The folks at RealClimate provide a report from the meeting of the European Meteorological Society in Amsterdam. In this post, the focus is on a talk by Tim Palmer of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, and consistent with that groups title, he addressed “the idea of using one system to predict atmospheric conditions on time scales varying from hours to decades.” This he called “seamless prediction.”

Much of the foot-dragging that holds local governments and communities from committing to adaptive planning comes from the lack of dependable forecasting that’s longer-range than the local weather and more immediate than climate models. If you have confidence that the next decade is going to bring you above-the-historical-average precipitation, you’re more likely to approve infrastructure improvements that will mitigate damage from increased flooding, for example.

You don’t have to understand the more technical discussion at RealClimate in order to take away the importance of this new approach. The following paragraphs I found to be educational without being over my head:

Due to historical and practical reasons, day-to-day weather forecasts tend to be performed on different systems than seasonal forecasts and climate change scenarios. Whereas the former can take the oceanic state to be approximately constant for the next few days, slow changes may have a greater impact for the latter two.

Numerical weather prediction (NWP – i.e. the daily operational weather forecast) and climatology communities have drifted apart for a while, but Palmer argued that there is a need to a convergence of the communities. He also proposed using global climate models (GCMs) the way NWP models are used for weather forecasting to test their quality. By looking at the initial part of their evolution, he reckoned it may be possible to get some idea of how good they are. Thus, he proposed a way to weigh the different GCMs up against each other. Time will show if this strategy will work.

The word is, George W. Bush will be stepping up tomorrow (Wednesday) to announce his climate goals, right here in his 8th-to-last month in office.

Will it help, hinder or affect at all action at the local level?

Who will benefit? Follow the money.

Will it slow down what we need to be doing?  Will it be a mere speedbump, as few people are willing to grant credibility to an incredible and lame duck adminstration?

Sheesh. Can you imagine having a president who could inspire and motivate tens of millions of people to act for the good of the country – which now means for the good of the world?

The NY Times will report more about Bush’s statement in tomorrow’s edition, so says Andy Revkin’s blog. The latest note Andy appended to the article told us only this unsurprising info-bit:

there does appear to be a plan to limit power plant emissions

If you’ve had occasion to visit your local government web site looking for guidance on climate change issues (not likely), you may have come away unimpressed. Here in Marin County, we’ve got one of the more sophisticated sites that I’ve visited (and I got to visit hundreds of them in my work at Trilogy). But none of them hold a candle to King County, Washington’s site.

Here, you find not just the government essentials, wrapped up in a pleasant design. You have what amounts to a combination community newsletter, streaming video channel, RPIN (Regional Public Information Network) alert link, and – within its Natural Resources and Parks Department, a collection of information, reports and opportunities dedicated to conservation, mitigation and adaptation.

Then you get to the internal web site of County Executive Ron Sims and his initiatives, which include Global Warming, and Environmental Protection. These two initiatives alone -ronsimsgw.jpg if they were the only things King County was doing besides “the essentials,” would put it ahead of all but two or three counties in the U.S. in terms of advance planning for climate change.

I’ve spoken with Elizabeth Willmott, the Global Warming Coordinator for the initiative. She referred me to Peg Reagan, Executive Director of Conservation Leaders Network.

I talked to Peg.  As someone who is always trying to get the attention of county commissioners (or whatever their local titles may be), she informed me that they are predominantly understaffed and overcommitted. I’m not surprised, but the contrast between what King County is able to accomplish and what the vast majority of counties seem able to accomplish is dramatic.

Firehose blastingFor the past year I’ve been following news feeds from over a dozen of the most informative, science-based blogs on global warming and climate change (pick your favorite term). I’ve had Google News Alerts set for climate change, climate adaptation, flood and drought. I’ve bookmarked hundreds of sites, documents and articles and posted 126 articles under the Climate Frog blog title.

I believe in science and in the findings that serious scientists contribute to our knowledge about the environment. I believe them when they warn us about the future impacts of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.

This past year brought us Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. It brought us the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, validating the work of 2400 science experts and signed off by 193 governments. We had the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali. We saw extraordinary and record breaking flooding in England, the American Midwest, China, Bangladesh, China and Africa. We saw devastating droughts across Australia, China (again), South America and both the Southeastern and Southwestern U.S.

Scientists reported on the faster than expected shrinking of the Arctic Ice Cap and melting of major glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic.

Within that one year of observation I witnessed the foreshortening of the forecasts for climate change and its impacts. Where scientists thought in 2007 that we might have 3 or 4 decades to get things right, they are now thinking in terms of 2 or 3 decades. There’s no guarantee that the threatening conditions won’t continue to accelerate in an unfortunate direction.

So it became clear to me, sometime last fall, that we’d better get moving on the preparation front. My sense of urgency is only heightened by the fact that our federal government is intentionally dragging its feet in acknowledging that there’s a threat worth doing something about. It’s spurred by the fact that even the majority of us who believe that we should be turning greener are not really committing to changing our lifestyles and habits. It’s whipped into a frency by the fact that the U.S., China and India are planning to build about 850 new coal-fired carbon-spewing power plants.

All of that slow response, regressive action and poor preparation at the national and grassroots levels makes it crucial that we begin some organized and concerted effort right now to identify local risks and ready our local communities to deal with them. And getting ready means learning how to work together to mitigate both our long- and short-range risks.

Firehose

cliffbilbao.jpgResilience is the capacity to adapt. We humans, who mostly live in communities facing the prospect of new climates and the impacts that come with them, are entering unexplored territory. We don’t know when our local climate will change, or when we’ll even know that it has. We may find ourselves dealing with strange new weather every season, and adjusting to it will be our ongoing task.

In any case, we know that those new climate impacts will be specific to our localities, and that each community will need to search for solutions to living with them. We don’t know how much help our local government will be able to provide.

It’s likely that climate adaptation will be a bottom-up movement – designed, led and maintained by grassroots groups. To the extent that those groups can get a head start on the challenges of new climates, they will be stronger for dealing with crisis conditions.

Presilience is a learn-by-example site, that will highlight the best examples we can find of groups working on the local level to make a difference. Today, those groups are working on projects like greenhouse gas mitigation and conservation. Someday, today’s best practices and qualities will be adopted to confront the future challenges of new climates.

If you’re part of such a change-making group, or if you know of one, let me know. We need to learn and share good examples to make us all smarter. We need to understand what relationship qualities make such groups run smoothly? And if they don’t run smoothly, how do they tolerate disagreement and still move on to make differences?