Beyond tools: building learning organisations to adapt to a changing climate

29 Jul 2013

Executive summary: The focus of this VCCCAR Visiting Fellowship was participation in the project ‘Implementing tools to increase adaptive capacity in the community and natural resources management sectors’. This project aimed to improve understanding of the adaptation capabilities and needs of three types of government service providers and funded agencies (catchment management authorities, community sector organisations and primary care partnerships). The intention was to draw on my experience of working at the UK Climate Impacts Program (UKCIP) and with projects in Europe to inform the development of this project and the way it might support adaptation efforts in Victoria.

UKCIP was a small organisation, varying in size over its life from 2 to a maximum of about 25 people. Given such limited capacity there was a tension between trying to address the need for tailored adaptation support and the capacity to deliver it. One response was to provide widespread support through downloadable tools and other web resources. However, it was quickly discovered that downloading a tool only gets you so far. Similarly, having access to accurate climate data and information about future climate projections was also seen as the obvious place to start in responding to a changing climate. However, it soon became clear that even with access to accurate, reliable, salient information there could still be no assumption that decision makers would take action to adapt and there was frequently a gap between the quite high general awareness of climate change within an organisation (and an understanding of how it could affect their core business) and the implementation of actions to respond to it. This raises key questions about availability of usable information and extent of agreement on potential responses to climate risks.

To be usable, information should relate to existing decision making processes and the key priorities of the organisation. It should also be locally relevant. In discussions with Victorian organisations, people wanted to know how to translate more general information about climate change into useful messages for everyday practice and service delivery. It is clearly important to start with current concerns and overlay on these the likely impacts of changing climate. Most future climate impacts are often not yet seen as urgent or important and there is a need for better coordination of users, demonstration projects, activities that bridge the gap between providers and users, and demonstration of how climate information can improve decision making.


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