Climate change is the greatest challenge facing emergency managers today — and it will continue to shape the next several decades. To meet this challenge, the emergency management community must understand how climate change impacts the profession.
Climate science literacy is an understanding of one’s influence on climate, and of climate’s influence on individuals and society.
Increasing climate literacy of emergency managers and communities will improve disaster outcomes and long-term climate resilience through an increasingly shared understanding of climate risks and impactful mitigation opportunities.
This requires that FEMA build a foundational understanding of climate science, the impacts of climate change, and effective climate adaptation strategies.
Climate Adaptation in Action
Fire departments across the country are increasingly being called upon to respond to wildland urban interface fires. More than 46 million residences in 70,000 communities in the U.S. are at risk for these fires.
FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Academy provides training and its National Fire Programs has data, prevention,
and research initiatives to support fire-adapted communities, land-use & evacuation planning, and code adoption.
FEMA will grow a climate-literate workforce through integration of climate science into policy, programs, partnerships, field operations, and training. FEMA’s educational institutions train over 2.5 million students each year, and provide a platform for integrating climate adaptation competencies into preexisting curricula.
By developing the agency’s own expertise and building strong relationships with agencies and organizations, FEMA can enhance the depth of climate science resources. For example, enhancing existing relationships with agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will become essential to FEMA’s efforts to increase resilience to climate change.
Taking these steps will allow FEMA to build the foundation necessary to support the development of a broad nationwide understanding of how people affect climate and how climate affects communities. Individuals and communities must be empowered with knowledge about the benefits of climate adaptation resources available to them to reduce the risk of climate-related disasters. To enhance public understanding of climate adaptation, FEMA will build on previous experience and current progress to develop trainings, resources, and partnerships focused on future risk.
Climate Adaptation in Action
FEMA already works to provide many state, local, tribal, and territorial partners with tools to assist with building resilience, such as the Risk Analysis and Planning Tool (RAPT), Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA), and Stakeholder Preparedness Review (SPR) processes.
FEMA also provides public tools such as the FEMA Vulnerability Index and the Open FEMA platform, which allow stakeholders to access and utilize information specific to their community.
When individuals and communities are climate literate, they are better positioned to take necessary steps to apply that knowledge to build resilient communities. However, full understanding of climate change also includes understanding why some communities are disproportionately impacted by climate-fueled disasters.
FEMA will work to ensure the whole community develops a shared understanding of equity and environmental justice in the context of climate resiliency. By incorporating these considerations into mitigation and recovery programs, and other resilience efforts, FEMA can ensure that resources appropriately support communities with disproportionate risk.
“Response lead-timelines from federal, state, and local governments, emergency management, and first responders are being tested year over year, making it increasingly important to facilitate an increased understanding of the intersection of climate science, the impacts of climate change, and effective adaptation strategies to empower risk-informed decision-making and build national resilience to the impacts.”– Ken Graham, Director, National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration