Climate Change Factoid – Emergency Management (#18 of a Series)
If we modern humans prove wise enough to recognize that carbon footprint reduction cannot reduce the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and we do it soon – and if we also prove focused enough to begin scrubbing the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, a project that will probably take five years for congress to realize there is a problem, another five to get started and more than ten to complete – if all of that happens, we will still be sorely tested by increasingly extreme weather which will continue to worsen for the entire twenty, maybe thirty years it takes to complete this work. Just how much our lives will be disrupted will be measured by how well we can prepare to manage the host of emergencies that must now be considered unavoidable.
In addition to avoiding and reducing human suffering – another primary purpose of this next emergency management scheme will be preventing, or at least delaying mass migrations of domestic populations. Migration, away from the regions hammered the hardest and longest by extreme weather is a bigger concern than the hardships imposed by bad weather. Consider the real possibility that hurricanes might become so frequent and intense that Gulf Coast populations, unable to insure their homes, watching property values drop, businesses moving elsewhere, tourism curtailed and a cascade of other worries, simply give up and decide to move away. It has already begun. The Gulf Coast population numbers 87 million and if only half move away, cities in less affected areas will be experiencing millions of eco-refugees showing up on their doorstep looking for a roof, a meal and a job. If the Southwest is stricken by drought and wildfire to the point that it becomes “just too much” then there are 20-25 million more of us on the move. The hazards of centralization and globalization become reality and the economic disruption is off the charts – the impact is felt everywhere.
Frequent, pre-hurricane mandatory evacuations, if they happen often enough – maybe 2 or 3 per year – could motivate migration after a just a few years. To prevent this, mass evacuations will need to change from what we have seen too often on TV. Twelve to fourteen hours creeping along in the car, screaming babies, no place to take a leak, or get a drink, or buy gas or food, unknown difficulty that waits at the unknown destination, lost income, lost family members – that has to stop if we are to keep these folks where they are. Then there’s the damage if the storm does hit. Government money and clever design resources can create employment doing built infrastructure hardening projects. Cadres of relocatable repair resources from neighboring regions that can move in to start the rebuilding the day the skies clear.
Given our shared experience with Katrina we should expect the federal response to the great emergencies of the future to be a confused, unprofessional and deeply disappointing exhibition of incompetence. The states, quick to appeal to the federal government for assistance as soon as the emergency overwhelms local resources have been slow to expand their capacity to respond. At this moment there does not appear to be anything to build on that inspires even minimal confidence.
(Peer reviewed research, supporting the claims made in this Factoid, can be found at the website shown below)