Free Copy of My Book, Disasters & Climate Change
For paid subscribers: Instructions for downloading
I am experimenting with ways to deliver more value to my paid subscribers. Early on I had directly emailed a PDF of my book — Disasters & Climate Change, 2nd Edition (2018) — to my then-paying subscribers. Since that time, the ranks of my subscribers have grown a lot. With this post I am enabling my paid subscribers to directly download the book and also place it in the site’s archives for ready access for future paying subscribers.
Here is the foreword to the book by Dan Sarewitz:
FOREWORD to DISASTERS & CLIMATE CHANGE (Roger Pielke Jr. 2018)
by Daniel Sarewitz, Arizona State University
Effective action in the world—getting done what we want to get done—depends on three fundamental things: a coherent, shared vision of what we want to accomplish; an accurate understanding of the current conditions for taking action; and, consistent with that understanding, a practical approach to pursuing our goals. In the real world this is often much easier said than done, especially when a problem is complicated.
Consider for a moment the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. The goals of the invasion were clear enough—to remove Saddam Hussein from power, eliminate Iraq’s supposed capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, and create the conditions for a democratic regime to emerge. But the situation in Iraq was greatly misunderstood by the Bush administration and the U.S. intelligence agencies, and the approach to action was thus entirely inappropriate to the real complexity of the situation. We continue to pay the consequences of this bad decision.
The situation with disasters and climate change would appear to be much the opposite. The costs of disasters are rising. This is a moral and economic challenge for all societies.
Almost everyone would agree that the goal of reducing societal vulnerability to disasters caused by hurricanes, floods, droughts, and other climate-related hazards is worth pursuing. As well, the relevant facts about disasters and climate change are actually quite clear and scientifically uncontroversial.
In this book, Roger Pielke Jr. summarizes those facts to answer the question, “Have disasters become more costly because of human-caused climate change?” Many people do worry that climate change is causing disasters to get worse, but Pielke presents a wealth of data, including the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to show why such concerns are not supported by the available science. Unlike the conditions in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion, the reasons for rising disaster losses are well understood and unlikely to change significantly with new revelations or data.
Why, then, are disaster costs rising? The reasons are apparent: populations continue to grow, the economy and the built environment continue to expand, and people migrate to and concentrate on coastal and flood plains. There are simply more people, and more of the things that people depend on in their lives, in harm’s way.
Moreover, these demographic trends feed continued environmental degradation of highly populated coastal, riverine, and mountainous regions, which in turn exacerbate the consequences of disasters. Most of these trends are further amplified in developing countries. Climate isn’t the only thing that’s changing in our world, and it’s these other changes that are causing disaster losses to increase.
The only politically and practically feasible way to slow this increase, let alone stabilize or even reverse it, is to improve societal preparedness. When floods devastated the Netherlands in 1953, the nation came together to devise institutions, policies, and projects that would prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. Back then no one worried about whether climate change contributed to the disaster; much of the nation was already built below sea level. Proven policy tools for reducing disaster vulnerability include public education, better (and better enforced) building codes and land-use practices, improved infrastructure, sensible insurance programs, enhanced warning, emergency planning and response capabilities, and so on. By deploying such tools, many places in the world, including poor countries, have made great progress on reducing their vulnerability to disasters.
Disasters are a serious problem, as are human-caused changes to our climate. Taking them both seriously, and addressing them effectively, requires the recognition that they are not serious for the same reasons, and that the pathways for addressing them are different and must respond to different information, arguments, motives, and policies. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains an urgent policy imperative, but one that will have no capacity to reduce disaster losses in the foreseeable future, and will never be rigorously justifiable in terms of measurable reductions in disaster vulnerability. Another way to think about this problem is that even if climate change wasn’t happening, or suddenly ceased, all of the factors that are causing disaster loss increases would still be as powerful as ever.
Decades hence, climate change may well play a discernible role in making disasters worse, but even then, the moral and practical imperative is to reduce losses, regardless of their cause, by directly acting to improve disaster preparedness in all societies. This book shows that the moral and practical perspectives are also backed by another powerful motivator of effective action: the science.
Rarely is the case for effective action so clear.
A link to a downloadable copy of the full book is below.
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