Emergency Managers Confront Climate Change


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Speaker: John Labadie
Emergency managers will have to deal with the impending, possibly extreme, and uncertain
effects of climate change. Yet, many emergency managers are not aware of the full range of
possible climate change effects, and they are unsure of their place in the effort to plan for, adapt
to, and cope with those effects. This may partly reflect emergency mangers‟ reluctance to get
caught up in the rancorous – and politically-charged – debate about climate change, but it mostly
is due to the worldview shared by most emergency managers. We focus on: extreme events;
acute vs. chronic hazards (floods vs. droughts); a shorter event horizon (5 years vs. 75-100
years); and a shorter planning and operational cycle. This presentation explores the important
intersection of emergency management, environmental management, and climate change
mitigation and adaptation. It examines the different definitions of terms common to all three
fields, the overlapping strategies used in all three fields, and the best means of collaboration and
mutual re-enforcement among the three to confront and solve the many possible futures that we
may face in the climate change world. Emergency managers must take a seat at the table and
involve themselves in all aspects of planning for and dealing with effects of climate change.

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Emergency Managers Confront Climate Change

  1. 1. John R. LabadiePartners in Emergency Preparedness April 26, 2011 p
  2. 2. O iOverview The Emergency Manager’s Worldview e e ge cy a age s o d e Some definitions Mitigation and Adaptation g p Where does climate change fit? A seat at the table
  3. 3. You and Your Premonition !!
  4. 4. O C t Cli t P bl S tOur Current Climate Problem Set
  5. 5. Wh t Will Cli t Ch L k Lik ?What Will Climate Change Look Like? ? ? ? ? ? ?
  6. 6. h ’ ldThe Emergency Manager’s Worldview A focus on extreme events Acute  vs.  chronic hazards (floods vs. droughts) An “all‐hazards” approach to preparing for disasters An  all hazards  approach to preparing for disasters A shorter event horizon (5 years vs. 75‐100 years) A shorter planning and operational cycle  Mitigation – Preparedness – Response – Recovery  “Will current plans, actions, mitigation make things  better during the next flood (storm, earthquake,  hurricane, etc.)?” h ) ”
  7. 7. An Interesting Debate “Climate change is a wholly new threat/hazard and  “Cli   h  i     h ll    h /h d  d  thereby requires a unique set of responses.”  “Climate change only makes existing hazards worse (in  terms of severity, duration, geographic spread, etc.)  and does not require special or novel adaptations.” And, by extension… When does “emergency” become “business as usual?”
  8. 8. Some Definitions Mitigation (Emergency Management)  activities that reduce or eliminate the  probability of a hazard occurrence, or  eliminate or reduce the impact from the  li i     d   h  i  f  h   hazard if it should occur.  (ICDRM/GWU Emergency Management  Glossary of Terms)
  9. 9. E i t l iti tiEnvironmental mitigation steps taken to avoid or minimize negative  steps taken to a oid or minimi e negati e environmental impacts. Mitigation can  include: avoiding the impact by not taking a  g p y g certain action; minimizing impacts by limiting  the degree or magnitude of the action;  rectifying the impact by repairing or restoring rectifying the impact by repairing or restoring the affected environment; reducing the  impact by protective steps required with the  p yp p q action; and compensating for the impact by  replacing or providing substitute resources. (Biology Online.) (Bi l  O li )
  10. 10. Mitigation – Climate Change “An anthropogenic intervention to reduce the  sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse  gases” (IPCC). I. e., actions taken by individuals, governments,   k b d d l or corporations to reduce the greenhouse gas  emissions in order to minimize their effects on  global climate change.
