There has been a lot of discussion about the recent polar vortex that swept through most of the United States. A fair amount of this discussion has been a somewhat “heated” conversation about what it means for climate change. In fact, this is the same discussion the country has during almost every major weather event.
For the most part, we’d argue that these discussions have not been very constructive. Single weather events are very difficult to attribute to a climate-changing trend, and are not always indicative of that trend.
A better approach may be to talk about preparedness. How can we as a nation and as individuals be better prepared for both major weather events and slow-onset natural disasters, which are likely to increase in frequency, severity and variability in a climate-changing world? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves when something like this occurs. And here are a few follow-up questions:
- How can we take precautions before a major storm event to reduce accidents and deaths?
- How can we maintain electricity or restore electricity quickly after a major weather event?
- Are our satellite coverage capabilities up to speed enough to predict and prepare for major weather events?
- Are there community-wide efforts that can be put in place to reduce stress on emergency responders before, during and after a disaster (i.e. check on your elderly neighbors)?
- What role can technology such as twitter and text messages play in disaster response and recovery?
- How can we improve our storm and wastewater systems so that dirty water does not end up in places it should not?
These are just a few. And if you really want to talk about climate change preparedness and this recent polar vortex, here’s is a question that might be worthwhile:
Has the reduction of these types of cold weather events over the last couple of decades meant that we have forgotten how to effectively prepare and respond to them?