Climate change is fueling the rising intensity and frequency of extreme weather and climate events such as drought, floods, wildfires, heat waves, extreme cold, and hurricanes. Attribution research names climate change a “threat multiplier” of extreme events and indicates human-caused climate change has played a role in the likely occurrence or severity of over 75% of extreme events in the past 20 years. Each year, these extreme events displace 20 million people globally as homes, and in some cases, entire communities are destroyed or made uninhabitable. The year 2019 broke records with 23.9 million people displaced due to weather-related disasters. The economic cost of extreme events is also staggering. In the U.S.,the federal government has spent an estimated $30 billion per year in the last 14 years on weather disaster assistance. Additional costs are borne by homeowners, farmers, ranchers, businesses, and local government. Both regionally and globally, women, children, and the poor are the populations most affected by extreme climate events resulting in compounded crises as extreme events exacerbate existing social inequities relating to health and safety, access to resources, and personal autonomy. Extreme climate events are wicked problems not only in the magnitude of their potential ramifications but in the difficulty to predict future events, particularly considering the uncertainty of climate change and the variability of regional landscapes, responses, and levels of preparedness.
How might we reduce the harm and disruption caused by extreme events?