ASSESS YOUR CLIMATE RISKS
I’m writing this at a time when much of Australia is experiencing devastating bush fires. At the same time there have been tropical storms with deluges of rain, and hailstorms that have caused significant damage. Other countries have experienced their own extreme weather events, from cyclones to flooding to wild fires to snow blizzards. All of this comes at a huge cost, personally, to homes, communities, animal populations, the environment and financially in damages, rebuilding costs, loss of income and rising insurance fees. Even if we are not directly impacted by the event, there may be effects that we feel long after the immediate crisis is over.
Although extreme weather events have always occurred, and are not the same thing as climate change, the science tells us that these events will become more frequent and more extreme. Multiple factors can interact to create conditions which break all the records and set up the likelihood of extreme events and their consequences. The Bureau of Meteorology (Australia) has excellent information.
In the face of seemingly overwhelming destruction and despair, where do we begin to address the issue of risk? Start by assessing your local environment and understanding weather patterns and trends. Which extreme events are you most likely to be impacted by? These will usually fall into the categories of heat-waves, drought, downpours, floods, wind/hurricane/cyclones and other storms such as blizzards.
In permaculture we use sector analysis to assess the most likely direction and strength of a threat, and then use the information to design, build or prepare a site to reduce the risk. For example strategic placement of water bodies, well watered vegetable gardens or closely grazed paddocks can act as a fire break.
Having determined the direction and degree of risk, we also need to develop a plan of action in the face of an event occurring. It may be that the safest action is to evacuate until the threat is over.
Consider also the impact that an event may have on provision of services in your area. How will you manage if the road access is cut, or power or water are unavailable? What is your back-up plan?
Now is the time to conduct your own personal risk assessment. You may also consult with neighbors and form a community plan, or contact your local emergency services for advice on how to put together a plan relevant to your area.
For more information go to https://www.52climateactions.com/assess-your-climate-risks/full. In the weeks ahead the individual risks are addressed in more detail.
Within Australia, go to https://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/public-safety-and-law/emergency-services for links to state-based emergency services.