Spokane Climate Project, Our New Workbook Series, and Ann says Goodbye

As part of our joint effort with the community of Spokane, Washington, the CIRC team has been advising Spokane community members as they create a climate vulnerability assessment for the Spokane region. This has been a long, at times difficult but nonetheless rewarding process that is now coming to something of an end, at least for the CIRC team.

That’s right. While we foresee some continued CIRC involvement as an advisor and colleague in the Spokane Community Adaptation Project (SCAP), we are leaving the continuation of this effort to the Spokane community members whose energy and insights have spearheaded the SCAP effort, now called the Spokane Climate Project, from its beginning. This project has always been theirs and they are best judges to determine where it needs to go from here. We have the utmost trust in the capabilities and commitment of this group of individuals. And we have faith that they will take this project where it needs to go.

This blog reviews what the Spokane Climate Project has accomplished so far, CIRC’s final involvement in the effort, including the completion of The Climate Resilience Workbook Series, a set of workbooks designed to teach community members how to assess climate impacts affecting their community and what they can do to respond to them. And, on a personal note, this is my goodbye blog to CIRC and the community of Spokane.

I have had the honor of working as CIRC’s Project Manager and Outreach Specialist for the past two years. Starting this week, I will begin a new job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Pacific Island Regional Office in Honolulu, Hawai’i.  But before we get to our goodbyes, let’s talk about what we’ve accomplished together.

Picking up Where We Left Off

When we last updated our readers about the SCAP effort, we described how Spokane community members used the Climate Toolbox (formerly the Northwest Climate Toolbox), CIRC’s suite of free online climate data tools, and its companion user guide, The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook (soon to be The Climate Toolbox Workbook), to analyze and create a series of what we call climate data stories—or narratives that outline climate facts and impacts localized to individual communities.

(Note: we have renamed the Climate Toolbox and will soon be renaming The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbookbecause over the past year our user base has grown and extended well beyond the Pacific Northwest. We realize we’re renaming things all over the place here, but bear with us!)

Using both the Climate Toolbox and The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook, Spokane community members participating in the Spokane Climate Project created five climate data stories around five climate impact categories—temperature, precipitation, snowfall, streamflow, and wildfires.

These specific climate impact categories were chosen by the Spokane community because they have had and are likely to continue having significant impacts on the economy, health, and environment of Spokane and its surrounding region. For more details, check out our previous blogs of the project and especially check out the Spokane Climate Project website, which contains the completed climate data stories written by the community under our guidance. (A quick note on the links above: at the time of this blog posting, the Spokane Climate Project website is still under construction. So, bear with us here also.)

However, what we really want to talk about in this blog installment is the project’s exciting next stage: how Spokane community members plan to respond to the climate impacts they have identified and analyzed.

Over the last several months as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to hunker down in our homes, this same group of dedicated Spokane community members has continued to create a community vulnerability assessment that will help inform Spokane’s sustainability action planning process.

To smoothly hand off CIRC’s involvement in the Spokane Climate Project to community members (without the benefit of any face-to-face interaction. Thanks, COVID-19!), the CIRC team went back to the drawing board. We wanted to know if we could recreate some of the success we had with the Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook, but this time instead of creating a user guide to the Climate Toolbox, we wanted to create a user guide to the climate assessment and vulnerability adaptation process itself. After months of back and forth with the Spokane community, we did just that. In fact, we ended up creating two new workbooks that would act as companion guides to The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook. These workbooks pick up where the Toolbox workbook left off. We are calling this now three-part workbook series The Climate Resilience Workbook Series

About The Climate Resilience Workbook Series

So what does the The Climate Resilience Workbook Series do exactly?

As we write in the series itself, The Climate Resilience Workbook Series helps users, “to access and apply global climate information at a local scale to develop relevant resilience actions.” In plain English this means if you follow the instructions in the workbook series and put a little mental elbow grease into the effort (sorry for butchering that idiom), you will be able to apply the lessons learned in the series to not only help your community understand and assess the hazards that climate variability and change pose to your community, but you will also acquire a set of skills that will empower you and your fellow community members to identify the steps necessary to respond to the climate-associated hazards you face. In other words, the series helps you identify your climate-associated problems and develop your community-based solutions to those problems.

Because questions around climate information and climate change are far-reaching and can be overwhelming, we wanted the workbook series to help its users ease into the hard process of developing the complex skillset they would need to identify and address climate-associated problems, or what we also call climate impacts. And that skillset is indeed complex.

The Climate Resilience Workbook Series teaches its users to analyze and integrate information from a range of evidence-based sources in order to develop plans that are actionable at a local scale. The series makes the difficult and noble task of acquiring this skillset manageable by dividing the process into simple exercises (bite-sized nuggets of learning if you will. YUM!) that will ultimately make the holistic big climate picture clear for the committed workbook user.

