Monthly Archives: September 2017

Climate Leadership on the Water

On an unusually hot summer day on the Seattle waterfront, 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow Alex Adams welcomed 13 high-schoolers from the Woodland Park Zoo’s Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (Seattle Youth CAN) program to step aboard the Sally Fox, one of King County’s Water Taxis, and learn about climate change and careers in the maritime industry. This event marked the kick-off of a new County program, called The Floating Classroom, which Alex started to broaden outreach to students of all ages and backgrounds and inspire strong leadership at all levels to confront climate change. The program also introduces students to internship and job opportunities in both King County and the region’s maritime industry. This event marked the culmination of Alex’s Jackson Leadership Fellows project.

Seattle Youth CAN students were greeted by Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, who praised the group for their commitment to climate action, and advised them to be thoughtful in how they pursued their future careers, “Luck is where opportunity meets preparedness,” he said. “Always work hard, learn as much as possible, and be ready when an opportunity comes your way.”

Students then learned about King County’s climate actions from Alex and other county staff who highlighted some of the actions and steps we can all take, such as taking public transit, conserving resources like electricity and water, and preparing now for the changes we’re already seeing in our region, such as warmer, rainier winters, longer heat waves, and stronger storms and flooding.

“Climate change is a problem that isn’t going away soon and we need smart young leaders like you to help develop innovative solutions to reduce emissions and help our communities adapt,” Alex told the group.

After a tour of the Water Taxi’s state-of-the-art navigation system, the Seattle Youth CAN students had a group discussion about the qualities of leadership and how each of them, while still young, could be climate change leaders in their communities and among their peers. Students were given copies of The Nature of Leadership book, which was written to commemorate the life and work of Senator Henry M. Jackson and to remind prospective leaders to be inquisitive, visionary, open, honest, diligent, pragmatic, and determined when pursuing their interests. Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President, joined the group for the discussion.

Students then took a roundtrip ferry ride to West Seattle, where they cooled down on the upper deck and enjoyed lunch on the open water.

King County will continue The Floating Classroom program and use the Water Taxi as a versatile educational platform to add new community value, introduce or advance career pathways, and increase climate literacy in the next generation of leaders. We are pleased that Alex’s Fellows project will endure beyond his program year.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Overcoming Uncertainty to Take Climate Adaptation Action

The Jackson Foundation has been supporting the Climate Conversations series since 2015. The series brings together diverse stakeholders from local government, utilities, consulting and engineering firms, and academia, and provides a space to discuss research, needs, lessons, and opportunities around climate change resilience in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. We are pleased to share this post written by Emily Wright and Nora Nickum from Cascadia Consulting Group.  Nora is a 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow.

Many communities know that climate change is going to bring impacts; depending on where they are, those could include more heat waves, droughts, or rising sea levels. Yet those planning for climate change inevitably face a common predicament: uncertainty about exactly what’s to come and the effectiveness of different adaptation actions. While scientists have improved modeling techniques to better project how precipitation, temperature, and other climate drivers will change in the coming decades, the accuracy of projections diminishes as we look further into the future or at a finer geographic scale. We just don’t know exactly what will happen with policy and with human behavior down the road, and how that will translate into emissions—and then into climate change impacts. For some, this uncertainty can seem like a major roadblock to making decisions about what to do.

Enter Jennie Hoffman, a climate change adaptation specialist who helps agencies and organizations overcome this kind of analysis paralysis. Jennie, the Founder and Principal of Adaptation Insight, gave a presentation on August 16 as part of Cascadia Consulting’s Climate Conversations series. This series, now in its third year, is co-sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and Seattle Public Utilities.

Jennie Hoffman

Jennie says that even before you can deal with uncertainty, the first challenge is to carefully frame your problem. As singer-songwriter Ani DeFranco put it, “If you don’t ask the right question, every answer feels wrong.” Framing the problem should include, among other things, identifying what’s wrong with the current situation, what triggered the desire to make a decision, and the place and time frame over which the decision-maker wants to achieve a specified goal. Explicitly considering the time frame at this stage helps create the space to factor in how future changes in climate would affect the outcome, and the costs and benefits of different courses of action over time.

The second challenge, then, is understanding the uncertainty you’re facing. What information are you uncertain about, and does it actually affect the decision you need to make? Sensitivity analysis tools like Simple Multi-Attribute Rating Technique (SMART) can help decision-makers consider how much reducing scientific uncertainty would actually improve their pending decision and where to prioritize investing in obtaining better information. Similarly, value-of-Information analysis can help to determine how much is worth spending.

Climate change considerations can arise in many points in the decision-making process, from framing the problem to determining objectives, alternatives, consequences, tradeoffs, and uncertainty. Jennie demonstrated that the science is important, but it is more critical to some decisions than it is to others. When analyses around decision sensitivity or the value of information demonstrate that additional information could really change the decision, organizations can point to that to justify investing in specific, targeted research to reduce the uncertainty. In many cases, decision-makers can move ahead with efforts to build resilience—which grow more important by the day—with the information that is available.

Emily Wright and Nora Nickum, Cascadia Consulting Group