Is your building at risk of damage due to climate change? What are the chances? Where do you go for more information?
Climate change is real
Hurricanes, cyclones, heat waves, flash floods, torrential rains and wildfires are occurring with greater frequency and intensity. Climate change is no longer a distant reality. It is happening every day, and no one is immune from it. However, without knowing potential risks, it would be impossible to prepare effectively against possible damage or injury.
Impact of climate change
According to NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “climate change refers to more than an increase in temperature. It also includes sea level rise, changes in weather patterns like drought and flooding, and much more.” All sectors of economy such as water, energy, transportation, wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health are impacted by the effects of changing climate. In addition, such impacts are interrelated. NOAA also provides a global dashboard to track climate change with indicators such as greenhouse gases, arctic sea ice, carbon dioxide, ocean heat, sea level and so on.
Rise in Carbon Dioxide levels 2
Real time data on climate change
The best place for climate change information is NASA’s dashboard which gives real time data on carbon dioxide, global temperature, arctic sea ice, ice sheets, sea level and ocean warming. The dashboard states that 90 % of global warming is occurring in the ocean. “Heat stored in the ocean causes its water to expand, which is responsible for one-third to one-half of global sea level rise.” Sea level rises due to the expansion of sea water as it gets warmer as well as the melting of ice sheets and glaciers. Global carbon atlas is another great web site that provides data on fossil fuel emissions for each country and shows how GHG emissions have been growing since 1960. Many international agencies and NGOs have also been monitoring climate change. For example, the World Bank is developing climate reports for each country. Such reports will enable individual countries to prioritize their strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Risk factor tool to assess risk of damage
There is an excellent tool called “Risk Factor” which was created by a nonprofit called First Street Foundation. It generates free information on risk factors related to floods, wildfire, and heat for any structure in the United States. All you need to do is to enter the address. It does the rest instantaneously and provides a personalized report for the address you entered.
I tested Risk Factor tool for my home address in New Jersey. It said that based on past, present, and future projections, my home’s greatest risk over the next 30 years was from heat. My home will experience seven hot days above 98 deg F this year and the number of hot days will steadily rise to 15 days per year by year 30. The report projected that energy costs for my home will rise by almost 20% over 30 years. And this is the most worrisome – the likelihood of having 3 plus days of heat wave will be 83% in 30 years. In addition, number of days when temperature will hit 100 deg F in 30 years will rise to 12 days from current 5 days. This type of risk assessment is essential to prepare effectively to combat climate change today and in the future.
Simple strategies to combat climate change
The climate discussion has focused too heavily on what the government, international agencies or big businesses are willing to do or are currently doing. We need to revive the spirit of John F Kennedy’s speech where he challenged every citizen to “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” in the context of combating climate change. In future blogs I will emphasize individual actions that we can take to move the needle in humanity’s favor. Our individual and collective actions are more relevant and consequential today than ever before.3