The climate assessment and adaptation process detailed in the series—like the series itself—is really a three-step process.

Now, imagine you’re a user of the workbook series. As Bob told Dr. Leo in the immortal classic “What About Bob?,” “baby steps.” Here’s how you baby-step through the three-steps:

Step 1: The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook (yes, soon to be renamed The Climate Toolbox Workbook) provides step-by-step instructions for using the Climate Toolbox. Use this workbook in conjunction with the Climate Toolbox and similar online climate tools to discover and craft your climate data stories and related climate data analysis.

Step 2: The Vulnerability Assessment Workbook provides step-by-step instructions for assessing current and projected future climate impacts faced by your community. Use this workbook to build on the climate data analysis and climate data stories you previously created using the Climate Toolbox and The Climate Toolbox Workbook to integrate that information with your local experience and judgement in a systematic and defensible process.

Step 3: The Resilience Actions Workbook provides exercises to help you understand the human landscape of your community and to plan resilience actions that integrate the best available scientific research and tools with your local experience and judgement, which is exactly what you did in the first two workbooks. Use this workbook to integrate and build upon the work you’ve already done. This workbook also provides guidance on how to communicate effectively about your process, decisions, and findings.

To put it another way, The Climate Toolbox Workbook helps you identify the problems your community is likely to face under climate change, The Vulnerability Assessment Workbook provides a framework to help you grapple with how your climate-associated problems will impact and interact with your community in all its human complexity. And finally, The Resilience Actions Workbook provides tools to help you plan how to respond to your climate-associated problems through resilience actions that will work for your community.

Walking with the Spokane Community through the Three-Step Process

If all this seems rather pie in the sky, consider how Spokane community members baby-stepped through the workbook series. We’ll give you a concrete example: rising temperatures and increasing occurrence of heat-related illnesses.

Step 1—Identifying a Climate-Associated Problem: Using the tools found in the Climate Toolbox and the guidance outlined The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook, Spokane community members broke into teams based on the climate impacts categories, temperature, precipitation, snow, streamflow, and wildfires. The temperature team analyzed past and future temperature projections for Spokane. The team members determined that temperatures would continue to rise in Spokane throughout this century due to the release of greenhouse gases. Their analysis led them to identify a climate-associated problem—or what we sometimes call a climate impact—associated with temperature, namely a likely rise in heat-related illnesses. The community members determined temperatures in Spokane were projected to continue rising throughout this century and that this projected rise in temperatures would very likely be associated with a corresponding increase in heat-related illnesses. That was their climate-associated problem. Addressing their problem, meant following Steps 2 and 3.

Step 2—Assessing the Community’s Vulnerability: Using The Vulnerability Assessment Workbook, community members then assessed their vulnerability to their identified climate-associated problem of increased heat-related illnesses. They did this by examining non-climate data sets and research on heat-related illnesses to determine how the climate data they had previously examined would interact with the community as a social whole.  They concluded that the rise in projected temperatures would not only correspond to an increase in heat-related illnesses, but also that due to already existing social issues these heat-related impacts would likely disproportionately impact the most vulnerable populations of their community.  (Note: Groups vulnerable to heat-related illnesses include the young, older adults, and pregnant women, outdoor athletes, outdoor workers, low-income households, individuals with certain chronic medical diseases, and first responders, including police, firefighters, and paramedics.)

Having identified their community’s vulnerability to heat-related illnesses, the community members then assessed their community’s adaptive capacity, the ability (or lack thereof ) of their community to utilize social relations, social constructs, and knowledge to adapt to changing conditions in their community. 

As of this writing, members of the Spokane Climate Project are now completing these steps for multiple impacts across multiple climate categories—again those are temperature, precipitation, snow, streamflow, and wildfires. The results of this work will be used to create a full climate vulnerability assessment for Spokane. This, however, is not a set-in-stone document. Rather the vulnerability assessment is intended to facilitate the difficult conversations that are likely to happen in Spokane around community vulnerability to climate impacts.

Step 3—Identify You Resilience Actions: In addition to creating the vulnerability assessment, members of the Spokane Climate Project are now using The Resilience Actions Workbook to understand the social landscape of their community and plan how best to take actions to lessen the effects of the climate impacts they identified. To bring us back to our above example of projected rising temperatures and an increase in heat-related illnesses, community members came up with a list of resilience actions that could be used to help aid their community. These included, creating public cooling centers, creating water stations, the deployment of heat response tents during high heat events, and requiring the installation of air conditioning units in housing.

As one can imagine, throughout this analysis and assessment process, myriad ideas for adapting to and/or alleviating the impacts felt by the Spokane community were developed. Members of the Spokane Climate Project are now devising action plans about how best to include and engage relevant stakeholders, and communicate their process, climate data stories, and climate vulnerability stories.

