December 28, 2015

The Magic Ingredient for Linking Climate Resources to Community Resilience? It Might be Trust.

Posted by cbunge

Today’s post is part of a series written by student bloggers from the AGU Fall Meeting.

By: Lindsay Barbieri, PhD Student, Rubenstein School of Environment & Natural Resources, University of Vermont

Regardless if you are engaging on the resource side or the community side, trust plays a critical role in building climate resilience. At this year’s AGU Fall Meeting, I attended a season on “Evolving the US Climate Resilience Toolkit to Support a Climate-Smart Nation”. This session explored the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, which aids decision makers in integrating sustainable policies and infrastructures in order to navigate climate change impacts.

Why is trust so important?

From the very first talk summarizing the Climate Resilience Toolkit to a final talk about social media engagement, this session navigated many links between resources and resilience, and from a wide variety of angles. The Climate Resilience Toolkit, Frank Niepold explained, is rooted in the reality that community decisions are not based solely on climate threats, and that people must be able to integrate the climate information they receive with their own values and personal drivers.

This fundamental understanding was a pivot point, and the Climate Resilience Toolkit has zeroed in on integrating climate information into what people value, in addition to recognizing that that decision makers must trust the information they are receiving. And from this first appearance of the word “trust” in this session, it became clear that no matter what angle of research the speakers explored in the resource-resilience linking, building trust was the silver lining under all.

hand shakeMoving beyond data collection

“It is no longer enough”, Cythia Chandler explained, “to collect data by yourself as a scientist, publish the paper, and move on to the next research question.” We now have greater expectations of data: for open data access, for machine accessible data, for well documented data. We need to recognize the true value of data. In order to do so, data must be made trustworthy, in a way, by the inclusion of metadata and an adherence to data standards.

This sentiment was echoed later on in the session during a discussion on forging the links between tribal communities and climate science centers. It is not acceptable as a researcher to simply go into these communities, get data, and leave – Unfortunately, most tribes have had a contentious experience with researchers in the past for this reason specifically. When the focus is instead on investing in research capacity building and providing educational opportunities, tribal communities can begin to trust in the relationships, utilize the tools and participate in the shaping of their own community climate resilience.

Vulnerability is the underlying reason for climate resilience plans in any community. And when addressing issues of vulnerability, it seems clear that building trust is a crucial first step. It is critical to recognize that values, concerns, and feelings of vulnerability can be very different across communities. In order to put to use the resources needed in building resilience, the user must first trust the source. This doesn’t just apply to communities and the everyday citizen – scientists themselves have a strong need to trust in the information they receive. And this credibility of data source is often a proxy for other provenance and methodology.

Trust in the Climate Resilience Toolkit 

trustThe Climate Resilience Toolkit was built with this need for trust in mind. The webtool, complete with a multitude of climate tools, data and resources, builds user trust by keeping a consistent template for all Case Studies. The focus is on maintaining the same narrative template, with the same setup, and the same easy-to-follow accessibility of these data by the end-user. Even in choosing a platform to present data, building trust is key.

The Case Studies from the Climate Resilience Toolkit also recognize that people try tools, use data, and plan for resilience more readily if the information comes from other people or communities that they already trust. A study by the Climate Resilience Toolkit found that the magnitude of social media engagement is linked to how much users trusted the information source. The use of Case Studies and narratives within the CRT showcase this by highlighting stories of people and communities going through similar climate problems, tackling the challenges that affect their similar set of values and demonstrate how they are using the climate resources to build resilience. In doing so, they have shown that people respond best to developing climate resilience by learning from others whom they trust.

The major link between climate resources and community resilience? Trust. From everyday users, to decision makers, to scientists and researchers, the key to forging a better, more climate resilient world involves forging more trust between all the communities involved.