Two Decades of Focusing on Adaptation and Resilience
Recent climate-related disasters have highlighted, once again, the importance of adaptation.
Climate disasters have dominated news coverage in recent weeks. Texans are only starting to assess the damage from Hurricane Harvey, Floridians are returning home after Hurricane Irma instigated one of the largest evacuations in US history, and fires are scorching hundreds of thousands of acres across the West—to say nothing of Sierra Leone’s recent landslide, South Asia’s deadly monsoon flooding, and storm devastation throughout the Caribbean.
These disasters have highlighted, once again, the importance of adaptation: preparing for hazards to protect lives in the face of a capricious and changing climate. How to do so is far less clear. What role does climate change play in extreme weather? Does adaptation take resources away from other efforts to address climate change? What accounts for the ever-increasing economic toll of natural disasters? How can poorer countries increase their disaster resilience? In our politically divided era, what does an achievable approach to adaptation look like?
These are questions that the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes has been thinking about for a long time.
As we consider the best ways to offer immediate assistance to those affected by recent disasters, we want to share nearly two decades of work from CSPO and our partners to draw attention to adaptation. For communities beginning the long process of rebuilding and those developing their resilience strategies, this body of work offers new ways to think about adaptation and its many benefits.
- CSPO is leading an innovative new project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to connect citizens with each other and with public officials to develop and assess preparedness strategies—resulting in better strategies and a more informed public.
- Alex Trembath and Jason Lloyd point out in a new piece for Slate that we can take advantage of opportunities to increase our resilience to weather extremes, without agreement on climate change or strategy.
- Thad Miller and Mikhail Chester offer six rules for rebuilding infrastructure in an era of “unprecedented” weather events.
- Our recent book, Climate Pragmatism, brings together powerful ideas for rebuilding climate policies around energy access, energy innovation, and climate adaptation.
- Lauren Withycombe Keeler developed a game for engaging city leadership in dialog about long-term urban futures and the challenges associated with sustainability and resilience.
- Clark Miller leads a project devoted to improving resilience in a number of connected infrastructure systems, such as the electrical grid and the drinking water system, which are vulnerable to weather extremes and climate change.
- In his Rightful Place of Science volume, Roger Pielke Jr. comprehensively demonstrates that the rising costs of disasters are attributable to factors other than climate change.
- In Nature, Daniel Sarewitz and others emphasize that adequately addressing climate hazards requires new ways of thinking about, talking about, and acting on climate change if a changing society is to adapt to a changing climate.
- Roger Pielke Jr. and Daniel Sarewitz argue that the impact of future hurricanes will be determined by decisions we make now about where and how to build and rebuild in vulnerable locations.
- Single-mindedly focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to forestall the effects of future disasters makes us more vulnerable to those disasters now, Daniel Sarewitz and Roger Pielke Jr. write in The New Republic.
- In a ground-breaking essay from 2000 for The Atlantic, Daniel Sarewitz and Roger Pielke Jr. point out that “if we took practical steps to reduce our vulnerability to today’s weather, we would go a long way toward solving the problem of tomorrow’s climate.”
These represent just a portion of CSPO’s adaptation-focused programs and publications (more can be found here, here, here, and here). We hope that this work brings fresh, pragmatic thinking to adaptation and climate strategies, and helps communities protect themselves from the kinds of disasters we’ve been anxiously reading about in the news.