Climate change fact or fiction? Manmade or cyclic? Does it matter to Emergency Managers?
This month we looked at climate change and the effects of natural disasters in the book Angry Weather by Friederike (Fredi) Otto. Fredi and her “SWAT” team of attribution scientists investigate extreme weather events across the globe with the intent to attribute climate changes to excessive emissions producers. Although not all extreme weather events can be directly attributed to a single source, some compelling arguments are made in specific incidents. The team suggests that if countries or corporations (like Exxon Mobile) actions can be proven to have directly attributed to weather events that severely impact a community, are they then financially liable to those affected? But this is not the intent of this team’s efforts. Instead, they are trying to bring some real awareness and acceptance of everyone’s contribution to climate change by pointing out specific actions that contributed to climate change to inspire us to think again about our habits. The team recognized that climate is not always to blame during their studies. Sometimes we are attributed to severe weather impacts by where we choose to live and develop and the mitigations we decide not to employ.
It is hard to deny that the world is getting hotter, and burning fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gasses destabilizes temperatures. Warmer oceans fuel developing hurricanes, and warm air collects more moisture in areas not developed to accommodate it. So, if we put all these together, emissions contribute to heat, heat contributes to wind and water, increased wind and water during storms cause damage and flooding. If we were to reduce emissions, we might mitigate risks from storms.
Climate change is only one factor contributing to increased risks of natural disasters; other factors include lack of mitigation innovation and choosing to develop and live in high-risk areas susceptible to weather events.
Attribution science can help identify contributing source(s) of extreme weather events; we can conduct mitigation planning and prediction analysis for future server weather events by bringing attention to these sources. However, this is just one piece of a complex puzzle that should not be ignored.
Extreme weather impacts are increasing in severity, and frequency is up to us to mitigate as much risk as possible by controlling the things we can control. We may not be able to control the weather. Still, we can control our contributing actions if we pay attention to weather alerts and warnings, whether or not we follow evacuation guidance and action planning before the weather turns bad.
“Attribution science allows us not only to look to the past but also to say what weather awaits us in the future depending on our actions.” - Friederike Otto.