Invest in Disaster Management

Anthropogenic Climate Change is our new reality. We caused it, now we have to deal with it. Reading Bill McKibben’s recent article in Rolling Stone, and with recent landslides all over British Columbia, I’ve been thinking that we’d better invest in more disaster management technologies pretty quick.

Of course some of my skeptic colleagues think that a cold wet spring in the Pacific NorthWest is a sign that global warming is bunk, but unfortunately they’ve been fooled by the word “warming” in Global Warming — the climate is a lot more complicated than just warmer air. What is being missed is this; the ability of climate scientists to predict the broad strokes of the coming decades is getting better all the time.

As McKibben writes, warmer air over the oceans leads to more moisture, and that moisture has to go somewhere. He predicts devastating floods, and in British Columbia after decades of logging on already poor and thin soils on mountainous terrain this will result in dammed creeks, and landslides; we’ve seen the beginnings of these this year after a record snowfall and a very wet spring.

Paradoxically, while the soil is being soaked, the trees are dying from climate-instigated infestations of pine beetle; normally controlled by cold winters, this plague has destroyed billions of cubic feet of trees in BC, resulting in dry, dead standing trees. Wildfires in Colorado and Asia, also possibly caused by climate change, brought smoke to BC this spring — smoke that will soon be coming from fires in our own forests.

The predictions are in, and the climate change models are converging — the new normal is for wetter and more violent storms, drier summers, more floods, fires, and avalanches. In other words, more disasters.

Of course we can’t blame any single event on climate change; in fact it’s possible that none of the recent events in BC were caused by it. However, the thousands of temperature-related records being broken all over the United States are almost certainly not a fluke, and were predicted by the models.

The writing is on the wall; we’re in for more like this. We are going to be responding to disasters more often, and we are going to have to get better at it.

If any of you have children, advising them to study emergency management is probably a good idea. Investing in technologies that make us more efficient at managing emergencies is also advisable. With more frequent events, we’re going to have to get better at predicting, detecting and preventing disasters — quicker and more efficient evacuations, faster searches for missing people, and better procedures for when and where to devote resources.

Even if we stopped emitting CO2 today, we would be in for these changes as the already-emitted carbon continues to heat the world. the prediction is that we’ve seen a 1.6 degree C increase so far, and we’re in for another 1.6 degrees at least.

While we’re trying to prevent climate change, it’s also time to think about bracing for it.

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