Climate Vulnerability and Preparedness:
Planning for Resilience and Adaptation
The world community now understands that humankind everywhere is likely to experience more severe and more frequent extreme weather events in the years, decades and, perhaps even, centuries to come. The consensus reports of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have made this clear. Thousands of scientists have worked around the world to summarize the latest scientific understanding about the changes in climate that we have been witnessing, and the outlook is for an uncertain and unpredictable future.
For those who understand the gravity of these scientific findings, the way forward for the human community has now become clear. We may not know in a precise manner the ways in which the global climate is changing, but we do know that the human community needs to start to develop entirely new kinds of strategies to prosper — or even survive — in the face of local weather anomalies and global climate shifts. In effect, we need to teach ourselves a new range of skills and sensibilities based on a new understanding of our effective role in an interconnected and changing ecosystem. Humans are participants in — and not masters of — a delicate and complex ecosystem which we did not create, we cannot control and we must not destroy.
In the first instance, a “disaster response” is appropriate for any incidence of extreme emergency posed by a dramatic climate event. Beyond this, however, it is apparent that a more systematic analysis of vulnerability and preparedness is now required in all communities. To survive we must be able to move beyond the “worst things first” strategy to develop a more coherent and systematic “first things first” set of guidelines and principles for effective action. Colleges and universities will need to develop courses and teaching sequences that help a broad range of students to understand these issues and begin to offer insights from their own realms of interest.
Further, in looking ahead to the future it will be necessary to devise strategies of resilience and adaptation to implement all future plans for growth and the maintenance of cities and whole regions. Universities and graduate schools in every realm — from schools of architecture and design through to schools of public policy and public health — will need to devise new curricula to encourage a whole new range of professionals to integrate resilience and adaptation thinking into their chosen careers.