How to Find Out About Boulder Creek Streamflow: Data for Tube to Work Day and Your Other Summer Adventures

by Abigail Ahlert
CSTPR Science Writer

Photo above: Bienvenido León (2017 CSTPR FIRST Fellow), Max Boykoff, and Peter Newton (CSTPR Affiliate)

Boulder Creek is an iconic and vital Colorado waterway. Weaving through Boulder Canyon and into the city, the creek provides abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation. One of the most popular events on Boulder Creek is Tube to Work Day, which is billed as “Colorado’s premier aquatic mass transit”. This year’s Tube to Work Day, taking place on Wednesday, July 11th, celebrates 11 years of tube commuting on Boulder Creek.

It only takes a quick trip to the creek (or a viewing of some fun Tube to Work Day videos) to show that most of Boulder Creek isn’t exactly a lazy river. High, swift water can make activities on Boulder Creek adventurous, and sometimes even hazardous. In early June, a man tubing found himself stranded on a rock, unable to move through the rushing water to safety. The Boulder County sheriff’s office and numerous other rescue groups were called to the scene and successfully helped the man to shore.

While activities in Boulder Creek can be risky, understanding the streamflow can help minimize risk and maximize fun for those seeking aquatic adventures. Streamflow—the amount of flowing water—can vary greatly in Boulder Creek due to snowmelt, heavy rains or drought. One useful resource is the online “Rocky Mountains-High Plains Climate Dashboard”, hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Western Water Assessment. The dashboard links to multiple resources on streamflow, temperature, snowpack and drought in the Rockies. The streamflow information is part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Information System, which collects data from river sites around the country every 15-60 minutes.

Jeff Kagan, one of the founders and organizers of Tube to Work Day, uses the National Water Information System to plan the annual event. Kagan checks the website regularly in the three months leading up to Tube to Work Day. This way, the organizers can set a date for when they expect stream flows in Boulder Creek to be good for tubing. “It’s hard to time it perfectly, especially since flows can’t be controlled,” Kagan says. “Too big and it’s cold and downright dangerous, too low and there’s a lot of scraping tush and bruised knees, not to mention people who work in East Boulder won’t make it into the office until 11 am. It’s really a matter of assessing snowpack and looking at flow data from years past.”

Jeff Kagan, one of the founders and organizers of Tube to Work Day.

Streamflow is commonly measured in cubic feet per second (cfs)—one cubic foot per second means that almost 7.5 gallons of water are flowing each second. Kagan says the ideal streamflow for Tube to Work Day is between 150-200 cfs. That’s between 1100-1500 gallons of water rushing down Boulder Canyon per second, carrying commuters on their merry way. Kagan says that if the streamflow is ever over 300 cfs on Tube to Work Day, the event will be postponed. That doesn’t seem to be a problem this year—the streamflow is reaching its peak earlier than usual, which means that water levels may actually be on the low end by July 11th, particularly between Eben G. Fine Park and Broadway. Kagan expects that the Boulder Creek streamflow will strike “a nice balance between exhilarating and safe” for Tube to Work Day 2018.

Tubers aren’t the only ones in need of Boulder Creek streamflow information. Other outdoor recreators, such as fly fishermen, rely on accurate stream information to decide when and where to cast their lines. Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey is an avid fly fisherman and spent over 15 years as an aquatic and landscape ecologist throughout the West. He fishes Boulder Creek year-round, mostly for brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout.

Like Kagan, Osborne-Gowey is a user of the USGS National Water Information System. He also consults the NOAA River Forecast Center and the EPA Surf Your Watershed tool. Local knowledge is a valuable resource to him as well, since fly fishing shops often keep close tabs on nearby river conditions. Osborne-Gowey says that fishes have different preferences when it comes to streamflow and temperature (and a fun fact I learned from him: the plural version “fishes” indicates multiple species). “In general, fishes tend to be least active at the lowest and highest flows, which coincides with generally poor fishing conditions,” says Osborne-Gowey. He says trout seem to be most active when the creek flow is experiencing change (either starting to decrease from the highest flows or increase from the lowest).

