Getting Ready for Large Scale Climate Chaos: Beyond the Super Storm Sandy Whodunit
London, UK - 2nd November 2012, 10:45 GMT
Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]
Despite mounting losses of life, property, prosperity, hope and dignity -- not to mention the tens of billions of dollars in damages caused by Hurricane Sandy and other catastrophic super-storms in recent years -- we remain stuck in the mud with cul-de-sac arguments about anthropogenic versus non-anthropogenic or man-made versus non-man-made causes of global warming and climate chaos. Is it not time now to go beyond 'Whodunit' and to begin to prepare earnestly for these more frequent and inevitable large scale climate chaos events? Although there is plenty of gloss put on it, it may yet take many years for all of the damages brought to the Eastern Sea Board of the United States by Hurricane Sandy to be rectified fully.
Ten Costliest Storms
The likely cost of Hurricane Sandy could exceed $50 billion. Here are the costliest tropical storms, in 2010 dollars, according to the US National Weather Service:
#1: Katrina, 2005 -- Damages: $105.8 billion
Cabs Permanently Damaged By Salt Water
#2: Sandy, 2012 -- Damages: $50+ billion
#3: Andrew, 1992 -- Damages: $45.6 billion
#4: Ike, 2008 -- Damages: $27.8 billion
#5: Wilma, 2005 -- Damages: $20.6 billion
#6: Ivan, 2004 -- Damages: $19.8 billion
#7: Charley, 2004 -- Damages: $15.8 billion
#8: Hugo, 1989 -- Damages: $12.8 billion
#9: Rita, 2005 -- Damages: $11.8 billion
#10: Agnes, 1972 -- Damages: $11.76 billion.
Systemic Risk from Asymmetric Climate Chaos
There is ever greater evidence mounting with every passing year that one in a hundred year type of large scale climate chaos disruptions are getting much more frequent, relentless and aggressive. Sea levels around the world are rising. Our tenuous urban lifestyles in cities located on rivers or on the sea are under systemic attack from the increased asymmetric forces unleashed by Mother Nature with ever greater ferocity. It is now a spurious and somewhat misleading argument to hunt for the origin of climate chaos relentlessly -- as if it were a Hitchcock plot -- when Atlantic City in New Jersey looks much more like the fabled Atlantis with every passing day.
Cascading Risk from Climate Chaos Induced Crises
Disruption caused by extreme climate chaos events exposes the vulnerability of our urban lifestyles including:
1. Extremely high population density located mostly next to large water bodies made possible by modern architecture, rapid transport and just-in-time technology;
2. Our modern life-support systems and conveniences powered by electricity which are totally vulnerable to energy outages like never before;
3. 24/7 digital interconnectivity creating remote communities and urban relationships which were not possible even in the recent past;
4. Multi-dimensional complexity demonstrating systemic risk type characteristics such as our food supply chains reliant on continuous refrigeration and freezing; and
5. Possibility for total chaos in the event of local risks cascading into global ones as a result of tightly interlinked world trade and trans-national financial markets.
1. Shouldn't the relevant government(s) and public institutions take steps to protect our cities from the mounting risk(s) of large scale climate chaos events?
2. Given that cascading effects of climate chaos events include storm surges, flooding and disruption to transport and public services why are we not investing in more resilient infrastructure and state-of-the-art flood barriers?
3. Is it sufficient to say that because we are not sure that humankind is responsible for this climate chaos, we as humans are going to do nothing to protect our cities in the future from climate induced destruction?
4. Is this issue of safety and security of ordinary citizens not a matter of national concern regardless of whom or what is responsible for climate chaos?
5. Is the real issue of failure to address climate chaos induced disruption being hidden behind the morass of politically charged straw man arguments about 'Whodunit'?
Time to Take Our Heads Out of the Sand
Let us start getting ready for large scale climate chaos and coastal flooding events now before it is too late because they seem to be happening with ever greater frequency. No longer one in a hundred year events, we are witnessing the acceleration of the cycle of catastrophes to one every few years. Super storm Sandy is yet another clarion call. How many more such clarion calls do we need before we exhaust our resilience to recover from them?
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