Climate change is the biggest single issue confronting fire services and disaster management agencies. I can hear those sceptics now saying here he goes again on his hobbyhorse. Yes, I’m passionate about it and I make no apologies for standing on the toes of climate deniers. We don’t have time to be Mr/Mrs nice.
Most agencies are attempting to prepare for a different future but policy makers are slow in realising the urgency of the situation.
What we know with certainty:
- CO2 is up from 320 ppm in the 1960’s to 400 ppm now and is higher than any other time since 800,000 years ago
- Land and sea temperatures are rising
- Ocean levels are rising
The predictions that these will continue to increase are 99% in scientific terms. I wonder if a sceptic would get on a plane that had a 99% chance of crashing?
This is about science, not belief systems. If you jump off a cliff, gravity doesn’t care about your belief system.
Most of you know what this means for emergency services and the community, but let me spell it out in black and white. More days of extreme heat (best case it will only double by the 2030’s) will see more forest fires endangering communities, causing smoke haze, particularly in Asia and draining volunteers of their goodwill. Heat exhaustion on these hot days badly affects and kills the elderly and young, putting additional pressure on ambulance services and hospitals. To add to these increases in temperature, El Niño events, such as the one forming in the Pacific now will bring drought conditions with higher temperatures. Sea level rise will see greater devastation for our civil defence agencies to combat. It will not just be when storm surges occur, but every king tide, year after year.
Then there is some evidence that cyclones may occur more often and be more intense as well as moving further south. A combination of all these changes will impact on all of our region. Poor and rich nations will both suffer though low lying Pacific islands nations will bear the brunt of it.
We may not be able to change the CO2 levels in the short to medium term and it may never go back to 1960’s levels, but by accepting this is going to happen and planning for the higher levels of impact of these changes to our environment we can mitigate the effects on the community and pressure on our emergency services. We must start now on a grand scale fully coordinated across our region in the full knowledge that this is not a maybe.
In the next issue I will comment on how emergency services depend on the safety industry for support and how this industry is one of the most innovative industries in the world today.
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