Storm Gathering Toni Verdú Carbó/Flickr

Safer Climate Disasters

Participants in the climate-change debate often distinguish between the challenges of protecting ourselves from the longer-term impact of global warming and better preparing ourselves against today’s extreme weather events. But seeking to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and more effective disaster-risk management go hand in hand.

NEW YORK – Too often, participants in the climate-change debate make an erroneous distinction between protecting ourselves from the longer-term impact of global warming and better preparing ourselves against today’s extreme weather events. Recent reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have sought to break down this artificial divide. While seeking to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, we must work toward more effective disaster-risk management.

Adaptation to climate change is typically associated with the “hardware” of major development projects. It aims to build resilience against the long-term impact of global warming – that is, rising sea levels, harsher winters, hotter summers, worsening drought, heavier rainfall and storms, and more.

But what is often overlooked is the “software” of disaster-risk management – our societies’ level of preparedness, including early-warning systems, education, and effective communication with the most vulnerable populations. Indeed, this aspect of climate change has recorded some remarkable successes in recent years, notably a marked decline in weather-related deaths.

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