Get Ready: Kresge Foundation Prepares for Inevitability of Climate Change

In early 2013, the Kresge Foundation announced that it would be refining its climate change priorities. Still committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the foundation is bringing a new focus to increasing community resilience in the face of impending disaster. Kresge's Environment Program openly acknowledges that climate change is already having an impact and that communities need to be prepared for the inevitability of the changes it will bring. (See Kresge Foundation: Grants for Climate Change.)

Building a community's resilience will enable it to adapt and respond to disturbances — so that when bad things do happen, people can recover and get on with their lives quickly. The events that communities will likely have to prepare for include: rising sea levels, changing water supplies, and increased storms. Changes in ecosystems also could have an impact on food supplies as coral reefs die off or weather systems affect agricultural areas. Researching the many ways in which climate change can affect communities and developing appropriate measures of response will be a key part of building resilience.

The Kresge Foundation has plenty of experience supporting climate change adaptation projects. Past grantees include EcoAdapt, the American Meteorological Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, among several others. These organizations have focused on climate-adaptation policies, the assessment of risks, and community outreach.

Climate change adaptation, as a field of study, is still relatively new. In-depth case studies and information synthesis are still necessary and remain a focus for many organizations. The Kresge Foundation, in particular, makes a point of bringing a diverse set of disciplines to bear for an integrated problem-solving approach. The foundation emphasizes the importance of understanding "all aspects of community life," including political jurisdictions, ecosystems, and the built environment. (Read Managing Director Lois DeBacker's IP profile.)

Going forward, the Kresge Foundation plans to help communities become more resilient by: 1) anticipating where climate change will affect local conditions; 2) limiting greenhouse-gas emissions by reducing demand and increasing renewable sources; and 3) promoting social cohesion and communication. Projects will be either "place-based" and focused on communities of practitioners or "field-building" in that they advance new knowledge and enhance a wider understanding of climate change. Specifics on Kresge's new grant guidelines will be out soon. The foundation recommends signing up for its email newsletter to keep up with the latest news.