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Emergency Managers and Climate Risk Essay

Pages:7 (2056 words)



Topic:Climate Change

Document Type:Essay


Climate change is a hoax [invented by China].

– President Donald J. Trump, July 2019

The epigraph above underscores the fundamental differences that exist between members of the scientific community and many leading policymakers today. Even as the polar ice caps continue to melt at an alarming rate and rising ocean levels are inundating low-lying coastal regions and islands around the world, climate change debunkers such as the nation’s chief executive argue that current changes in the climate are transitory and are simply part of the earth’s natural systems. Against this backdrop, it is clear that emergency managers face a number of significant challenges in preparing for climate change-associated risks, including most especially the need to overcome misguided and misinformed views about these potential risks to communities across the country. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of the relevant literature to develop a timely and informed answer to the question, “When you enter the field, what can you highly educated individuals do to ensure that you are informed about and planning for ALL high risk hazards, climate risks included?” To this end, an examination of the current issues facing emergency managers planning for climate risks is followed by a discussion concerning some success stories in planning for climate risks as well as a description concerning how these successes were achieved. Finally, an assessment concerning how this information can be applied in a career as an emergency manager is followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning climate risks and emergency management in the paper’s conclusion.

Review and Discussion

What issues current emergency managers are running into when trying to plan for climate risks?

Despite a growing body of scientific evidence that confirms climate change is a reality, many policymakers and public officials still maintain that the phenomenon is either not real or has been exaggerated far beyond its potential risks. This means that convincing stakeholders of the need to prepare for different types of climate-related risks may be problematic, especially if a given community has never experienced some type of anthropogenic or natural disaster in the past. Indeed, even under optimal circumstances, emergency managers may fail to take into account all of the different types of climate-related risks that are involved.

In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. Consequently, the types of risks that are associated with climate change depend in large part on the geographic location of the communities. Some communities are at far greater risk of some types of disasters such as flooding in the case of low-lying regions or severe weather in the case of the residents of Tornado Alley. It is important to note, however, that climate change is introducing a number of novel risks for many communities that make the planning process especially challenging. For example, according to a study by the IPCC Working Group II (2014), “In many regions, changing precipitation or melting snow and ice are altering hydrological systems, affecting water resources in terms of quantity and quality” (p. 1).

Beyond the foregoing considerations, emergency managers across the country are also faced with the potential for new types of disasters that are related to a complex interaction between the environment and the infrastructure. For instance, the IPCC Working Group II also emphasizes that, “Differences in vulnerability and exposure arise from non-climatic factors and from multidimensional inequalities often produced by uneven development processes. These differences shape differential risks from climate change” (p. 1). Yet another issue facing emergency managers today is the fact that there are several types of climate-related risks that can result from this complex interrelationship between infrastructure and the environment, including the increased frequency of droughts, heat waves and wildfires. These trends highlight the current vulnerability of these communities to a wide array of potential climate-related risks (IPCC Working Group II, 2014). Moreover, the risks that are associated with…

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…future climate-related hazards by applying science-based conservation strategies as discussed further below.

How can you apply this to your career as an emergency manager?

It is reasonable to posit that even the most ardent climate-change naysayers will likely reconsider their views after a major climate-related disaster occurs, but the handwriting is already on the wall if people just take the time to look. Therefore, applying the same strategies as FEMA and The Nature Conservancy requires a thoughtful and nonalarmist approach to persuading community leaders that draws on the growing body of scientific evidence that confirms climate change is already affecting many communities (Mickus, 2017). According to a study by Labadie (2011), though, many emergency managers either remain unaware of these climate-related trends or have elected to avoid implementing costly measures today for events that may or may not occur in the future. In this regard, Labadie (2011) emphasizes that, “This may partly reflect emergency mangers’ reluctance to get caught up in the rancorous—and politically-charged—debate about climate change” (p. 1250). Notwithstanding these constraints, though, it remains incumbent upon all emergency managers to plan for the potential climate-related extremes that are occurring with increasing frequency in the United States today (Labadie, 2011).


As noted in the introduction, the purpose of this paper was to develop an informed and timely answer to the guiding question, “When you enter the field, what can you highly educated individuals do to ensure that you are informed about and planning for ALL high risk hazards, climate risks included?” The research was consistent in showing that climate change is introducing new types of hazards or exacerbating the potential for known hazards, so identifying all of the high-risk hazards that are associated with climate change represents a daunting enterprise. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify the most significant types of climate-related risks through collaboration with other government agencies, emergency responders, and members of the scientific community. In the final analysis, it is reasonable to conclude that the emergency management…

Sample Source(s) Used


Edwards, F. L. (2011, Spring). Symposium: Preparing for climate change. The Public Manager, 40(1), 20-25.

IPCC Working Group II. (2014). Assessing and managing the risks of climate change. Retrieved from Findings-1.pdf.

Labadie, J. R. (2011). Emergency managers confront climate change. Sustainability, 3, 1250-1264.

Leven, R. & Goldstein, Z. (2019). Kentucky is among the states blocking climate action. As weather gets more extreme, its residents — and U.S. taxpayers — are paying a price. Public Integrity. Retrieved from

Mickus, J. (2017, June 1). A Sugar Creek chronicle: Observing climate change from a Midwestern woodland. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 69(2), 110-114.

The Nature Conservancy. (2020). Pennsylvania climate solutions. Retrieved from https://www.

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