Adaptation and Resilience

Commentary, Climate, Les Routledge

Over in the progressive blog world, there is a commentary that I can agree with

You don’t need to know exactly which impacts are attributable to climate change to start talking about ruggedizing, though. You just need a general sense of what your region will face in coming decades. Many of those challenges exist whether or not climate change does; climate change merely accelerates or exacerbates them.

This perspective on the global warming and climate change / disruption topic is one that makes sense.  Climate and weather is variable.  To prepared for extremes or unusual events should make common sense.  For example, while the probability of a tornado touching down on my farm is somewhat limited, that has not stopped me from having an emergency plan to deal with that type of situation.  Similarly, I am prepared for an ice storm or other severe weather that could knock out my power and roads for a few days at a time.  On a year-to-year basis, I have sufficient inventory of feed on hand to deal with a drought or other types of crop failure.

To me, I do not need to rely on the meme of global warming or climate change to be prepared for future weather conditions that are different or more extreme than today.  While I may not see a lot of utility in minimizing my carbon footprint, I certainly can see value in being able to deal with different weather patterns that may and most likely will occur in the future.

The term “ruggedize” is a good one in my mind.  It communicates the need for us to move toward a more resilient model of living, operating our companies, and running our communities.  Another quote from the article makes a point that again I can agree with…

… many of the problems facing U.S. cities exist entirely apart from climate change: brittle and crumbling infrastructure, inadequate public services, poor or no disaster prep, the rising cost of fuel and congestion, declining freshwater supplies. Climate change is expected to make all these problems worse in one way or another, but they’re not waiting on climate change — they’re here, now…

Wouldn’t it be nice if the environmental alarmist out there stated talking about concrete action to deal with those real world risks, challenges and problems instead of spending scarce investment and leadership time on nebulous topics such as carbon trading or reducing our carbon footprint?

The author of the piece mentions Brisbane and the recent floods.  Having traveled in the area, I am aware that old timers did figure out one way to make housing more resilient for the extremes of nature in that tropical region.  The “Queenslander” house was a creative design of housing that elevated the house off the ground on pillars to resist termites and other pests, to enhance natural air cooling, and to tolerate flooding when the inevitable typhoon (hurricane) systems made landfall.  I wonder if urban planners and property developers will take the time after the flood to look back on what was learned in the past and incorporate it lessons to learn in the future?

Perhaps in finding workable, “ruggedized” solutions for the real world issues, society may even find a path towards an economy that is as not dependent on imported or limited supplies of fossil fuels.  For example, investing in solar or wind energy back-up energy systems that can power furnaces, water pumps, and fridges / freezers in the event of a power outage could be an alternative to a petro-powered unit that may or may not start.  This type of system could also be used to supply renewable energy to the home or even the grid during normal times.  The capital cost of the system is justified for its emergency application, but it could be used on an on-going basis as well.  There is no need to refer to global warming or climate change to justify the investment because it is one that makes sense in order to make one’s home more resilient and self-sufficient.

A couple of years ago I had an opportunity to work with some thoughtful community leaders who wanted to explore how they could us a bio-mass powered combined heat-and-power system in their community.  While there was some motivation to look at bio-mass to power and heat civic facilities, the bigger concern was to figure out how to supply heat and power to personal care homes and civic facilities in the event of an extended flood that left them cut-off from the outside world.  Interestingly, they were not really concerned much about minimizing their carbon footprint or weaning themselves off carbon-based energy.  Instead, they wanted increase the peace of mind that they could deal with weather extremes and situations that others would call an emergency or natural disaster.  In their mind, the weather and a flood were challenges that could happen and their job was to deal with the challenges instead of waiting for a disaster to occur.

In a bigger picture, other sensible ideas come to mind.  For example, after the last big flood of the Red River, the City of Fargo purchased a lot of houses that were in the floodplain and converted the area to a public park.  Doesn’t that make a lot more sense than continuing to build or re-build houses that are located in a place that is subject to flooding or erosion of shore lines?

Global climate warming alarmists often cite rising insurance claims as one of the indicators of climate change.  Is it possible that the escalating cost is related more to increased investment in vulnerable locations than more extreme weather?  Have sensible preparations been done to anticipate extreme weather events and mitigate potential harm?  Perhaps the problem is not one’s carbon footprint or exposure to global warming but rather the choices that people are making about where and how to build or how to prepare for extremes that nature can throw at them.

So I agree with the thrust of the article posted by Mr. Roberts.  Let’s start talking more about resilience and “ruggedizing” our communities and spend less time endlessly debating whether or not global warming is occurring or the impact that human society may or may not be having on the global climate.  Let’s get our priorities sorted out.