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August 11-13, 2015
Hilton Garden Inn, Suffolk, VA

Assessing mitigation and adaptation research in Virginia: Global and climate change are challenging our communities and they are in urgent need of having options for mitigation of the driving forces and the impacts of the changes as well as adaptation to the changing environmental and socio-economic conditions. The goal of the workshop is to review the status of mitigation and adaptation research in Virginia and to design a research agenda that can help to provide the practice-relevant knowledge the communities in Virginia need to meet current and future challenges.

Invitation to Participate

The Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute (MARI) of Old Dominion University (ODU) invited the academic community in Virginia engaged in mitigation and adaptation research to participate in the workshop “Mitigation and Adaptation Research in Virginia”, which took place on August 11-13, 2015 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Suffolk, VA. All faculty at one of Virginia’s institutions of higher education or researcher in a research institute in Virginia with expertise overlaping with one or more of the five main scientific areas of mitigation and adaptation research described below were asked to participate in this workshop and the review and assessment that is the goal. The objective of the workshop was a state-wide assessment of our knowledge on mitigation and adaptation with a focus on the practice-relevant knowledge societal stakeholders in Virginia need to ensure the livelihood of our communities under the expected changes in climate and sea level.

Rationale: There is Urgency

Climate change is impacting the daily life of people already. Many low-lying areas in Virginia are exposed to more frequent flooding as a result of the rise in local sea level. However, the current rate of sea level rise is low compared to what might happen over the next decades. In some areas, roads and buildings are by now exposed to flooding for up to 200 hours per year and this might rapidly increase to 500 or more hours per year in the near future. Increased risks of extreme weather events, economic costs due to disruptions of public services, changes in the social structure, reduced ecosystem services, increasing likelihood of heat waves and periods of drought, health impacts caused by reduced air quality and new infectious diseases, all are consequences of climate change and sea level rise already impacting lives in Virginia.

The time for mitigating climate change and its impacts and adapting to the changes is running out. There is an urgent need to develop adaptation science and to produce the practice-relevant knowledge that address all these issues. Climate change and sea-level rise pose unprecedented threats to communities across the world, especially the heavily-populated urban coasts. The changes experienced during the last century are unprecedented during the Holocene, that is, the relatively stable 10,000 years in which civilization could develop. There is increasing evidence that the changes anticipated for the 21st Century will push the climate outside the range known to civilization and into a phase of much greater variability. This challenges decision-making in all societal sectors, and it requires a new level of preparedness to mitigate the impacts and adapt to the changes.

Assessing the Practice-Relevant Mitigation and Adaptation Knowledge in Virginia

The science of mitigation and adaptation requires a detailed knowledge of the hazards and their causes in order to be able to assess the threats these hazard may pose. A thorough understanding of the vulnerability of the built environment, the embedded social communities, and the environmental life-support systems on which the welfare of these communities depends is another crucial inputy for a thorough risk assessment that can give guidance to the planning of adaptation. Foresight in terms of possible futures and the consequences of our decisions is crucial for proactive planning of mitigation and adaptation. The societal and individual framework for decision making defines the processes that can lead to mitigation and adaptation. Finally, detailed knowledge of options for mitigation and adaptation viable in the given social, political, and economic context informs decision making.

The workshop provided a starting point and a basis for a comprehensive assessment report. This report will be the first comprehensive assessment of our knowledge concerning mitigation of, and adaptation to climate change and sea level rise and the current and future impacts in Virginia. It will have a focus on practice-relevant knowledge. It will identify knowledge gaps and describe the research needed to close these gaps.

Workshop Outcomes

The main outcome of the workshop is clearer picture of what the report will look like. The report will be produced by the academic community in Virginia, both in institutes of higher education and research institutes. It will be comparable to the assessment reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and national agencies with three marked differences:

  1. It will cover the full range of mitigation and adaptation science;
  2. It will also consider non-peer-reviewed literature such as state-mandated reports and reports produced by research institutes and governmental commission in the State;
  3. It will not seek the endorsement of local, state or federal governments to allow the academic community to freely assess the knowledge without political constraints.

Committees and Support

Science Committee

  • Hans-Peter Plag, MARI, ODU
  • Larry Atkinson, MARI and CCSLRI, ODU

Local Organizing Committee

  • Elizabeth Smith
  • Hans-Peter Plag
  • Larry Atkinson
  • Judy Hinch

Co-sponsored by: