In the last week, headlines have been full of devastating news on extreme weather events linked to climate change and sea level rise. A heat wave skyrocketed energy demand on the Los Angeles grid, leaving tens of thousands without power; in addition to wild forest fires due to drier conditions that have once again forced people to evacuate their homes in Southern California. In Eastern Canada, the death toll from the eastern heatwave reached 54. On the other side of the world, Typhoon Maria brings heavy rains and wind in the Pacific, triggering warnings and Japan and causing surge floods in Japan that have resulted in a rescue and demand response emergency. Such events have grown in intensity and become too frequent to deny – this is the new normal.

Climate change is a looming threat to security, economy and health with serious implications for industries such as energy, construction, transport, and agriculture. A threat multiplier to existing transnational terrorism, violent conflict, instability and insecurity around the world, it is already responsible for several cases of mass migration and millions of climate refugees. It is a phenomenon that will be paid for in the poorest countries and by the poorest people.

The consensus is that responding to anthropogenic climate change is a two-pronged approach: mitigation – or the reduction of carbon emissions and the stabilization of greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere – as well as adaptation to the climate change already in the pipeline. Global climate agreements have focused mostly on mitigation but experts say that adjusting to this different reality requires investing more on adaptation in the most vulnerable areas. In many developing countries, there is significant adaptation action with high collateral benefits despite a lack of global funding; and there is still more potential for tackling low-hanging fruit in areas like construction and agriculture.

Better irrigation methods, reforestation, water management and allocation, better insulation on windows to reduce energy use and using building space for vertical forests reduce the likelihood of disasters, increase the prospect of sustainable development, and provide additional mitigation sources. The planet and human civilization have always been an invaluable investment, and the future must be designed with the reality of climate change and its impacts in mind.


Further Readings:

Responding to Climate Change

Q&A: Funding for climate adaptation is ‘the lie we keep living’ — Adil Najam

 Japan floods: At least 100 dead after heavy rain and landslides

Extreme weather: Searing heat in California, Canada

Company hopes to capitalize on rising sea levels in Florida

Super Typhoon Maria Heads Toward Taiwan, Spurring Extreme Weather Warnings

Mongolia’s nomadic way of life threatened by climate change, neglect, modernity

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