  11. 11. Adaptation Changes in an organism s physiological  Changes in an organisms physiological  structure or function or habits that allow it to  survive in new surroundings. (USEPA. Terms  of Environment:  Glossary, Abbreviations and  of Environment:  Glossary  Abbreviations and  Acronyms) "adjustment in natural or human systems  in response to actual or expected climatic  stimuli or their effects, which moderates  ti li   th i   ff t   hi h  d t   harm or exploits beneficial opportunities."  (IPCC)
  12. 12. Members of the Maldives Cabinet donned scuba gear and used hand signals Saturday at Members of the Maldives Cabinet donned scuba gear and used hand signals Saturday atan underwater meeting staged to highlight the threat of global warming to the lowest‐lying nation on earth.  (2009)
  13. 13.  Adaptive Capacity ‐‐ “...the ability or  potential of a system to respond  successfully to climate variability and  change, and includes adjustments in both  behaviour and in resources and  technologies.” (IPCC)  Resilience ‐‐ The ability of a community to  remain strong or unharmed, and/or to be  g , / able to quickly and effectively recover from  a disaster’s impact upon its infrastructure,  economy, social and natural environment.  economy  social and natural environment  
  14. 14. El t f Ad ti C it Elements of Adaptive Capacity Excess capacity   i  Income levels Income le els Economic surplus  Good governance and E Experience w/ natural  i   /  l  transparency disasters  Natural resources Strong governmental   Robust infrastructures or social institutions  Social protection &  Robust  social transfer  communications mechanisms
  15. 15. E i I i Cli ChEquity Issues in Climate Change  Poverty and Access to Services  Governance and Transparency  How do decisions get made?  Who gets to make those  decisions?  Ethics – what is right?  Socio‐economic Development Socio economic Development
  16. 16. Dimensions of a decent lifeDimensions of a decent life Health & H lth Basic Education Income & Rights & Material Empowerment po e e t Needs Social, cultural affiliation & security
  17. 17. P d Cli ChPoverty and Climate Change“A realistic but proactive human development agendais needed that recognizes that poverty is not justabout lack of income; it is about individuals andhouseholds being powerless to act and influence theirfutures.”[The Human Dimension of Climate Adaptation: The Importance ofLocal and Institutional Issues.] Issues ]
  18. 18. The Ethics of Climate ChangeThe Ethics of Climate Change The IPCC wrote in its 2007 report that determining what  7 p g constitutes dangerous anthropogenic interference with the  climate system “involves value judgments. Science can  support informed decisions on this issue.  Thus, coping  support informed decisions on this issue ” Thus  coping  with climate change, both mitigation and adaptation,  becomes primarily an ethical issue. [From Closing the Gaps: Disaster risk reduction and  adaptation to climate change in developing countries.  adaptation to climate change in developing countries   Commission on Climate Change and Development. 2009]
  19. 19. Some Ethical IssuesSome Ethical Issues Is it ethical to tear down a low‐income housing project  s t et ca to tea do a o co e ous g p oject in order to build a wetland, if that wetland would help  to reduce future flood damages in other parts of the  community?i ? I  it  thi l t  b ild   d      i i ti   t  t   Is it ethical to build a dam or an irrigation system to  stabilize water supply, if doing so will disadvantage  those who will lose access to important water resources  p that they use in coping with drought.
  20. 20. E i I i Cli ChEquity Issues in Climate Change  Poverty and Access to Services o e ty a d ccess to Se ces  Governance and Transparency  How do decisions get made? g  Who gets to make those decisions?  Ethics – what is right?  Socio‐economic Development  Are emergency managers prepared (empowered?)  to act/participate in these discussions?
  21. 21. Continuum of adaptation activitiesContinuum of adaptation activitiesSource: R. J. T. Klein and Å. Persson, “Financing Adaptation to Climate Change: Issues and Priorities” Vulnerability focus Impacts focusAddressing the  Building response Managing climate  Confronting drivers of  capacity risks climatevulnerability Activities seek to  Activities seek to changeActivities seek to build robust  incorporate climate Activities seek toreduce poverty and systems for information into address impactsother non‐climatic problem solving decision‐making associated stressors that make exclusivelyp ppeople vulnerable with climate changeg Primary focusNot so much Perhaps indirectly Emergency  or  case‐by‐case Management
  22. 22. Emergency Managers would supportEmergency Managers would support...  No‐regrets strategies  Mainstreaming  Mitigation  Sustainable development  Resilience  These all do (or could) increase a community’s ability to  h ll d ( ld) ’ bl recover from, or be less affected by an extreme event.   While specific adaptive projects would not be ignored or  rejected by EMs, those that contribute to a greater  capacity or resilience would be favored. 