When flows are too low to fish in Boulder Canyon, Osborne-Gowey will try heading up to Nederland, or to parts of South Boulder Creek. This is because the creek’s streamflow depends on the location where it’s measured. Currently, streamflow in the Middle Boulder Creek near Nederland is at 72 cfs. The streamflow in the eastern part of Boulder Creek near Longmont is much lower, at about 18 cfs.

By checking streamflow data, recreators can have safer and more ideal experiences in Boulder Creek. Osborne-Gowey also recommends wearing water shoes with good grip when fishing, since “balance when walking streams is an ever present thing to be aware of, with loose boulders, branches and roots, slippery conditions, et cetera.” For Tube to Work Day, the organizers require closed-toed shoes and helmets. They also strongly recommend that tubers wear personal flotation devices and wetsuits.

CSTPR Director, Max Boykoff at the 2017 Tube to Work day.

These precautions help keep people safe in Boulder Creek during average conditions, such as those expected for Tube to Work Day. But history has shown that the water is not always so hospitable. During the September 2013 flood, streamflow in Boulder Creek leapt to over 5,000 cfs. In nearby Lyons, the St. Vrain Creek (which is said to reach its peak during the spring runoff at 1,200 cfs), had a jaw-dropping estimated streamflow of over 26,000 cfs. This streamflow data is used by the National Weather Service to validate flood models and improve flood forecasts. In light of past flood events, Boulder County has numerous on-going projects related to floodplain management.

When it comes to Colorado waterways, preparation is the key. Below are the most helpful resources for you to safely navigate some of our state’s rivers and creeks this summer:

Environmental data

Helpful tips from past years

Thanks to Ursula Rick and Jeff Lukas for introducing me to the Rocky Mountains-High Plains Climate Dashboard.

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RC/RCCC Notes From the Field: Climate Message and Land of Good People

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program
by Juhri Selamet
Maputo, Mozambique

Juhri Selamet is the 2018 Junior Researcher in the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCCC) program. He is a PhD student in the College of Media, Communication and Information at University of Colorado Boulder. He has a bachelor’s degree from Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research interests are visual communication, corporate social responsibility, climate change, water, conservation, media coverage of risk and the environment, and strategic environmental communication. 

View photo gallery in the field by Juhri Selamet

Arielle, Delegada da Pesquiça (Research Delegate of Forecast-based Financing) told me there was an exciting event held at Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano, Maputo, and she asked whether or not I was interested in joining the event, which, of course, I was. The Centro Cultural Franco was only about a 15 minute drive from Cruz Vermelha De Moçambique. It was a Climate Changes games event hosted by France Red Cross. When I arrived at the Center around 9 a.m., Janio Danio Dambo, Gestor da CVM do Projecto FbP (Forecast-based Financing project manager of Mozambique Red Cross), was already there to join and facilitate the event.

The participants for the event were from several institutions, such as NGOs and governmental institutions. From the participants’ introductions, I learned that some of them were from Instituto Nacional de Gestão de Calamides (INGC) (National Disasters Management Institute), Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia de Moçambique (INAM) (National Meteorology Institute), Direcção Nacional de Águas (DNGRH) (National Water Directorate), and Red Cross. From my observation, there were 13 female participants and 16 male participants for this event. After gathering in the center’s lobby for a short explanation about the activity, we moved to the second floor to partake in the workshop.

By 10 a.m., we started to play the game called “Climate Message.” We were divided into two groups. Eric SAM-VAH, Adjoint au chef de delegation, Gestion des risques de catastrophes – Deputy Head of Delegation, Disaster Risk Management from France Red Cross had prepared a climate message on a piece of paper to be shared with the groups. The climate message was in three languages: French, Portuguese, and English. In English, I noted the message was:

“Currently we are experiencing a strong ENSO signal, and are in an El Nino phase. There is a 60% chance that there will be less than average rainfall and a 45% chance that the maximum temperatures will be lower than average for the months of November, December, and January. The long-term forecasts show that there is an increased chance that the central parts of the country might experience drier conditions or even drought conditions.”

