Extension Climate/Extreme Weather Programming


Background In April, 2020, the eXtension Foundation released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to spearhead a “project dedicated to the compilation of [climate/extreme weather] program data across the Cooperative Extension System (CES) …(to) identify programming that is currently being implemented that aligns with Project Drawdown, other frameworks, and generally accepted conservation practices (and) …develop a repository for this information that can help the CES develop a narrative around the work being performed across the US. The repository will be dynamic, accessible, and easy for specialists, program leaders, agents and educators to update and add to” 1 . This project documents current CES programs and practices in the area of climate and extreme weather, populated into a climate/extreme weather (herein C/EW) repository, and offers insight for Extension educators and upper administration regarding successes, challenges, and gaps in C/EW programming. The information that follows is the result of several months work by the authors of this report. Climate Change & Extreme Weather in the U.S. Context According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the northern hemisphere experienced its hottest summer on record in 2020 (Bateman, 2020). We are already experiencing the consequential impacts of a warming planet, and NOAA clarifies, “these impacts extend well beyond an increase in temperature, affecting ecosystems and communities in the United States (US) and around the world” (Climate Change Impacts | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2019). All sectors of life are impacted including water, human health, ecosystem health, agriculture, wildlife, transportation, air, and energy. As just one example, in the Southwest, models predict that drought and increased competition for water will be a more frequent reality in the coming years (Climate Risks in the Southwest | Fact Sheet, n.d.). Combined with warming temperatures, growers will also face a longer frost-free season, reduced yields of tree fruit and wine grapes, stressed livestock, and increased agricultural water demand. In a 2017 National Young Farmer Survey, 66% of the 3,500 young farmer respondents reported experiencing significant climate change impacts, including: unpredictable weather patterns, more severe storms, increased pest pressure, increased uncertainty in water supply, and/or increased rate of disease (Biden Transition Memo 2020, 2020). Since 1980, the US has experienced 279 C/EW disasters with total costs exceeding $1 billion (Climate Change Impacts | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2019). The combined costs of all these disasters exceeded $1.825 trillion. Between 1980 and 2019, the annual average number of C/EW disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion in the US was 6.6; yet between January 1 and October 7, 2020, there were already 16 C/EW events exceeding $1 billion each. These included one drought event, one wildfire event, three tropical cyclone events, and eleven severe storm events. The following map illustrates these major C/EW events within that 2020 timeframe.

1 eXtension Foundation RFP for Climate/Extreme Weather Fellowship: https://impact.extension.org/2020/04/extension-rfp-for-climate-extreme-weather-fellowship/


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