Emergency Managers: Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

Climate adaption is our role as emergency managers.

by Eric Holdeman / October 29, 2016

As emergency managers, we are not in the "carbon business," that being reducing the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. In climate lingo, that is called "mitigation." While it might sound a bit reactive, our goal is to prevent future damages by taking into account climate impacts and being prepared to deal with the consequences of "climate mitigation efforts" either totally failing, or not being of a sufficient effort to stem the impacts of climate change, on people and property.

Just this year we have seen the earth set another heat record. There have been violent rainstorms that have dropped deluges of rain, up to 3 inches in one storm (and not a tropical storm) over a very short period of time. Flooding is happening where it has never happened in recorded history. Thankfully for the United States we have not had as terrible wildland fire season when compared to recent summers. However, in Alberta, Canada, they had a record event, the Fort McMurray wildfire that destroyed 2,400 buildings, many of them being homes.

If you are an emergency manager who intends to stay in this business for the next 20-30 years, climate adaptation will be at the heart of what you are going to be dealing with. Study up on the topic, understand the risks and start planning for a new future that is not based on weather events of the past, e.g., potential killer heat waves in the Pacific Northwest. 

You might consider starting with this book, Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, which admittedly I've not read, but it comes from a science-based organization and authors. 

One last note on the above topic. People say you should never talk about money, politics or religion because it could lead to disagreements. I think people today might add "climate change" to that list. As a public servant, climate adaptation is a topic you must engage people in. You can speak the truth in love. Don't attack people over what they think or say, but present the facts as you know them and don't stoop to engaging people in a manner in which you harm the relationship. Yes, hard to do — but, if it was easy, it would have already been done.