The message was passed one-by-one to each of the participants. They made shocked faces when they heard the message. Janio kept reminding the groups that there would be no repeating of the message, “Only say it once,” he said. Once the message reached the end of the line, Eric asked the last person of the groups to write down the message that had reached them; he asked them to read it as well. After that, Eric asked the first person who received the message to read the original message. One of the questions that I remember Eric asking the groups was, “What made it easy or difficult to communicate a climate message?” which, from my note, the groups responded the message was too long and too “complicado.”

At the end of the climate message game, Eric, as facilitator, explained to us the game’s relevance to climate resilience and that complex climate messages could often cause more confusion than clarity. This light-hearted exercise could open the space for an exploration of the effectiveness of seasonal forecasts and how to communicate them effectively without oversimplifying the message. The objectives of this activity were learning to explore how complex climate messages are transferred and to explore options for appropriate use of climate messages. From this activity, as players for the games, we have learned the challenges associated with climate communication. It encourages us to take action and develop solutions to provide knowledge and understanding of the climate issue that could be adapted to local context.

There were many laughs and much discussion, and for sure, we had fun at that event. I was fortunate to attend and participate in this activity. Read more …

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Olivia Pearman Awarded Colorado Governor’s Energy & Environment Fellowship

CSTPR Graduate Student, Olivia Pearman was recently awarded the Colorado Governor’s Energy & Environment Fellowship. Olivia will be working primarily with the Department of Natural Resources on Greater sage-grouse conservation issues in Colorado. Congrats Olivia!

The Governor’s Energy & Environment Fellowship seeks to develop the next generation of energy & environment leaders in Colorado, reflecting academic and geographic diversity, who can be empowered through experiential learning to impact positive change across sectors. The Governor’s Energy & Environment Fellowship offers placement with designated mentor-supervisor and participation in a cabinet-level working group.  Fellows will work on substantive daily assignments and meaningful long-term projects and will complete a final capstone project deliverable to Executive Leadership as a collaborative effort with the fellowship cohort.

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Andrew Revkin Book Talk: Weather – An Illustrated History

A book talk by Andrew Revkin, co-author of
Weather: An Illustrated History: From Cloud Atlases to Climate Change

June 26, 2018
5:00 – 6:00 PM, CIRES Auditorium

The engaging, illustrated book traces the history of humanity’s evolving relationship with Earth’s dynamic climate system and the wondrous weather it generates. Revkin—the strategic advisor for environmental and science journalism at the National Geographic Society—wrote it with Lisa Mechaley, an educator at the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation.

Their book hopscotches through 100 meteorological milestones and insights, from prehistory to today’s headlines and tomorrow’s forecasts. Bite-sized narratives, accompanied by exciting illustrations, touch on such varied topics as Earth’s first atmosphere, the physics of rainbows, the deadliest hailstorm, Groundhog Day, the invention of air conditioning, London’s Great Smog, the Year Without Summer, our increasingly strong hurricanes, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Andrew Revkin will be available for questions after the talk; the book will be available for purchase (cash or credit card).

More about the co-author:

Andrew Revkin is one of America’s most honored and experienced journalists and authors focused on environmental and human sustainability and efforts to use new communication tools to foster progress on a finite, fast-forward planet. In the spring of 2018, he joined the staff of the National Geographic Society as strategic adviser for environmental and science journalism. There he is helping expand the Society’s funding and support system for journalism and storytelling that can advance the human journey and conserve biological diversity in a century of momentous global change and challenges. “Weather: An Illustrated History,” written with the environmental educator Lisa Mechaley, is his fourth book.

