Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Preparing for the Inevitable: US Climate Change Preparation

Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Preparing for the Inevitable: US Climate Change Preparation

Article excerpt

Introduction

The global climate is changing. Data on sea level, global temperature, snow cover and presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make it clear that since the Industrial Revolution the world has been getting warmer. Sea levels are rising, average temperatures are increasing and snow and ice cover have diminished.1 Debate has long raged over whether human activity has affected this trend or if it is merely part of natural climate cycles. This debate is meaningless because regardless of cause, Earth's climate is changing and it will affect human civilization. The question of cause is therefore irrelevant and politicians should instead be focused on how to react to this new reality. The modern world is not isolated from nature and depends on rainfall and weather patterns to survive just as certainly as did its predecessors. The difference now is that modern humans can predict and respond to these impacts in ways never before possible, allowing well prepared societies to get ahead of the climate and rapidly adapt.

The United States just endured the hottest year since record keeping began in 1895. Heat waves scorched the typically mild eastern states while western and southern states suffered crop killing droughts. It also suffered through a storm season that caused more than $90 billion worth of damage.2 It is easy to simply call it a bad year and rebuild, but 2012 was not an aberration. As the climate continues to change, years like 2012 will become commonplace. It is dangerous and irresponsible to ignore this trend, proven by the climate disasters like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, there are relatively simple precautions and investments that can prevent climate change from becoming a climate disaster. It just takes the foresight and political will to implement new policies.

This paper will begin by outlining the most widely accepted climate change scenario the United States is facing based on the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Then the climate threats that the US is facing will be demonstrated by the 2012 storm season, specifically Superstorm Sandy and the Duluth flooding. In every case, failures in planning and/or implementation of a disaster prevention policy were directly responsible for the damage. In absence of good, farsighted policy difficult circumstances became disasters. This paper will argue that climate related natural disasters do not need to happen and that planning and foresight can mitigate or eliminate the damage caused by a changing climate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The IPCC is the scientific arm of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and is tasked with monitoring scientific findings on climate change and reporting on developments in the study and understanding of climate change. Rather than conduct any independent research, the IPCC: "...reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change."3 Therefore the IPCC report are a consensus view of the scientific data on the cause and impacts of climate change from the entire scientific community instead of a single body. This serves to eliminate bias and policy driven analysis in favor of scientific accuracy. The belief is that by aggregating the total scientific research on climate change, the IPCC reports balance both ends of the scientific and political spectrum and produce a scenario that is reasonable to all scientists. The IPCC is therefore considered the ultimate authority on climate change and most government scientists base their projections on IPCC data.4 Considering that these scientists are providing the initial data, it makes sense to accept the IPCC analysis. This gives significant legitimacy to their evaluations and therefore will be the scientific basis for this paper.

It is important to note that the scenarios outlined by the IPCC are only considered accurate in the short run to 2050 and the long run until the end of the 21st century. …

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