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Stop blaming climate for disasters

Stop blaming climate for disasters

Assessments of climate-related risks often focus too much on indicators on spatial scales that use climate model grid point data, such as the hottest date of the year to indicate extreme heat change.10Or the meteorologically most extreme event11. To help reduce disaster impacts, it would make more sense to assess hazards at the spatial and temporal scales that are relevant from an assessment point of risk and vulnerability. For example, looking at heatwaves in cities that exceed a specific temperature threshold on a day, or a few days rather than estimating country-scale heat extremes. Spatial scales can make a big impact on the assessment of disasters. The 2018 European heatwave was 30x more likely because of climate change, but extreme heat in the 3 days when death was highest became only 25x more common in individual European cities.12.

Climate science and attribution have a significant role to play13For example, disentangling the human-induced climate change as a key driver of hazards14. This is critical: where climate changes have exacerbated risk, it’s likely that the hazard has become more severe over time. Past observations will become less relevant. It is important to use climate change attribution to communicate which disasters are today partially or entirely due to human-induced global warming.

There is an opportunity to reflect on and take action in the wake of the 6th Assessment Report of Working Group I of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Disaster impacts can be drastically reduced. We must stop blaming Nature, the Climate or other people for disasters. Instead, we should focus on vulnerability as well as equity.15At the heart of proactive and engaging policies and laws for disasters9. This basic conceptual reorientation is essential to identify and leverage systemic, structural and enabling solutions to transform societies into more equitable and resilient long-term.

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