One Last Shout Out and Thank You to the Community of Spokane

The Climate Resilience Workbook Series was coproduced with the Spokane community.

The CIRC team is indebted to the constructive feedback community members gave us as we developed these products together. (Coproduction, by the way, is a guiding philosophy in how CIRC does what it does. For more information, check out this brief explainer.) We are especially grateful to our intrepid Spokane community members who rose to meet the challenge of beta-testing these very involved documents over three 2-hour online sessions via Zoom and Google Docs without the benefit of the face-to-face interactions that have been so important throughout this process.

To everyone who has worked with the CIRC team on the Spokane Climate Project (aka the project formerly known as the Spokane Community Adaptation Project), we thank you. You’ve been great to work with. We have the utmost confidence that you will take up the torch of the work we accomplished together and run with  this marathon of a project and all its beautiful complexities the final miles over the finish line to a brighter more climate resilient future for Spokane.

While the CIRC team is stepping back from our heavy involvement in this effort, we ask that you don’t be strangers. If you hit roadblocks, need resources, or simply need someone to sing your praises, CIRC is here for you.

Goodbye from Ann

On a personal note, thanks for working on this project with me. It has been a pleasure to work as the Program Manager and Outreach Specialist for CIRC. It is bittersweet that after two-and-a-half years working with the CIRC team and the Spokane Climate Project team members I’m returning to the greener (I mean bluer) pastures of the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Island Regional Office in Honolulu. Even though I’ll be out of the day-to-day, I’m not going all that far. CIRC being part the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program is a NOAA project after all.

I will be cheering you on as you work to make the Pacific Northwest more resilient in the face of climate variability and change.


Ann Mooney was CIRC’s Project Manager and Stakeholder Engagement Specialist from February 2018 to June 2020. She led CIRC’s involvement in the Spokane Community Adaptation Project and is the lead author on CIRC’s The Climate Resilience Workbook Series.


Related Stories:


Citations: 

  • The Climate Resilience Workbook Series:
    • Mooney, Ann, Nathan Gilles, Katherine Hegewisch, John Abatzoglou, and Meghan Dalton. “The Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook: Discovering and applying your climate data story for climate adaptation planning,” Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2019.  https://pnwcirc.org/sites/pnwcirc.org/files/nwct.pdf.

    • Mooney, Ann and Denise Lach. “The Resilience Actions Workbook: Building and Communicating Resilience Actions Using your Climate Data Story and Vulnerability Assessment.” Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2020. https://pnwcirc.org/sites/pnwcirc.org/files/resilience_actions_workbook.pdf.

  • Spokane Community Adaptation Project (SCAP) Climate Data Stories as part of The Spokane Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Assessment (Working Title)
    • Temperature (Chapter 1)
      MacMullan, Rebecca, Kara Odegard,, Jim Simon, and David Camp. “Temperature Impact Study for Spokane, Washington.” In The Spokane Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Assessment, edited by Nathan Gilles, Katherine Hegewisch, John Abatzoglou, Ann Mooney, and Meghan Dalton. Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2020.
    • Precipitation (Chapter 2)
      Breems, Joel, and Kevin Booth. “Precipitation Study for Spokane, Washington.” In The Spokane Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Assessment, edited by Nathan Gilles, Katherine Hegewisch, John Abatzoglou, Erich Seamon, Ann Mooney, and Meghan Dalton. Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2020.
    • Snowfall (Chapter 3)
      Henning, Brian, Levi Keesecker, David Camp, and Erik Budsberg.“Snowfall Impact Study for Spokane, Washington.” In The Spokane Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Assessment, edited by Nathan Gilles, Katherine Hegewisch, John Abatzoglou, Ann Mooney, and Meghan Dalton. Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean,and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2020.
    • Streamflow (Chapter 4)
      Porcello, John, Kara Odegard, Karl Rains, Jule Schultz, and Brad Morin. “Streamflow Impact Study for Spokane, Washington.” In The Spokane Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Assessment, edited by Nathan Gilles, Katherine Hegewisch, John Abatzoglou, Ann Mooney, and Meghan Dalton. Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2020.
    • WildFires (Chapter 5)
      Petersen, Mike, Levi Keesecker, Wei Li, Terry Lawhead, Katherine Rowden, and Joel Breems, Jerusha Hampson, and Katherine Hegewisch. “Fire and Smoke Impact Study for Spokane, Washington” In The Spokane Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Assessment, edited by Katherine Hegewisch, Nathan Gilles, John Abatzoglou, Ann Mooney, and Meghan Dalton. Corvallis, Oregon: The Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC), College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2020.

Featured Image: “Spokane River.” Sometime in 2019 . Photo Credit: Ann Mooney, all rights reserved.)


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