He has written on global environmental change and risk for more than 30 years, reporting from the North Pole to the White House, the Amazon rain forest to the Vatican — mostly for The New York Times. From 2016 through early 2018, he was the senior reporter for climate change at the nonprofit investigative newsroom ProPublica. From 2010 through 2016 he wrote his award-winning Dot Earth blog for The New York Times Opinion section and was the Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University. There, he developed and taught a graduate course called “Blogging a Better Planet” and co-created an award-winning field course on environmental filmmaking.

He was a staff reporter at The Times from 1995 through 2009, covering issues ranging from threats to New York City’s water supply to the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami and, of course, climate science and policy. In the mid 2000s, he exposed political suppression of climate findings at NASA and editing of federal climate reports by political appointees with ties to the petroleum industry. He made three Arctic reporting trips and was the first Times reporter to file stories, video and photos from the sea ice around the North Pole.

Revkin began reporting on climate change in the 1980s in magazines and never stopped. He has won the top awards in science journalism multiple times, along with a Guggenheim Fellowship and Investigative Reporters & Editors Award. He has written acclaimed and award-winning books on the history of humanity’s relationship with weather, the changing Arcticglobal warming and the assault on the Amazon rain forest, as well as three book chapters on science communication.

Revkin has crossed over into scientific scholarship. He played an early role in the evolution of the hypothesis that humans have triggered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. In his 1992 climate book, he wrote: “Perhaps earth scientists of the future will name this new post-Holocene period for its causative element—for us. We are entering an age that might someday be referred to as, say, the Anthrocene [sic]. After all, it is a geological age of our own making.” That future arrived just eight years later, in 2000, when scientists formally proposed such an epoch. Revkin was invited to join the Anthropocene Working Group and served from 2011 through 2016. He is a co-author on a series of related peer-reviewed papers.

He speaks frequently about environmental science and policy and sustainability challenges. Drawing on his experience with his Dot Earth blog, which Time Magazine named one of the Web’s top 25 blogs in 2013, Revkin also speaks about the future of environmental journalism and opportunities and pitfalls in navigating the fast-changing online communication climate.

He is also a performing songwriter and leads a Hudson Valley roots band, Breakneck Ridge Revue. He was a longtime accompanist of Pete Seeger and released his first album of original songs in 2013. Two films have been based on his work: “Rock Star” (Warner Brothers, 2001) and “The Burning Season” (HBO, 1994).He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, Lisa Mechaley, an environmental educator (and, as of 2018, co-author).

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RC/RCCC Notes From the Field: Learning Experience From a Policy to a Bairro

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program
by Juhri Selamet

Maputo, Mozambique
June 14, 2018

Juhri Selamet is the 2018 Junior Researcher in the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCCC) program. He is a PhD student in the College of Media, Communication and Information at University of Colorado Boulder. He has a bachelor’s degree from Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research interests are visual communication, corporate social responsibility, climate change, water, conservation, media coverage of risk and the environment, and strategic environmental communication. 

View photo gallery in the field by Juhri Selamet

I am still learning how to implement the Red Cross and IFRC Community Engagement and Accountability toolkit. This toolkit contains tools that can help the National Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies to assess, design, monitor, and evaluate community engagement and accountability activities in support of programs and operations. So, based on this comprehensive toolkit, I will try to transform it to fit the local context. My first exploration is designing a Forecast-based Financing (FbF) policy overview here in Mozambique.

The policy overview of Forecast-based Financing is a brief presentation to governments, donors, and implementing organizations on the current state of knowledge and practices in Forecast-based Financing, its relation with the broader Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) agenda, and its contribution to the global humanitarian policy landscape. The policy overview of FbF presents vital lessons from ongoing pilot projects and a vision of the anticipated agenda. As can be seen from the past decade, the Early Warning Early Action agenda has spurred investments in climate services, forecast information, and communication protocols worldwide.

