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Conference participants take on climate change planning

MANCHESTER — The topic of climate change entered its latest phase on Monday when hundreds of scientists, government officials and engineers gathered in Manchester to say it’s time to prepare for it.

Participants at the Northeast Climate Change Preparedness Conference had little to say about whether climate change is taking place. The topics during the conference focus on how to deal with the storms, high temperatures and droughts expected as global temperatures rise as predicted in climate models.

Topics included resilient building practices, planning for coastal storm surges, storage of floodwater and the legalities of climate change.

“You’re here today to help us think about how we deal with this fast-moving, unsettling change,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said during a lunch-time address. “We need to make sure we do everything we can to protect what makes New Hampshire so special,” she added, mentioning the state’s natural beauty and working landscape.

About 480 people have signed up for the three-day conference. It is being convened by Antioch University New England and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Antioch used the event to launch its Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience.

Workshops ranged from reducing community vulnerability to deploying psychology to get people to change their behavior.

Christie Manning, professor of psychology at Macalester College, said community projects, such as construction of a solar farm, encourage behavioral change.“I feel hope. This is a solution that plugs into something bigger,” Manning said. “It’s very important to feel efficacy and hope.”

Hope was part of the keynote lunch address by Cameron Wake, a climate researcher at the University of New Hampshire.He’s certain of an average temperature gain of 4 to 5 degrees by the mid 21st century.

Where there’s room for hope is the latter part of the century. If carbon emissions are reduced, New Hampshire can expect 23 summer days of temperatures that exceed 90 degrees, Wake said. If they continue to grow, the state can expect 55 days of high temperature.

The difference is a New Hampshire climate similar to Washington, D.C., or North Carolina, he said.

“The bad news is climate’s changing, it’s caused by us, and it’s going to get worse,” Wake said. “The good news is it’s caused by us, and we can do something about it.”

Wake said 97 percent of climate scientists who are active in the field say human activity is the main driver of climate change.

The conference included exhibitions by about two dozen organizations, including Massachusetts Audubon, Liberty Utilities, government agencies such as the EPA, and the American Society of Adaptation Professionals.

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