Climate Change and Conservation: A Primer for Assessing Impacts and Advancing Ecosystem-based Adaptation in The Nature Conservancy

Scarcely a day passes when we don’t hear or read about a new impact of climate change on the  environment. Conservancy scientists, practitioners, and managers now find themselves  wrestling with how to best adapt our conservation work to a changing climate. Not long ago,  many environmental and conservation organizations were reluctant to focus on adaptation over  concerns that they would risk drawing attention away from mitigation efforts. This is no longer  the case. There is an enormous amount of attention now being paid to adaptation as evidenced  by a proliferation of web sites, scientific publications, books, and conferences that address the  topic.  At the same time, knowledge about impact assessments and adaptation, especially  ecosystem‐based adaptation, is highly variable across The Nature Conservancy, and even in the  best staffed programs, this is a difficult field with which to stay up‐to‐date. This primer is  intended to provide all Conservancy staff with an introduction to climate impacts and  ecosystem‐based adaptation, a review of basic definitions, updates on new conservation  planning approaches that incorporate adaptation, tools and resources to assist in impact  analyses and strategy identification, an overview of ecosystem‐based adaptation in the policy  arena, and summary information on adaptation approaches.

Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit

The impacts of climate change are already being experienced in our community from heat waves and intense bushfires to devastating floods. Despite adaptation being discussed for a number of years, organisations are still grappling with how best to respond to this complex problem.

Net Balance, in collaboration with RMIT and the City of Greater Geelong, has developed an Adaptation toolkit. The Toolkit will assist organisations to prioritise their climate risks and adaptation actions and make climate change risk consideration a part of their everyday operations.

Based on practical experience, the Toolkit takes organisations beyond risk assessments – exploring implications of uncertainty on risk and adaptation actions and supports embedding climate change within the decision making processes.

The Toolkit aims to support organisations to:

  • Integrate adaptation and support effective and efficient risk management
  • Be more responsive to climate change shocks and trends form linkages across different work areas, internally and externally
  • Make effective and consistent decisions regarding climate change.

The Toolkit consists of three tools, stepping the user through key considerations of climate change risks, and potential adaptation actions.

Tool 1: Exploring the Risk Context – explores in detail key climate change risks previously identified. The tool explores the interaction between the risk and their broader social, economic and environmental context. It also outlines a process for considering, overcoming or accepting, and documenting the uncertainty associated with each relevant climate change risks.

Tool 2: Developing Adaptation Actions – provides a process for identifying, exploring and evaluating adaptation options, to assist organisations to prioritise actions.

Tool 3: Screening for Climate Change Interactions – outlines a process for decision makers across an organisation to consider any interactions between a new proposal/project and climate change risks and adaptation actions.


Test – Climate Adaptation: Mainstreaming in existing Conservation Plans

Many local governments have already begun working on decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recently, a growing number have begun examining ways to adapt to climate change – the act of reducing climate change impacts that are already underway. This Guidebook is intended to help those who are looking for ways to reduce the impacts of climate change (increasing heat waves, water shortages, intense storms and sea-level rise) while decreasing GHG emissions and ensuring sustainable development for their communities.

California Adaptation Planning Guide

Climate change is already affecting California and is projected to continue to do so well into the foreseeable future. Current and projected climate changes include increased temperatures, sea level rise (SLR), a reduced winter snowpack, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent storm events. These changes have the potential for a wide variety of impacts such as altered agricultural productivity, wildfire risk, water supply, public health, public safety, ecosystem function, and economic continuity.