The draft of the design adaptation that we have developed from the original FbF policy is in English, with Janio and Samuel translating it into Portuguese. There are many things to consider for the development of the design. We hope this FbF policy document will inform the local audience in Mozambique about the project in general. Details like images become essential. While we want to show and communicate our activities through pictures, we also acknowledge that images could be a barrier or hard to print in our local office with our current resources. Aside from this policy design, I will also start to explore and create other communication materials (e.g., Early Warning Protocol Guide template, Brochure, etc.) that could be useful for communicating the FbF project.

Outside of Cruz Vermelha De Moçambique’s (CVM’s) office, I keep exploring Maputo in my free time. It is the winter season right now in Mozambique. We experience about 24–27 degrees Celsius during the day and 14–19 degrees Celsius at night. Janio told me that the winter season will last until November. I enjoy this weather. To me, it is perfect: not too hot, not too cold.

I went to Mafalala last Sunday. Mafalala is one of the bairros in Maputo. Benjamin walked with me to this area, sharing the stories about the rich historical and cultural roots of Mafalala. He told me that Mafalala is famous for Marrabenta, a typical Mozambican style of music and dance, which was coined here and blends traditional Mozambican rhythms and Portuguese folk music with influences from popular Western music. I was excited to see the traditional dance performance; unfortunately, we missed it. However, I had a chance to visit Mafalala’s elementary school and watch a women’s football match, since Mafalala is also famous for football. This is because this bairro is the birthplace of Eusébio de Silva Ferreira, who is considered (by me) to be one of the best soccer players of all time. Read more …

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Have International Climate Negotiations Outlived Their Usefulness?

by Eric J. Lyman, Pacific Standard
June 13, 2018

It’s been two and half years since representatives of nearly 200 countries gathered in Paris and, to great fanfare, produced the world’s first global climate agreement. Here is a short and disheartening summary of what has happened in the world’s international climate negotiation process since then:

  • A year after Paris, countries sent delegates to Marrakech, Morocco, to start work on a set of rules for implementing the aspirational goals agreed to in 2015. But the presidential election of climate skeptic Donald Trump in the United States—which happened during the summit—set negotiators back on their heels. Talks sputtered to a close, with most countries agreeing to “reaffirm” the goals from Paris, and vowing to stick together despite new doubts about the U.S.’s role.
  • The next big climate summit took place last November in Bonn, Germany, where negotiators grappled with the U.S.’s formal withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement almost six months earlier. The centerpiece of the negotiations was an agreement to start work on a “dialogue” in 2018, to assess where the process stood more than two years after Paris.
  • The first major multilateral climate talks of 2018—11 days of inter-sessional meetings—concluded in Bonn in May. The talks broke down over financial issues, leaving most of the formal work on the Paris rulebook and the latest dialogue unaddressed. In the end, countries managed to agree to schedule a new round of talks in September in Bangkok, a last-ditch effort to make headway before the COP24 year-end summit in Poland.

Anyone want to place a bet on whether Bangkok or Poland will produce a major breakthrough? Me neither.

Even at their best, international, multilateral negotiations—whether focused on climate change, trade, poverty, pollution, or refugees—move infuriatingly, excruciatingly slow. To longtime observers, even the phrase “incremental progress” sounds ambitious. I’ve been covering the climate negotiation process since 2000, and there are articles I wrote back at the start where whole sections are still accurate, including many of the details.

“The worst thing about the multilateral negotiation process is that a small country like Djibouti has the same voice as a big country like the United States,” Yvo de Boer told me in the high-profile run-up to the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, when he was executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “And the best thing about the multilateral negotiation process is that a small country like Djibouti has the same voice as a big country like the United States.” Read more …

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Regional Climate Response Collaboratives: Multi-Institutional Support for Climate Resilience

by Kristen Averyt, Justin D. Derner, Lisa Dilling et al.

