Weather extremes: Mitigation, Adaption and Suffering

Published 29th February 2016 by Mark Chadwick

Weather extremes are becoming increasingly common across the world not least the UK, with records being smashed on a monthly basis. But are these weather oddities outliers? Or have they been predicted for years? See what Carbon Clear’s founder and CEO Mark Chadwick has to say on the matter..

As we enter 2016 and temperatures return to winter averages, we can conclude that we saw some very strange weather at the tail end of 2015. Many records were broken; global temperatures in the summer were the hottest on record at 1.5°C above the long-standing average, our autumn in the UK was very mild, and November saw temperatures rise 2°C above the average with a new record set at 22.4 °C! December 18th saw a night time temperature record of 14.2°C. It was also the second wettest December on record, resulting in a number of floods across the country and an estimated £3bn in damage..

All this weather weirding has already been predicted by climate scientists who expect summer temperatures to increase on average, and winters to be milder and wetter. This trend is expected to continue and by the 2020s, depending on which emissions scenario we look at, we can expect peak summer temperatures in London to exceed 40°C.

So what can we do about this? Professor John Holdren, senior advisor to President Barack Obama on science and technology issues summarised our options, “We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering”. He also said that the balance of these three options is largely up to us to determine. However that was years ago, and in the intervening period the potential for mitigation has significantly reduced.

Unfortunately, we now know that even by employing our best efforts to mitigate climate change, temperatures will still rise 1.5-2°C above pre-industrial levels, in comparison to the 0.6-0.7°C we are already experiencing. Inevitably there will be 2-3 times more warming than today. We cannot and should not halt our efforts to mitigate the increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, but we do need to urgently consider the other two options; adaption and suffering.

First, let’s think about suffering as an unavoidable consequence. We’re likely to experience this in a number of ways, from the obvious weather changes and the resulting impacts on our lives, to more global issues such as refugee crises caused by displaced people. The terrible situation in Syria is an example of such a crisis, and while perhaps not climate-related, it has tested Europe’s ability to deal with large-scale refugee movements. My fear is that it is a foreshadowing of worse to come, and we need to consider our emotional and practical responses to such challenges.

Finally, we need to think much more deeply about our approaches to adaptation. As business leaders, we simply cannot pretend that climate-related impacts to our business will not happen. We can look around at the scenes of flooding and the terrible damage caused to the communities involved, and see how our buildings could be ruined, our work force interrupted, and our supply chains severed. Given that these events are predictable, it is our duty to our shareholders, staff and customers to make sure we have in place proper plans to minimise damage to our businesses. Climate Adaptation plans, in short.

To help our clients to put in place such plans, Carbon Clear has teamed up with leading thinkers in this area to create the Operational Climate Adaption Programme, or OCAP. Through OCAP, organisations can put in place site-level plans to handle predicted levels of change to heat stress, cold and snow, increased rainfall, flooding and other weather-related issued that could impact the operational performance of a site. These plans will result in responsibility assigned to the right places in an organisation, and a site-level dashboard so that everyone can remain informed about the actions to be taken. This programme has been implemented by companies such a Nestlé UK and Ireland and leads to a more resilient site that better protects stakeholders from the upcoming changes to our weather brought about by climate change.

 If you’d like to find out more about OCAP and how it can help your business please click here, alternatively you can call us on 020 3589 9444 

 Photo by @dominikQN


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