Climate adaptation conference focuses on diverse resiliency in the face of climate change

The 2020 Climate Adaptation Conference, Crossing Boundaries – Sparking Collaboration highlighted accomplishments and challenges for communities that are adapting to a changing climate. The conference keynote speaker Elizabeth Gibbons echoed Deanna Standingcloud’s opening exhortation to “go gently, go together.”


Keynote speaker Elizabeth Gibbons, Executive Director of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals, said that Minnesota's economy is well-positioned to benefit from climate adaptation triggered policies.

For Gibbons, the Executive Director of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals, growing up in Cooperstown New York on the shores of Lake Otsego was instrumental in forming her environmental views. There she learned that protecting the lake also protected businesses and people, that environmental protection and a healthy economy are not pitted against each other. “We control so much but so much is out of our hands,” said Gibbons. "What we can do is acknowledge when we have failed the environment, failed people, accept that the future is unknown, and there is so much that we yet can do.”

She noted that the private sector is finally moving on long-promised initiatives regarding climate change, a huge step forward as climate adaptation will not succeed without the private sector involved. That, plus increasing public pressure on lawmakers in DC is another positive.

Finally, Gibbons pronounced Minnesota “the Star of the North” as the state is well-positioned to take advantage of climate adaptation triggered growth in agriculture, population and production of ag/water technology specialty products.

paul huttner

Minnesota Public Radio's chief meteorologist Paul Huttner accepted the Individual Award for his show Climate Cast, the first weekly radio program in the nation devoted to climate change.

The awards ceremony followed the keynote, recognizing the achievements of individuals, institutions, business and organizations in climate resilience work. The 2020 individual award recipient was Paul Huttner of MPR News. Huttner created the radio broadcast Climate Cast in 2013, the first radio program of its kind in the nation. He is also an active volunteer, in particular helping Freshwater preserve and manage healthy water ways. This year’s Institution award went to the 2019 Minnesota State Hazard Mitigation Plan - Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management and U-Spatial@UMD. This plan was the first hazard mitigation plan that factored in climate change trends. Minnesota counties update their local mitigation plans using the plan as a guide. The Business award was presented to the Guardian Building in St. Paul. The Guardian is home to Minnesota’s only integrated biosolar roof, with plantings to mitigate temperatures and stormwater, while providing pollinator habitat and space for solar energy panels. The Mississippi Park Connection and Science Museum of Minnesota received the Organization award for creation of gravel bed tree nurseries to grow climate resilient trees, replacing those trees lost to the invasion of the emerald ash borer as well as reducing stormwater runoff and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Break out sessions provided tools for planning for climate impacts on agriculture, urban landscapes, forests and public health. Posters created for the event were on display throughout the day.

“Minnesota is at the forefront of climate change, both in terms of its impacts and being a leader in how to respond. We are thrilled to provide opportunities for the climate adaptation community to gather, learn, inspire.”said Joel Larson, WRC Associate Director and chair of the conference planning committee.


Mary Hammes and Pat Hamilton

Presenter Mark Seeley with organization awardees Mary Hammes, Mississippi Park Connection and Pat Hamilton, Science Museum of Minnesota.


Mark Seeley, Stacey Stark,U spatial@UMD and Jennifer Nelson, Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management

guardian building team

Mark Seeley with Guardian Building awardees: Terry Leonard, Greiner Construction, Angie Durham, AD Greenroof, John Greene, AWH Architects, Michelle Stoltz, Jeff Anderson Associates, and Craig Wilson, Sustology.