Floods, Droughts, and Wildfires: How do we adapt to extreme weather events?
The end of 2020 marked the hottest decade on record worldwide and the record of the hottest year has been beaten eight times in a row. Floods, droughts, and wildfires have been extensively covered by the news in 2021, even in places where these events were unlikely to happen. Climate change is associated with an increase in the frequency and intensity of these events which in many cases have devastating consequences for the people living in the affected regions. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in 2020, more than 50 million people were affected by climate-related disasters due to floods, storms, and droughts.
The impacts of climate change may worsen the living conditions of people living in riskier areas, affect food security, increase social inequality, and threaten cultural heritage (European Commission 2021). In addition, climate change may trigger displacement and/or environmental migration as the affected populations search for safer areas to live. On average, 20 million people leave their homes every year due to droughts, abnormal rainfall, and environmental degradation (UNHCR, 2021).
In the EU, economic losses related to climate extremes amount to 12 billion Euros per year. These losses are distributed unevenly across areas that already face economic challenges. Europe is committed to reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and has set important emission reduction targets to be achieved by 2030. However, even reducing all greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the coming years will not prevent the impacts of climate change from happening. Even if the goal of achieving zero-emissions is reached, substantial adaptation strategies will be needed.
While mitigation policies to climate change have been widely discussed, adaptation policies have played a lesser role. The European Commission adopted a new EU strategy in 2021 on adaptation to climate change. The strategy focuses on developing and rolling out adaptation solutions to reduce climate risk, increasing climate protection, and safeguarding the availability of fresh water. Additional examples of adaptation mechanisms include: investing in disaster-proof infrastructure, early warning systems, risk sharing mechanisms, and social safety nets. These strategies could simultaneously limit the impact of weather shocks and accelerate the economic recovery.
— Challenges of adaptation to climate change for local communities
— How do we strengthen risk sharing mechanisms and enhance social safety nets?
— How to monitor and respond to floods, droughts, or wildfires?
— Internal migration as a possible approach to adapt to climate change?
— What are potential socio-economic problems following internal migration as response to climate change?
— State interventions or private initiatives to optimally adapt to climate change?