Are we waiting for climate change or are we living through it right now? Is this the ‘I told you so moment that scientists have been warning us about? After a string of events across the United States in recent months, talk is rising that we are indeed experiencing the extreme weather that we were told would occur if greenhouse gas emissions were not slashed.
This year the United States has been hit by a horrific forest fire in Colorado, severe drought in the Midwest that looks sure to drive up food prices and a spectacular heat induced storm on the east coast that knocked out power for millions.
Is this all related to climate change? You can read a lot of worthy experts making the argument that yes the evidence is strong that global warming is behind the extreme weather of the past couple of years, although there are always lots of caveats that climate science is a complicated topic.
It might take a team of scientists to make a definitive ruling. Actually, a group did just that for an event in another corner of the world. The Russian heat wave of 2010 broke all heat records, claimed 50,000 lives and cost billions of dollars in damages. Last year a group of scientists found in a study that climate change made Russia’s disaster three times more likely to have occurred.
But do we need another study to confirm what is going on? Countries around the world are experiencing extreme weather events and temperature records are breaking at a dizzying pace. Right now the political will to tackle the problem is not there in many countries, including in the United States where there is still a big shouting match between the greens and so-called climate deniers.
So what are we to do as our memories of nice bright summers, cool autumns and even normal winters are being replaced by an unpredictable and potentially dangerous climate? Adaptation. Adaptation to a world that is changing before our eyes.
Daniel Kaniewski, a former disaster response adviser to President George W. Bush, said in a recent Reuters article that the July power failures in the Washington area were “unprecedented.” He said the public should realize the limitations of government and industry to respond to serious disasters. “People should be able to sustain themselves for 72 hours,” he said
Four Big Baby Steps To Take
72 hours? That seem like a long time. Let’s do the math. Three fricking days!. What are we to do? I think we need a plan. Here are four steps to take initially.
- Study the vulnerabilities of you area. Think about where you live and what events – floods, storms, earthquakes – that could put your home or apartment at risk. In the recent storm in DC, people were without electricity, phone and Internet connections for days on end.
- Sit down own with your family, friends and roommates and brainstorm for ideas on how you will cope in the next emergency. Think about how to contact friends and family; consider a place to meet if events require it.
- Make a plan of action. After going through the first two steps, write down a short plan on how you will prepare and cope in an emergency. Email it around and have a hard copy on hand.
- Assemble a
that you can use if you are mired at home or if you need to get mobile quickly. The kit would have to include basics such as batteries, flashlights, water and non perishable food.
There are lots of resources out there that can help you flesh out your plan. FEMA, yes the federal agency still derided for its handling of the Katrina disaster, has a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for a disaster, if a little wordy. NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation is a great site that will surely inspire you in the most morbid sense to think about your own personal disaster plan.
And besides all of the above, we are all going to need to get a lot tougher because it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier.