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Climate One

Tuesday, March 10 at 2:00 pm

Building A Resilient Tomorrow

How do we build communities that are more resilient than the ones we were raised in?

Climate-fueled floods, fires and droughts have devastated America’s cities and rural areas. Our natural response is to regroup, recover and rebuild. But should we instead be preparing for managed retreat?

“Well, we will be in an era of retreat,” warns Alice Hill, “Whether it's managed or chaotic will be up to us.”

In her book Building a Resilient Tomorrow: How to Prepare for the Coming Climate Disruption, Hill warns that the consequences of failing to prepare for further global warming will be staggering.

“Unfortunately, the events are occurring so quickly, and we’re going to see storm surge greater on the East Coast, more intense hurricanes on the West Coast, sea level rise causing erosion, that even if people don't choose to retreat things are just gonna fall into the sea.” Hill continues. “If we want to keep building infrastructure to keep homes right next to the sea, we’re gonna pour a lot of money into places that will wash away.”

It’s a fact that, as the disasters accumulate, the costs of rebuilding homes and restoring communities are soaring.  As severe weather hammers cities and spurs more migration, and as local resources are strained to the breaking point, cities and towns turn to Uncle Sam to help out.

“We used to think our military was primarily for the away game,” says Sherri Goodman, a strategist with the Center for Climate & Security.  “But now they are backup for these first responder missions, whether it's wildfires, floods or extreme events.”

Janet Ruiz of the Insurance Information Institute says that, although grappling with climate risk may be a new concept to some, it’s not a huge leap for the insurance industry.

“I think it’s always been part of what we do,” she says. “It used to be that cities like San Francisco, the whole town would burn down or Chicago…the insurance industry had a big part in stabilizing how we manage urban fires, floods, etc. 

But, you know, we are seeing changes in the climate - you can't deny that.”

To listen to the audio of “Building A Resilient Tomorrow” on Climate One online, please click HERE.