  23. 23. Emergency Management & Environmental Management Considerable overlap between environmental  management and disaster management. The overall objectives of these fields implicitly  promote sustainable & resilient communities.  Sustainability & resilience should be considered:   prospectively (in sustainable development planning and  adaptation)   retrospectively (in response and recovery)   retrospectively (in response and recovery). 
  24. 24. Collaborative Strategies Collaborative Strategies Identifying enhancements to environmental &  y g other assets/resources that support long‐term  recovery and reconstruction (e.g., enhancement of  ecosystem elements, habitats);   l  h bi ) Identifying development options that may serve to  mitigate future disaster damage (e.g., creation,  enhancement, or preservation of wetlands,  enhancement  or preser ation of  etlands   mangrove clusters, and coral reefs for flood  mitigation);
  25. 25. Collaborative Strategies Collaborative Strategies Identifying and reconciling the tradeoffs between  adaptation opportunities and disaster‐resistant  construction and development practices (e.g., siting of  dikes/levees; identification and preapproval of waste  dik /l  id tifi ti   d  l  f  t   disposal methods/sites);  Identifying development techniques and practices that  contribute to both environmental quality and long‐term  survivability (siting of industrial sites; stricter  i bili  ( i i   f i d i l  i   i   environmental management requirements for  y y environmentally‐risky facilities)
  26. 26. How does it fit together?How does it fit together? Environmental  Management Resilience Climate  Change  Emergency  E   Adaptation Management
  27. 27. Emergency Managers in their own wordsEmergency Managers in their own wordsI asked 10‐12 emergency managers around the US (public  and private sector), “What are you – as an EM – doing  d  i t   t )  “Wh t         EM  d i   about climate change?” “Hmmm interesting question  I should think about  Hmmm…interesting question. I should think about  it.” “I haven’t got time – I’m worried about next flood  g season.” “I haven’t got the budget (staff, resources, mandate,  etc.) to deal with climate change.” ) d l h l h ” “The Department of ________ is responsible for that.”
  28. 28. A Seat at the TableA Seat at the Table Disaster Preparedness is an accepted adaptation  strategy (one of many) ( f ) For emergency managers, mitigation & adaptation are  essentially the same thing i ll   h     hi Emergency management should be part of the  adaptation conversation – most effective in the  d t ti   ti   t  ff ti  i  th   scoping phase Identify synergies  no regrets actions  multiple  Identify synergies, no‐regrets actions, multiple  positive outcomes
  29. 29. I SIn Summary Reaction to climate change is largely in the purview  eact o to c ate c a ge s a ge y t e pu e of the environmental (& political) community Climate change is not a primary emergency  g p y g y management concern – effects, yes; causes, no EMs deal with acute, not chronic, problems p EMs generally do not deal directly with underlying  problems/issues related to climate change EMs would support climate change adaptations, but  would not generally take the lead.
  30. 30. Conclusions Funds and resources invested in adaptation to extreme  events (floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, heat waves, etc.) will  produce more adaptive benefits, more quickly, and for  more people than investment in long term adaptation to  more people than investment in long‐term adaptation to  chronic problems (drought, sea‐level rise, etc.) Mainstreaming of adaptive strategies into development  efforts and pursuing “no‐regrets” projects may be the best  and most cost effective path to success. Doing so could  and most cost‐effective path to success. Doing so could  lead to immediate benefits and could thereby lend  credibility to longer‐term adaptive efforts. 
  31. 31. Questions?