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
May 2018, pp. 891-898

Abstract: Federal investments by U.S. agencies to enhance climate resilience at regional scales grew over the past decade (2010s). To maximize efficiency and effectiveness in serving multiple sectors and scales, it has become critical to leverage existing agency-specific research, infrastructure, and capacity while avoiding redundancy. We discuss lessons learned from a multi-institutional “regional climate response collaborative” that comprises three different federally supported climate service entities in the Rocky Mountain west and northern plains region. These lessons include leveraging different strengths of each partner, creating deliberate mechanisms to increase cross-entity communication and joint ownership of projects, and placing a common priority on stakeholder-relevant research and outcomes. We share the conditions that fostered successful collaboration, which can be transferred elsewhere, and suggest mechanisms for overcoming potential barriers. Synergies are essential for producing actionable research that informs climate-related decisions for stakeholders and ultimately enhances climate resilience at regional scales. Read more …

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MeCCO Monthly Summary: Media Attention to Climate Change Down

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
May 2018 Summary

Newspaper coverage in the Middle East and Oceania went down 35% and 23% respectively, while Asia dipped 10%, Europe diminished 6%, North America decreased 12% and African coverage was 18% lower than in April. Central/South America dropped 8%, while coverage in Africa held relatively steady.

At the country level in May 2018, newspaper coverage went down compared to April in Australia (-13%), New Zealand (-37%), India (-7%), the United Kingdom (UK) (-8%), Germany (-11%), and the United States (-17%). It held steady in Canada. Meanwhile, US television coverage decreased 14% from the previous month, while the six world radio sources monitored diminished 37% from coverage in the previous month.

Global newspaper coverage was about 10% lower than counts a year ago (May 2017), when a great deal of global media attention was focused on the Trump Administration’s impending (June 1, 2017) decision on whether or not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. This primarily political story pervaded cultural, economic and societal stories in May 2017 as well. For example, journalist Alexandra Zavis from the Los Angeles Times covered President Trump’s visit with Pope Francis. During that visit on May 23, 2017, Zavis wrote about how the Pope provided the President with a copy of his 2015 encyclical that called for global collective action to address climate change.

Figure 1 shows these ebbs and flows in media coverage at the global scale – organized into seven geographical regions around the world – from January 2004 through May 2018.

Moving to considerations of content of climate change or global warming coverage in May 2018, Figure 2 shows word frequency data in UK newspapers, juxtaposed with US television in May 2018. It is notable that the US-based media sources still continue to show signs of ‘Trump Dump’ (where media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions (leaving many other stories untold)). And as in previous months, content in media reporting outside the US context shows that this pattern of news reporting continues to be limited to the US. To illustrate, May 2018 news articles related to climate change or global warming in the US invoked ‘Trump’ 2935 times in 78 news segments (approximately 38 mentions per segment on average) on ABCCBSCNNFox News NetworkMSNBC, and NBC. In contrast, in the UK press, Trump was mentioned in the Daily Mail & The Mail on SundayThe Guardian & The ObserverThe SunThe Daily Telegraph & The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mirror & Sunday MirrorThe Scotsman & Scotland on Sunday, and The Times & The Sunday Times632 times in 510 May articles (approximately 1.2 mentions per article on average). We have cautioned previously, however, that these current trends can quickly change, contingent on Trump Administration decisions that could rapidly influence media attention on climate change or global warming in the US and around the world.

Many media accounts in May focused on primarily political – often tinged with economic – content associated with climate change and global warming. For example, a report called the ‘Global Electric Vehicles Outlook’ from the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) at the end of May noted a record year for electric cars where “electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the world’s roads exceeded 3 million in 2017, a 54% increase compared with 2016” while “China remained by far the largest electric car market in the world, accounting for half sold” in 2017. The report noted, “The uptake of electric vehicles is still largely driven by the policy environment. The ten leading countries in electric vehicle adoption all have a range of policies in place to promote the uptake of electric cars”. NBC journalist Tom DiChristopher reported that the IEA “sees a pathway to 220 million electric vehicles by 2030, provided the world takes a more aggressive approach to fighting climate change and cutting emissions than currently planned”.

