ClearWorld October 2017 - Page 6

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Hurricane Harvey has taught us many lessons, but the most valuable may be the oldest lesson of all, one we humans have been learning – and forgetting – since the dawn of time: how much we all have to lose when climate and weather disasters strike.

The risks we face from disasters depend on three factors: hazard, exposure and vulnerability. In the case of Harvey, the hazard was the hurricane with its associated winds, storm surge and, most of all, rain. Houston is one of North America’s biggest metro areas, with 6.6 million people exposed to this hazard. Finally, there’s our vulnerability to heavy rainfall events, which in this case was exacerbated by the city’s rapid expansion, which has paved over former grasslands, overloaded critical infrastructure, challenged urban planning and limited evacuation routes. These three factors explain the immense costs associated with tragedies such as Hurricane Harvey.

Once the effects of Harvey have been totaled, Texas and Louisiana will have been hit by more billion-plus dollar flooding events since 1980 than any other states.

As tragedy unfolds, we must focus on the immediate response. In the weeks and months that follow, we need to remember that, despite our air conditioners, our insurance and the politicized discourse that suggests that the science is somehow a matter of opinion rather than fact, we are incredibly vulnerable to natural disasters – disasters that are increasingly being amplified in a warming world.

The innovations that energy companies have pioneered to build offshore oil platforms can inform the development of, and investment in, other alternatives such as wind, solar and other renewables.

Taking Action Now & Updating Infrastructure