The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

Climate change

Climate change altering wetlands, affecting bird migration in the American West

Summer Lake Wildlife Area

The Summer Lake Wildlife Area is a wildlife refuge in south-central Oregon. Photo by Susan Haig, U.S. Geological Survey. CC BY-SA 2.0

CORVALLIS, Oregon, USA. – New research shows that recent climate change is having profound effects on wetlands across the American West – affecting birds that use these wetlands for breeding, migration and wintering.

According to a study published today in the journal Scientific Reports, long-term trends towards higher temperatures and less precipitation have altered environmental water quality and reduced waterbird habitat, creating clear winners and losers in bird species and potentially threatening the integrity of the Pacific migratory flyway for many species. The study, which began in the mid-1990s, is the result of a research collaboration between scientists at Oregon State University, U.S. Geological Survey, University of California, Merced; and the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation.

Study co-author John H. Matthews, Executive Director of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, said, “Migrating, breeding, developing and post-breeding birds need water, but they also need good quality water. This is one of the first studies globally to show that climate change is altering water quality. If shifts in climate can alter water quality for birds, then climate change can alter our water quality too. These bird populations are the canary in the coal mine for all of us.”

The researchers examined more than a century’s worth of temperature and precipitation data across the Great Basin, which spans nearly all of Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and portions of California, Idaho and Wyoming. They compared the data with more than 50 years of results from the U.S. Geological Survey Breeding Bird Surveys, which began in 1968.

The research focused on waterbirds, which are species that include shorebirds, ducks, geese, swans, herons and rails. The Great Basin is a major part of the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south route for migratory birds in North America. During spring migration, more than 2 million waterfowl pass through the southern Oregon-northeastern California region of the Pacific Flyway.


The Adventures of Polo the Bear: A Story of Climate Change

This guest blog was written by Alan Hesse, author of the forthcoming book ‘The Adventures of Polo the Bear: a story of climate change’

Polo says hello
My name is Polo, and I’m a polar bear. I’m an unusual sort of polar bear, because I can speak and understand human languages, I can walk on two legs, I wear a captain’s cap, I know how to sail a boat, and I use rational thinking to get me places.

You’ll hopefully all get to know me soon, and my adventures around the world, thanks to this new book I appear in. It’s actually a comic book, and it’s called ‘The Adventures of Polo the Bear: a story of climate change’.

My creator, Alan Hesse, is one of those guys who’s not really sure what he is, or where he’s from. I’d like to add he also doesn’t know what he’s doing sometimes, but that wouldn’t be a very useful comment right now. What I do know about Alan though is that he cares passionately about the natural world – polar bears and our Arctic home included. I also know he is a wildlife conservationist and cartoonist. You may think this is a very odd job description, I certainly think so. What does conservation biology have to do with cartoons, right?! But Alan is very adamant about the two things actually going really well together; he says that in ancient times, art and science were joined, and that modern people have segregated them too much. He says he believes that there is also way too much information out there these days, that because of it, people actually get swamped and tend to shut down to important information, like on climate change for example.

That’s why he created this book, and me as the main character.

Can climate change be a personal crisis as well as an institutional or technical one?

This guest blog is written by Ingrid Timboe, a member of the AGWA Secretariat.

Born in the 1980s, I grew up during a time of increasing climate awareness as the concept of human-induced climate change moved out of obscurity and into the mainstream. I have no trouble believing what the science tells us: that global warming is real, it’s here, and it will continue to impact our planet in varying ways for decades if not centuries. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, listening to a piece of music for solo piano entitled “Elegy for the Arctic” by Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi, that I fully connected with the reality of climate change and what it means for us and for our planet. As I listened and later watched the video of Einaudi playing this beautiful composition floating in front of Norway’s Wahlenbergbreen glacier, I felt profound sorrow for what is happening. At the same time, his music moved me to feel an even deeper commitment to keep working.

Nearly everything about climate change – from the name itself to the global phenomena it generates – is maddeningly complex, broad, and impersonal. For example, it is rather difficult to elicit strong emotions or personal connection with words and phrases like “CO₂ concentration,” “mitigation,” or “general circulation models.” But strong emotions are precisely what is required to respond to the very real and present threats associated with a changing climate.

AGWA Launching Its Own "ClimateReady" Podcast

AGWA has created a new podcast series focused on international climate change issues, stories, and initiatives. The ClimateReady Podcast features interviews and segments on emerging trends in the intersection of climate and water. Experts in policy, engineering, finance, and other sectors will provide cutting-edge perspectives and narratives on climate adaptation challenges and opportunities. AGWA has released several episodes for your listening pleasure!
  • Ep. 1 - Climate Adaptation Crash Course
  • Ep. 2 - COP23 Water & Climate Policy Primer (featuring AGWA's Co-Chair Maggie White)
  • Ep. 3 - Decision Making Under Uncertainty
  • Ep. 4 - Climate Change & Community-based Adaptation in the Himalayas
You have several listening options depending on your preference. All episodes are available on the brand new Knowledge Platform. Or, you can listen and subscribe using iTunes or SoundCloud. We hope you’ll enjoy the first few episodes and subscribe for future installments. Read More...

NWP Video on SDG 13: Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

The Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) has produced a video series on SDG 13, including an installment featuring AGWA member Karin Lexén of SIWI. The Sustainable Development Goal 13, “Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, is vital for the achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals. Sven Harmeling (CARE International), Karin Lexén (SIWI) and Colin McQuistan (Practical Action) discuss why action on climate change is urgently needed, introduce their organizations’ engagement in taking stronger climate action and highlight priority areas of intervention.


