting Engineers, Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy, and Sustainable North Bay. The Community Foundation of Sonoma Countyhas been steadfastly committed to this effort since NBCAI’s inception and was a proud sponsor and partner in these high-profile events and oftentimes-painstaking coalition-building phase.
These events followed the recent White House Climate Action Champion Award given to Sonoma County’s Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA), lauded as the nation’s “first local government agency created specifically to address climate change.” As one of only 16 communities nationwide to receive this award, the County of Sonoma became eligible to receive additional federal dollars and other resources to bolster local programs and policies.
It has been an exciting time, and I am eager to apply Ag Innovations’ systems leadership, process artistry, and content expertise to this groundbreaking effort.
Note: This article draws from text written in support of this effort by many partners, including Caitlin Cornwall of Sonoma Ecology Center, Barbara Oldershaw, and others.