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ClimateWise Director Tonya Graham receives award for climate resilience work

by Allayana Darrow of the Ashland Tidings (Read original article here)

After 12 years leading the ClimateWise team at the Geos Institute (creators of Climate Ready Communities), Ashland City Councilor Tonya Graham was recently awarded the Four Generations Gen X Award for her work in climate resilience by Leaders in Energy, a global community action network focused on clean energy and sustainability solutions.

Graham’s contributions to community planning frameworks and “ecologically sound and socially equitable” strategies bolstered her selection, according to Leaders in Energy. She serves as council liaison to the Ashland Climate Policy Commission.

Geos Institute Board President Ken Crocker said Graham and the ClimateWise team have helped lead local leaders to a greater understanding of what their communities value, and how to motivate residents to take action on greenhouse gas pollution reduction.

Graham said she was grateful to be recognized for work aimed at long-term climate resilience — a field in which effectiveness and progress are difficult to measure on a day-to-day basis.

As conversations pivot from turning back the clock to surviving an era of increased risk brought by climate change, Graham said effectively addressing the problem requires tapping into both schools of thought.

“We are now living a climate change future,” Graham said. “That means we don’t have any choice but to invest in both sides of climate change.”

Graham said the Geos team looks forward to working with a federal administration that respects the severity of climate change, and may serve as a dynamic partner in nationwide community planning frameworks in the years ahead. Lasting transformational change in energy systems across the U.S. is built upon individual community safety and durability, she said.

A quarter-century ago, funneling climate change mitigation efforts toward dealing with greenhouse gas emissions seemed fully reasonable, she said. Today, certain “locked in” and worsening impacts require a double-edged approach to community resilience planning.

As far as the City of Ashland’s climate resilience plans, Graham said the Climate and Energy Action Plan could be improved by incorporating stronger adaptation elements. Drafted in 2017, the existing CEAP focused more on greenhouse gas pollution reduction than adaptations, such as how to respond to severe heat and smoke and their effects on public health and economy. Still, the Plan is a strong base from which to build going forward, she said.

The Plan outlines a commitment to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience to future climate change impacts on the environment, city infrastructure and the public, facing a projected 86% decrease in winter snowpack within 60 years, 90 additional days of extreme heat annually and more frequent drought, heat and wildfire episodes, according to a city study.

Recognizing resource constraints from the local government perspective, Graham said prioritization will become a necessary element of community discussion. Leaders and citizens will face questions about what conditions are changing the way residents experience their community, what they feel is most important to protect, how they will be asked to help achieve community goals, and how defined priorities will influence investment out of the “public purse,” she said.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD