Time to prepare for the worst impacts of climate change is now

Time to prepare for the worst impacts of climate change is now

Investing in the transition to a lower energy system is critical to prevent further warming and the implications that come with it. However, we must also tackle the consequences of the impacts of climate change that are already here.

Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.” These were the words published in last week's major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Like much of the content published in the paper this wasn’t anything we didn’t already know but still serves as a timely and pressing reality check.

Last month, Germany and parts of neighbouring Belgium were battered with some of the worst floods the country has ever seen which left over 180 people dead. Flood forecaster, Professor Hannah Cloke, who was involved in setting up the Flood warning system currently used floods and she described the horror of the rising death toll in Germany.

European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) had predicted the floods and the severity of them but unfortunately, the messaging did not make its way down to all local communities to give them a chance to evacuate or prepare in time. Similarly, we’ve seen unprecedented flooding in parts of Maharashtra in India, Zhengzhou in China, and most recently in the Black Sea region of Turkey. These are examples of only the last two months and like in the case of the EFAS in Germany we can point to proactive measures that could have been taken in all cases to prevent the worst impacts.

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Our new normal

Extreme weather events are not something we’re regularly faced with, in Europe, which probably explains why we tend to accept them as an irregular phenomenon and move on. After all, we will never protect ourselves from every extreme weather event.

However, there is a danger at firstly becoming desensitised to the increasing occurrences of these events and secondly treating these weather events in isolation and passing them off as an ‘anomaly’. You need to zoom out to realise these are not isolated cases of extreme localised weather patterns but they are a pattern of events that are triggered by our climate becoming warmer. "We will see even more intense and more frequent heatwaves… And we will also see an increase in heavy rainfall events on a global scale” according to Dr Friederike Otto, one of the authors of the IPCC report. The bottom line is that our earth is getting warmer and that is the common thread amongst all of these events.

Climate scientists have been warning us about this for years but what's become increasingly clear is we’re now at a point where for several of the consequences there is simply no going back. We need to expand our dialogue, policy and investments to account for preparing our communities to be resilient as well as continuing to focus on avoiding the worst effects of climate change by expediting the energy transition.

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Tackling the problems already here

The choice for policymakers should be clear. We need to protect our communities and prevent things from getting worse. Historically, decarbonisation policies alone have been difficult for parties to win votes on and so doubling down to include a focus on building resilience to protect people from the consequences of climate change that are already here could be a challenge.

I remain optimistic and the tide of public opinion is certainly shifting with the environment increasingly becoming one of the key policy issues in European politics. Resilience to the consequences of global warming needs renewed focus whilst the need to expedite the transition to a cleaner energy system has never been so urgent.

The challenge ahead of us seems to be getting bigger and bigger but it’s one that is still just about within our grasp.

Hersh Thaker is the Co-Founder of the Good Plate Company. He works in product development for a global energy company, with a focus on electric vehicle (EV) charging. He's also a school governor at Cedars Academy.

In this regular iGlobal Climate Dialogues column, he explores the most pressing discussions related to the planet’s energy transition.

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