As another example of political economic content, BBC journalist David Shukman reported on the landmark agreement made at the International Maritime Organization talks, to cut emissions of greenhouse gases in the global shipping industry. Shukman noted that “shipping generates roughly the same quantity of greenhouse gas as Germany and, if it were accounted for as a nation, would rank as the world’s sixth biggest emitter. Like aviation, it had been excluded from climate negotiations because it is an international activity while both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement involved national pledges to reduce greenhouse gases”. Meanwhile in May, journalist Tom Embury-Dennis from The Independent in the UK reported that Costa Rica’s new president – Carlos Alvarado – has promised to begin a process to ban fossil fuels in the country, making it the first decarbonized nation on planet Earth. He said, “Decarbonisation is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first”. Read more …

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RC/RCCC Notes From the Field: Get to know “Forecast-based Financing” and the City of Acacias Maputo, Mozambique

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program
by Juhri Selamet

Maputo, Mozambique
May 31, 2017

Juhri Selamet is the 2018 Junior Researcher in the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCCC) program. He is a PhD student in the College of Media, Communication and Information at University of Colorado Boulder. He has a bachelor’s degree from Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research interests are visual communication, corporate social responsibility, climate change, water, conservation, media coverage of risk and the environment, and strategic environmental communication. 

View photo gallery in the field by Juhri Selamet

According to Kreft & Melchior (2016), Mozambique is the third most vulnerable African country to extreme weather events such as floods, tropical cyclones, and droughts. This country’s vulnerability is associated with its geographical location, downstream of nine major river basins in the southeast of the African continent. With climate change, these extreme events are expected to increase in frequency and magnitude. For instance, in the last three decades, there has been a rise in both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters in Mozambique, with droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones being the most frequent (INGC, 2009).

Considering that about 80% of the Mozambican population depends on agriculture and fisheries, two sectors highly affected by extreme climate events, the country needs to be better prepared to deal with the impacts of these extreme events (, 2018). Taking this into account, Mozambique Red Cross (Cruz Vermelha Moçambique-CVM), in coordination with its international partners, German Red Cross (GRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center (RCRCCC), designed the project entitled ‘Forecast-based Financing (FbF): closing the gap between disaster risk reduction and emergency relief, Mozambique.” The FbF project, which is in Second pilot phase in Mozambique, represents a new paradigm in humanitarian aid. The project calls for proactive measures to be taken before the materialization of extreme events.

The concept of FbF (soon to be called Forecast-based Action by the DREF) is a mechanism coupled to risk-based operating procedures. Based on the successes and failures of previous efforts to act based on climate-based early warning information, it elaborates three components of a system for early warnings to become operational: (1) information about worthwhile actions, (2) available funding mechanisms, and (3) designated entities that are responsible for taking the pre-planned actions. A systematic forecast-based financing (FbF) system integrates each of these three elements, contingent on the availability of (skillful) forecasts for the region in question (Coughlan de Perez et al. 2015).

As part of University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) and Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCC) internship program this summer, my project aims to support Cruz Vermelha Moçambique (CVM) and German Red Cross (GRC) on developing a Forecast-based Financing (FbF) beneficiary communication strategy and assist CVM and GRC in design and layout of FbF project materials (EAP protocols, reports, website, and activation posters). In term of developing practical communication materials, I will focus on visual aids and information designed to communicate the FbF project as well as CVM publications in general for the local audiences. Through this work, I wish to produce a set of strategic communication tools and employ the theory of change as a framework in the context both to evaluate and provide communication plans. This theory is essentially a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why the desired change is expected to happen in a particular context ( in which here is in the humanitarian and environmental communication context. Previously, the theory of change has been used to support and evaluate health promotion intervention (Warwick-Booth et al., 2014). Read more …

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The Complexity of Consensus: Protecting the World’s Most Remote Ocean

by Cassandra Brooks
Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

Photo above: Emperor penguin and icebreaker in the Ross Sea, Antarctica (credit: John B. Weller).  

