Busalacchi hopes May Climate Impacts Symposium will prompt future discussion

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) hosted the Climate Impacts Symposium on May 21 regarding the planning implications of potential changes in precipitation patterns, sea level rise, flooding and water quality in the Washington metropolitan area.

The meeting sought to address questions about what can be learned from existing data, how can climate trends influence water, land use and transportation planning, what can be done about predicted outcomes and what are the next steps moving forward to improve climate resilience, according to the symposium agenda.

The symposium consisted of two sessions throughout the day.

The morning session had experts on climate change in the region discuss what trends and modeling results mean for the effects of climate change in the metropolitan area. The afternoon session featured presentations from various sectors of the regional government – such as the Georgetown Climate Center and the Federal Highway Administration – on how climate trends and future climate change can be integrated into sector planning processes.

ESSIC Director Dr. Antonio Busalacchi was one of four speakers in the morning session, along with Dr. Donald Boesch of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Dr. Ray Najjar, Jr. of The Pennsylvania State University, and Wayne Smith of Noblis.

Busalacchi addressed the state of the science of climate modeling from global to regional scales, climate modeling tools, and potential applicability for downscaling results to the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac watersheds.

He said in an interview , as global models are relatively large in scale, a regional government needs much finer scale information to produce more variables and higher resolutions, which in turn allows for more information on local floods, water quality, air quality and crop information.

That working relationship between the area’s top science professionals and sectors of the regional government is exactly what the workshop aimed to create.

Professor Raghu Murtugudde, who attended the symposium, said it was an opportunity for scientists to know what local residents need and in what direction scientists should focus their research.

“It is a real congregation of actual decision-makers and climate scientists. The stakeholders included policy people and people who are responsible for real on-the-ground decisions about whether a piece of forest can be placed close to where people live,” Murtugudde said.

Busalacchi said the symposium was an exchange of dialogue between stakeholders, like climate scientists, and end users, like the regional government, as it allowed for scientists to hear from the users about what their needs are for climate information, and what role scientists can play in the users’ needs.

“It’s useful for both sides, and that’s what we want to get out of it. For our side, we get a better appreciation of needs for the regional government so the research is relevant to what we need,” Busalacchi said. “And for the end users, it was an opportunity to get an appreciation for what science can and cannot provide with a respect to their needs.”

He said the symposium will hopefully result in a continuous exchange of dialogue and information. He was impressed by the sense of a middle-ground, in terms of what the stakeholders and end users can achieve together.

“The message out of the meeting is that we are not far apart, in fact, the needs of the regional government are in some areas consistent in what science can provide today,” Busalacchi said. “We certainly hope that this is the beginning of this sort of discussion. This was [my] first time with the COG, and we hope it leads to other dialogue to be involved in decision-making processes.”

He said he has already received follow-ups from a number of participants from different sectors of the regional government, and has heard the symposium was “useful from their perspective and a good use of everybody’s time.”

More information on the symposium and detailed discussion highlights, including notes from the afternoon meeting, can be found here.