Native Nations face unique challenges related to climate change. Native Americans have a deep connection to the natural environment within which their livelihoods, cultural identity, and spiritual practices are rooted. In the Southwest, tribes are already experiencing a range of impacts that are at least partially related to climate change. They include serious water quality and supply issues in the context of prolonged drought; reduced ability to grow or collect important traditional crops and raw materials; loss of forest resources from large and landscape-transforming wildfires exacerbated by drought, aridity, and insect infestations; and health impacts from heat waves, dust storms, and smoke from wildfires.
The Southwest Climate Science Center is partnering with the University of Arizona Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions (CCASS)'s Native Nations Climate Adaptation Program (NNCAP) to leverage previously existing and newly developing tribal engagement capacity within CCASS and to help identify emergent opportunities to support tribes in adapting to climate change. Through this project, CCASS is conducting a preliminary assessment of tribal interest and capacity for adaptation across the Southwest via interviews with selected tribal leaders and resource managers. In November 2015, CCASS also partnered with the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative to hold a meeting with tribal members that focused on successful tribal climate adaptation plans, lessons learned, traditional ecological knowledge, and tribal adaptation activities across the U.S. The CCASS project team is also developing a set of products to help tribes use “scenario planning” in their climate adaptation plans, allowing the tribes to consider different possible future scenarios in a changing climate.
The second part of this project is support for enhanced scenario planning outcomes. Decision makers and natural resource managers are increasingly being asked to make decisions in the context of uncertainty, with climate change adding new sources of complexity. Scenario planning approaches are being used as a means of providing managers with insights into options for responding appropriately to change in the near and long term. A workshop held at the University of Arizona in April 2015 brought together a group of 30 experts and practitioners to explore two things: lessons learned in applications of a variety of specific scenario planning techniques, and connections between the different methods that have emerged relative to how they frame uncertainty and how they function in a decision-support context. This project aims to harvest the knowledge that resulted from the workshop with the development of a report and scholarly article(s), and scope the production of a range of outputs that include:
• A broader toolkit of scenario methods and techniques for decision makers and improved connections with local and regional planners
• Practical suggestions for practitioners on how to use these techniques and in what combinations
• A list of research, institutional, and resource needs to improve the information available and the flow of information across methods in specific applications
• Curriculum development and training opportunities.