Every year I travel to Hobart, Tasmania at the southern tip of Australia to study international negotiations about protecting the oceans around Antarctica. The future of our oceans demands the establishment of large protected areas and arguably we are leading the way in the Antarctic.

The Antarctic region is exceptional. The coldest, windiest, iciest, driest, and most remote of continents is celebrated for its rich history of exploration, science and diplomacy. The Antarctic Treaty System, the suite of legal agreements that govern the region, lay out strict principles in the service of peace, science, and environmental preservation.

Among these agreements, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) carries forward the mandate for conserving the Southern Ocean ecosystem, including its marine living resources. Fishing is allowed under the Convention, but only under strict, ecosystem and science-based management.

CCAMLR has been deemed a leader in international ocean management for its precautionary approach. In line with this leadership, in 2002 CCAMLR committed to designating a network of Southern Ocean marine protected areas in accordance with global international targets. Working towards this goal, CCAMLR adopted the world’s first international marine reserve in 2009 when they protected 94,000 km2 south of the South Orkney Islands. In 2011 they adopted a management framework to guide the protected area process.

Then in 2016, CCAMLR made headlines when they adopted, by consensus, a vast 1.6 million km2 marine protected area in the Ross Sea. This is the world’s first large-scale international marine protected area, and in a region deemed to be one of the healthiest marine ecosystems left on the planet.

My research revolves around understanding under what conditions consensus is possible in managing these global commons. In recent years, I have seen that competing national incentives among CCAMLR states and complex international relations extending far beyond the protected area negotiations stymie consensus as states negotiate power and fishing access in this icy commons at the bottom of the world.

Adélie penguins hunting in the Ross Sea, Antarctica (credit: John B. Weller). 

Looking to what ultimately drove consensus in the Ross Sea can provide insight into the process of reaching consensus and understanding the necessary trade-offs. China and Russia steadfastly blocked adoption of a Ross Sea marine protected area until 2015 and 2016 when high-level diplomacy created a political window of opportunity. China’s support for the Ross Sea protected area in 2015 has been directly attributed to presidential level political meetings between the United States and China.

In 2016, Russia was isolated as the last member state not supporting the adoption of a Ross Sea protected area, not a good political position. Further, Russia had an opportunity and incentives to demonstrate leadership. Russia was chairing the annual CCAMLR meeting and was preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its contested discovery of the Antarctic continent. Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced that 2017 would be a special ‘Year of Ecology’ and he had appointed a new ‘Special Representative for Ecology’.

Perhaps most importantly, the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, wanted a Ross Sea marine protected area to be part of his legacy. With his term coming to an end, he brought the issue to the forefront with his counterparts in Russia throughout 2016.

Pressure was building both inside and outside of the meeting room for Russia to join the consensus. But before Russia would agree to adopt the Ross Sea protected area, the Russian delegation requested changes to the proposal, negotiating for a higher level of fishing to be allowed inside and around the Ross Sea protected area.

That left one outstanding issue to deal with: Duration. How long would the protected area be in place for? To meet the demands of countries who wanted to ensure future access, the protected area was adopted for 35 years. With these final concessions, consensus was achieved and the Ross Sea marine protected area was immediately a source of pride for CCAMLR member states.

In managing one of the great oceanic commons, despite political plays, CCAMLR has continued to be an international leader. No other international management body has outpaced CCAMLR in adopting marine protected areas. The Southern Ocean harbors the world’s largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea and three large areas remain under negotiation for protection: The Western Antarctic Peninsula, the Weddell Sea and the East Antarctic. Negotiations will resume in October 2018 when member states again gather in Hobart, Tasmania.

It is often unclear in the moment how a political window of opportunity opens. International consensus demands patience. It may still take some time to align national incentives and generate international diplomacy for the remaining areas to achieve protection. One thing is clear: CCAMLR has collectively agreed to designate a network of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean and ultimately the 25 members need to find the political will to see the effort through.

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