New Video Series from AGWA-U | Intro to Climate Adaptation and Rare

AGWA has developed graduate level professional development courses in sustainable resource management and climate adaptation. This program, known as "AGWA-U," held its inaugural course this past June at Oregon State University's Natural Resources Leadership Academy.

A series of videos were developed by an AGWA-U student, Alan Hesse of Rare, as a way to illustrate some of the basic principles surrounding climate adaptation. They are great for a crash-course on climate adaptation terminology, actors, policies, and issues. Here's a list of the episodes:

  • Video 1: Overview of Climate Adaptation
  • Video 2: Dealing with Uncertainty
  • Video 3: Rare in Colombia
All three are available to watch below, or by visiting

High and Dry: Climate Change, Water, and the Economy

A new World Bank reports finds that water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could hinder economic growth, spur migration, and spark conflict. However, most countries can neutralize the adverse impacts of water scarcity by taking action to allocate and use water resources more efficiently.

Water and climate change are inextricably linked. In fact, water is the primary vehicle through which climate change's effects will be felt. Findings from a new World Bank report explore the possible outcomes of a business-as-usual approach to water management versus a more progressive approach to water management policy. As they say in the video above, "We can't control how much rain falls, but we can control how water gets used and move towards a world of resilience in the face of a changing climate."

Read the original article from the World Bank or download the full report by clicking here. This story is also covered by the Wilson Center's "New Security Beat" blog here. Read More...

WWF Climate Crowd: Crowdsourcing human responses to climate change

What do climate change, wildlife, rural communities around the world, and collaborations between WWF and organizations like the Peace Corps have in common? WWF Climate Crowd!

Far removed from decision-making bodies and financial resources, rural communities are often left to their own devices to cope and adapt to changes in weather and climate. Indigenous, local and traditional knowledge systems could be a very useful tool for adapting to climate change, but these have not been used consistently in existing efforts. Additionally, most research has focused on the direct impacts of climate change on biodiversity, but largely neglected how human responses to climate change are impacting biodiversity.

WWF Climate Crowd is a new initiative to crowdsource information on how these communities are responding and how their responses impact biodiversity. We are collaborating with other organizations to collect this data, find and implement ways to better help communities adapt, and alter our conservation strategies in light of the information we gather.

To find out more on this new initiative, tune in to an upcoming webinar: Wednesday, May 11 at 10am EST
Register:

AGWA Featured on NPR | Drought Sabotages Critical Hydroelectric Dams

The following is a copy of the article from "The Takeaway." The original article can be found at The interview with AGWA's Secretariat Coordinator begins at the 5-minute mark.

Venezuela's energy crisis is rippling through its economy. Dropping oil prices have cut into state funds, and a drought has critically diminished water levels at the massive Guri Dam, which is home to Venezuela's largest hydroelectric power station.

To cut back on energy demand, the government has imposed a two-day work week for all public sector workers, and schools have also been closed on Fridays.

Hannah Dreier is Venezuela correspondent for The Associated Press and was in Caracas when a new round of protests erupted on Tuesday. She discusses the energy crisis, and the subsequent unrest.

Hydroelectric power has reshaped economies all over the world, but as in Venezuela, many even recently completed dams face genuinely different conditions than their designers anticipated because of climate change.

Low water levels at the Kariba dam on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe are causing blackouts, and the Hoover Dam in the American southwest, which supplies Las Vegas with water, reached a new all-time low in April 2015.

In the face of droughts and changing weather patterns, can these expensive and prestigious projects still be viable? The Takeaway spoke with John Matthews, secretariat coordinator, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, about what a sustainable dam could look like. Read More...

What's AGWA's Graduate Course All About? | AGWA-U

Still unsure if you are interested in AGWA's upcoming graduate level professional development course? Oregon State University's NRLA has come up with a great video overview for the class. It's definitely worth two minutes of your time to take a look!

Fore more on AGWA-U, including the course at UNESCO-IHE, visit
Fore more on OSU's Natural Resource Leadership Academy, visit Read More...

#ClimateIsWater - Murray-Darling Basin in Australia

In the tenth episode of the #ClimateIsWater series is Dr. Jamie Pittock, Associate Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at Australian National University. In this episode Dr. Pittock explains the issues facing the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia and outlines some of the solutions that the Australian government has implemented to address these challenges, such as nationalized water accounting and managing groundwater and surface water in conjunction.

Make sure to check out for more episodes to come!


#ClimateIsWater - Indonesian Coastal Communities Affected by Climate Change

In the fourth episode of the #ClimateIsWater series is Daniel Murdiyarso, Principle Scientist for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Dr. Murdiyarso addresses how climate change has especially affected vulnerable coastal communities in Indonesia via sea level rise and loss of productivity. He also explores the relationship between coastal areas and the inland hydrological cycle and explains the role of the IPCC guideline for wetlands and coastal wetlands. Make sure to check out this episode and keep checking on the AGWA Blog and the #ClimateIsWater Vimeo Channel for future installments and previous episodes.


#ClimateIsWater - André Flajolet

In the second installment of the #ClimateIsWater series is André Flajolet, the Mayor of Saint-Venant, France and President of the Basin Committee Artois Picardie. Mayor Flajolet addresses how climate change has affected his community and the benefits of taking preventative actions. Make sure to check out this first episode and keep checking on the AGWA Blog and the #ClimateIsWater Vimeo Channel for future installments.

Cresting Research: May 2015 Selected AGWA Reading

Finding “now” in “then”: Using the past to inform our knowledge of the future

Why do we find a particular species (or group of species) in a particular place? How do manage that species (or set of species) if where we find them will change with climate shifts? The first AGWA research spotlight focuses on how our understanding of ecological communities is itself shifting over time.