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A Practitioner-led Workshop to Advance Resilience to Sea Level Rise: Leading Practices and Current Challenges

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Session Description: 

Due to its global nature, this workshop was held twice, to welcome participants across time zones:
Workshop A: February 14, 15, 16, 2022 from 15:00 - 17:30 UTC
Workshop B: February 22, 23, 24, 2022 from 00:30 - 03:00 UTC

This three-day workshop emerged from the increasing urgency of sea level rise planning, including recent work of the World Climate Research Programme’s Sea Level Rise Grand Challenge. Local, regional, and national governments around the globe are concerned about sea-level rise (SLR) over the 21st century and will need to plan adaptation responses that suit local circumstances in terms of costs, uncertainties, and ensuring protection of vulnerable communities.

In response, adaptation practitioners are tasked with understanding which scientific projections of future SLR to use in planning efforts. These projections each present their own challenges and layers of uncertainty. At the same time practitioners must contend with significant and unprecedented economic and social challenges posed by inevitably rising seas.

This workshop served to build connections and learning among practitioners using SLR projections in adaptation planning in a variety of contexts (e.g. open coasts, small islands, deltas, natural infrastructure, urban vs. rural, etc.). It identified decision frameworks in use such as “adaptation pathways” for incorporating deep uncertainty within planning and share examples of early action to implement adaptation to rising seas.

Participants shared practical perspectives from around the world. Participants had opportunities to share their knowledge and experiences, develop new competencies, and foster community with colleagues navigating similar adaptation challenges.

Key themes for presentations and discussions include:
- Science: Share approaches to uptake of science and projections for use in planning resilience: what is working, what is not working? What are the gaps or flaws in available science from a practitioner perspective? What are the needs/challenges faced by practitioners?
- Adaptation, Uncertainty, and Decision-making: What are persistent needs/challenges faced by practitioners? What techniques have worked in framing adaptation planning under uncertainty? What time frames are communities planning for? How can practitioners work with long term (e.g. 80 years) projections with wide ranges?
- Communication: How to communicate with multiple stakeholders (e.g. senior managers, high level government officials, communities, the general public) and move toward action?

One output of the workshop is to develop a series of recommendations for the climate science community on how SLR information can best support adaptation responses on the ground. We will also gauge interest in the establishment of collaborative networks that can provide sustained peer support and learning, so that practitioners are better-resourced to prepare shorelines and communities for rising seas.

One outlet for workshop recommendations will be the upcoming conference entitled “Sea Level 2022: Advancing Science, Connecting Society” in Singapore July 12-16, 2022, convened by the World Climate Research Programme. That conference will connect the latest SLR science with current leading practices and challenges in adaptation, and will offer opportunities for active participation by attendees at the February workshop.