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Climate Change: Getting Organized (Part 1)

By David Cleaves, U.S. Forest Service Climate Change Advisor

“Sound climate science is the foundation for an effective management response.” These were Chief Tidwell’s words to the participants of a Forest Service workshop on climate change adaptation this past April. Using science to help us deal with change is not new to us. We are a science-based organization. And the vast weight of scientific evidence – thousands of peer-reviewed studies – supports the conclusion that we have entered a period of rapid climatic changes with impacts already occurring in different parts of the country.

Yes, we have growing science portfolio about the specifics of climate change impacts on natural resources as well as about how ecosystems operate and how our management can influence them. But this science is not useful unless we are organized and committed to using it. That requires structure and discipline, especially given the many different kinds of science and the many practices based on science that have to be involved.

The Climate Change Advisor’s office is striving to improve our organization for climate change response in four areas: getting connected, taking responsibility, providing direction, and coordinating information and services. Our modus operandi is to, whenever possible, take on climate-related issues through our existing national program structure, not create a separate program. That is why most of the people working on climate change have full-time assignments in functional programs in the Deputy Areas or in the field.

Climate does not act alone. It drives many stressors such as fire, pests, and floods, and interacts with many non-climatic stressors such as land use conversion, introduction and spread of invasives, energy development, human recreation, and others. We are dealing with these stressors through our regular programs and so in one way or another then already dealing with climate change, whether we call it that or not. As climate change and variability influence these disturbance complexes, the need for more integrated cross-deputy and cross-agency organization grows.

We will have to meet this need with higher levels of organizational fitness in every respect: scientific strength, organizational speed and agility, political and managerial flexibility, and leadership balance and endurance. We will have to build on what we already know and improve our ability to adopt new science and innovate new approaches.

Go to the Climate Change Update at: http://www.fs.fed.us/climatechange/updates/cc-news-july7.pdf

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