Step Two: Learn About Climate Change

"Seeking out local knowledge is a great way to start the dialogue with your community." - Local Coordinator for the City of Castlegar's Adaptation Project 


What You Need To Do

Learning about Climate Change involves the following three steps that can be done sequentially or concurrently.

  1. Seek out Local Observations
  2. Research Historical Data and Future Climate Modelling
  3. Communicate the Science

1. Seek out Local Observations

A community member's local observation about climate change. At this workshop, community members were asked to draw their local observations.

 Seeking out local knowledge is a great way to start the dialogue. Asking people about their observations serves several purposes, including:

  • Encouraging discussion on climate change from people's own reference points
  • Putting local people and their knowledge at the front of your process
  • Accessing key information on environmental changes to fill gaps in the science, as local people are often keen observers over many years
  • Accessing key information on past climate events, as local people are on the front lines and have dealt with major climate events in the past
  • Identifying areas that require further investigation or substantiate scientific claims

Local observations can be collected in any format. A meeting or gathering may be useful because it helps to draw out stories. Asking people what they are seeing is also a first step towards identifying community priorities, understanding local impacts and vulnerabilities and determining what adaptive measures have already been taken. Seeking out local knowledge is a great way to start the dialogue.

Resource: Examples of local observations in Phase 1 and 2 communities

Community Example: City of Rossland Local Observations Summary Report

Community Example: RDCK Area D/Village of Kaslo Local Observations Survey

2. Research Historical Data and Future Climate Modelling

"Current climate science is directional at best, often lacking desired details/certainty on local impacts." - Ingrid Liepa, Coordinator for City of Kimberley's Adaptation Project

Examining basic historical trends and future climate projections is critical to climate change adaptation planning and lends credibility to the process. Understanding the climate models and their uses and limitations is a key aspect of this step of the process.

The main information source for historical trends and future climate projections in the Columbia Basin is CBT’s partner, the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC). PCIC has created a number of resources to facilitate climate change adaptation planning in the Columbia Basin. These resources can be found in the Climate Change Science section of this Resource Kit. 

It is critical to understand the limitations of the science. Many of the projections include estimates of uncertainty. In addition, the manner in which climate changes (such as changes in precipitation and temperature) will affect ecosystems, infrastructure and economy will vary widely and has not been fully analyzed. The data provided by PCIC is a good start to understanding potential climate change impacts, but efforts must be made to set appropriate expectations with respect to what the science can tell us.

If communities have questions regarding the science during their adaptation planning process, they can be answered by the CACCI Technical Support Team (TST).

3. Communicate the Science

Communicating the science to your local steering committee, Council and other community members will be a key aspect of the process. The degree to which this is done varies from community to community and should be decided by the local coordinator and steering committee. Some communities with significant community involvement have provided Climate Change 101 workshops to residents, while others have had consultants do the majority of the research and work.

CBT's Communities Adapting to Climate Change Initiative (CACCI) does not attempt to convince people that climate change is real. The CACCI seeks to identify the potential impacts of climate change and what adaptation could look like at a local level. If participants or members of the public wish to discuss the validity of climate change, thank them for their comments, remind them of the scientific consensus on climate change and move on. Helpful links to documents about scientific consensus can be found on CBT's website, Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.

There are many resources for communicating the science to lay people. Key resources can be found in the Climate Change Science section of this Resource Kit, including basic climate science information and also more in-depth PowerPoint presentations.

Resource: Five-Minute Video - Climate Change Science 101 for the Columbia Basin

Useful Material 

Climate Communications and Behavior Change - a Guide for Practitioners - This online guide illustrates the challenges with existing communications efforts and provides tips on how to frame and deliver outreach efforts in a way that motivates changes in thinking and behaviour.

Climate Change Cartoons - This PowerPoint was compiled by a member of CBT's Technical Support Team who collects climate change cartoons. Cartoons can be a great way to break the ice or to help communicate the science.