10 climate action highlights from 2023
Here’s how Woodwell Climate advanced climate science and solutions in the last year
Ludmila Rattis speaks at TED Countdown, July 2023
photo by Jasmina Tomic/TED
1. Collaborating with communities
This year, Woodwell Climate’s Just Access Initiative went global. Just Access works in close partnership with communities to provide tailored, actionable climate risk reports for Rio Branco, Brazil; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Summit County, Utah; and Lawrence, MA. At COP28, Just Access released its latest report in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of the DRC, which focused on climate risks and potential solutions in the country and identified carbon markets as a potential funding mechanism for adaptation efforts.
Just Access collaborates with local officials and advocates to ensure the final reports cover information critical to their community’s planning. So far, 14 reports have been completed and more are on the way.
Read the report.
Joseph Zambo fields questions following release of new DRC report at COP28.
photo by Heather Goldstone
2. Tongass National Forest protection
In January of 2023, the Biden Administration restored protections against logging and road-building for more than 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.
This came after Woodwell Climate’s Dr. Wayne Walker and Geospatial Analyst Seth Gorelik, along with long-time collaborator Dr. Dominick DellaSalla of Wild Heritage, delivered a research report to the Biden administration showing massive carbon stores in Tongass National Forest and highlighting the importance of roadless areas.
map by Christina Shintani
3. Community science with Science on the Fly
In 2023, Science on the Fly (SOTF) focused its activities on stewarding its community of scientists. Together they collected more than 3,000 water samples from hundreds of locations around the globe. SOTF leverages the passion and dedication of the global fly fishing community to gather data on the health of rivers across the world. With this data, SOTF can improve our understanding of how watersheds and river systems change over time due to climate change and local effects.
Read about the project’s activities this year.
Science on the Fly volunteer releasing a caught fish.
photo by Dominic Lentini
4. Training the next generation of researchers
We sent 10 Polaris Project students into the field this summer. The Polaris Project engages the brightest young minds from a diversity of backgrounds to tackle global climate research in one of Earth’s most vulnerable environments: the Arctic.
Students conducted their own research projects over two weeks at a field research station near Bethel, Alaska. Afterward, they returned to the Center to analyze samples, and presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December.
Woodwell Climate also hosted several interns through the Partnership Education Program. These undergraduate students participated in research and communications activities across the Center.
Read PEP intern Jonathan Kopeliovich’s story about research in Howland Forest.
5. Convening critical conversations
Woodwell Climate has been conducting tropical forest research in Brazil for nearly two decades alongside partner organization IPAM Amazônia. This year, Water Program Director, Dr. Marcia Macedo and collaborators, including Dr. Ane Alencar of IPAM, convened a multi-day workshop in Brazil that produced a policy brief on forest degradation. They then organized experts to submit public comments on Brazil’s updated policy for controlling Amazon deforestation, which for the first time also addresses forest degradation.
Read the policy brief.
Across the globe, Permafrost Pathways partner, Alaska Institute for Justice (AIJ), hosted a “Rights, Resilience, and Community-Led Adaptation” workshop on Dena’ina homelands in Anchorage, Alaska. The two-day workshop created space for Tribes to share their expertise with each other and connect face-to-face with federal and state government representatives to access resources and technical assistance.
Read more about the workshop.
6. Representing our expertise
Our experts showed up as thought leaders this year at several high profile events. As just a few examples, Woodwell Climate’s Arctic Program Director Dr. Sue Natali and Senior Science Policy Advisor Peter Frumhoff both spoke on panels alongside other leading voices in climate at SxSW in Austin, TX. Senior Geospatial Analyst, Greg Fiske attended the Esri User Conference, where his topographic map of Alaska garnered two awards. And Assistant Scientist, Dr. Ludmila Rattis gave a talk at TED Countdown about her research on the role of tapirs in rainforest restoration. (Recording coming in early 2024.)
map by Greg Fiske
7. Making headlines
Woodwell Climate team members showed up in over 5,000 media stories this year. Our scientific leadership provided quotes for a broad range of high profile climate stories in the New York Times, Reuters, Boston Globe, CNN, and Grist, just to name a few. Senior Scientist Dr. Jen Francis was quoted over 4.2K times, appearing in major news outlets like the Washington Post and AP News to provide accessible context about the links between climate change and extreme weather events.
8. Rebuilding an Arctic research station
Last fall, Scotty Creek Research Station in Canada—one of the only Indigenous-led climate research stations in the world—was almost entirely consumed by a late-season wildfire. Woodwell Climate’s Permafrost Pathways project is providing rebuilding support to the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation. Project scientists Dr. Kyle Arndt and Marco Montemayor visited the site for two weeks this spring to restore an essential carbon monitoring tower.
9. Advancing the scientific literature
Our researchers published 80 peer-reviewed scientific publications this year. From the Arctic to the Tropics, from soil concentrations to river concentrations, Woodwell Climate had a part in discovery. Some major highlights:
- Assessing carbon stocks and accumulation potential of mature forests and larger trees in U.S. federal lands
- Recent trends in the chemistry of major northern rivers signal widespread Arctic change
- Grain-cropping suitability for evaluating the agricultural land use change in Brazil
- Observational and model evidence together support wide-spread exposure to noncompensable heat under continued global warming
Explore all our publications.
10. Leading on the world stage
Max Holmes speaks at CERAWeek.
Woodwell Climate’s President & CEO Dr. Max Holmes brought Woodwell Climate to the main stage of CERAWeek, Green Accelerator Davos, GenZero Climate Summit in Singapore, Climate Week NYC, and Mountainfilm Festival. He discussed cutting-edge climate science alongside notable figures like Bill McKibben and former Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez.
Read about Dr. Holmes’ time at Davos.
- In The News