This last summer seemed to be full of extremes. Extreme weather in the way of massive fires in the western United States, weeks-long heat waves, flooding, and hurricanes occurring in regions never before seen. The results of these weather events were downed power lines, washed out or buckled roads, kinks in train tracks, and destruction of croplands. Infrastructure breakdown and death resulted from these freak occurrences, along with undue stress and hardship for the survivors. Perhaps, though, these events don’t need to have just been tragic. Rather, something can be learned from these extreme weather events that can prepare us for a future when climate change makes extreme weather the norm.
Many climate scientists now believe that stopping climate change from happening simply isn’t possible. Instead, we will need to mitigate the effects and adapt to climate change. If this indeed is the case, this means the world we are going to be living in while fighting to become sustainable societies is going to be one of extreme and unpredictable weather; not only testing the resolve of our communities, but testing the resolve of our roads, power lines, power plants, rails, and even whole agricultural systems.
One way to fight climate change is to redesign the world’s economy to become circular, as in there is no waste from manufacturing or any other process. Wastes from one process can be used as an input for another process, and any products can be recycled and repaired. Imagining the redesign work that would need to take place for this kind of revolutionary economy is probably hard to fathom, but imagine how much more difficult this redesign will be if extreme weather is hampering our efforts?
The world this circular economy will need to be born in will most likely be one of more extreme weather. Croplands are going to need to be protected from freak storms, droughts, or any other catastrophic weather events. Solar panels generating clean energy will need to be able to stand up to ice storms, hail, and blizzards. Wind turbines on land will need to be robust enough to survive high-wind storms, while turbines offshore will need to survive freak hurricanes. Not only will new infrastructure need to be strengthened, but the old-fashioned technology that keeps us connected now, like roads and power lines, will need to last through severe weather.
It seems the best way we can ensure we are ready for the storms of climate change is to take notice now, and learn how to adapt.