For two days in April 2014, 196 attendees from a variety of sectors across the Carolinas all convened in Charlotte, NC for the same purpose: to enhance climate resilience. Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments (CISA) and a steering committee of partners launched the 2014 Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference to support decision makers in the Carolinas engaged in climate resilience efforts. The overarching goal of the conference was to facilitate networking among the diverse set of attendees, who represented a broad range of organization types, sectors and regions in the Carolinas and Southeast. Therefore, opportunities for interaction and collaboration interwove every aspect of this conference. For example, all presenters were encouraged to approach their presentations as an open dialogue with audience members to spark participation and idea sharing. The conference’s collaborative settings helped foster new interactions among attendees as 98% of surveyed respondents indicated they met new people or made new connections with other stakeholders in the region engaged in their area of work and with similar interests. As one attendee from the private sector described, “I think some of the best results of any conference come from the connections made with attendees. In this regard, this conference format was more proactive in facilitating discussion and interaction than any I’ve been to.”
The focus of discussion at the 2014 Conference encompassed a variety of topics pertinent to climate resilience. Major themes of concurrent sessions included alternative fuels and energy policies, climate communications, climate data and information, public health impacts of climate, resilient communities and infrastructure design, sea level rise, water, land and natural resources management. This range in topics catered to the needs of the multidisciplinary audience, who represented government, private sector, academia and non-profit organizations. As an attendee representing a national/regional government agency explained, “(the) Conference was very helpful, from a government perspective, at gleaning the state of knowledge and future needs related to climate adaptation and resilience of constituents…” Likewise, an attendee from academia also took away valuable lessons from the conference, saying, “As an academic researcher, the conference provided me a very valuable picture of the specific climate related actions that are in place at the local/state level.”
Opening and closing plenary sessions also integrated many different perspectives on climate resilience in the Carolinas. The conference kicked off with an opening plenary on building resilient communities with representatives from business, local government and a local advocacy group. In the Keynote Address, Kathy Jacobs highlighted key information for the Southeast in the Third National Climate Assessment. Lastly, the closing plenary on climate communication strategies showed attendees different techniques for extending messages about climate to audiences beyond the conference.
Post conference surveys indicated that the 2014 conference was a success – 99% of surveyed attendees indicated they were satisfied with the 2014 Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference. Yet, challenges in fostering climate resilience within the Carolina community continue to emerge. To further support stakeholders, CISA will host the 2016 Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference this September 12-14 at Charlotte University Place. The 2016 conference will build upon the success of the inaugural event, with incorporated feedback from 2014 attendees that will make the second conference even better than the first. >>Register for the 2016 Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference here!