Adapting to Extremes with Maureen McCarthy

Adapting to Extremes with Maureen McCarthy

Summary of the presentation on….




Dr. Maureen McCarthy

Noted physicist and national security expert Dr. Maureen McCarthy presented compelling evidence of the dramatic changes that are occurring with respect to the global climate. Citing numerous studies, she presented compelling information and challenged the audience with “homework” focused on becoming resilient; personally, as communities and as a nation.

With respect to the observable changes, McCarthy noted that there are significant rises in sea levels as Arctic and Antarctic regions warm and the ice caps melt. We are also witnessing more frequent and ferocious storms, heat waves and droughts, leading to concern over impacts on populated areas (many of which are at or near sea level).

Arctic warming has led to the opening of new sea routes through this region, which in turn will generate more US-Russian competition for access to these “SLOCs”—Sea Lanes of Communication. Russia is clearly positioned to take advantage of them.  Numerous Russian bases have been opened in the region and Russia has nuclear powered ice breakers, where the US has none.  The US has only two icebreakers to Russia’s 40!! The US has no bases north of the 66th parallel.  The US has limited nautical charts in the area, has drastically reduced its cold water training and is conducting very little exploration. Further, DoD does not have a unified combatant command responsible for the Arctic region!

However, the Department of Defense and the Services have taken climate change seriously since 2000, and military plans and budgets for response have been developed that incorporate climate change actions.  The Navy is ahead in this area—no surprise there—but is still facing readiness and deployment challenges.  Dr. McCarthy stressed that there is much to be done and we do not have to start from scratch.  The DoD, other Departments, and the National Security Council have undertaken serious planning with respect to climate change. (Much of their material is available, and references are provided at the end of the attached PowerPoint.

When asked about Canada’s role in the sea lanes opening up, she remarked that Canada is very concerned about Russia’s activities, and they are better prepared than the U.S. in terms of planning and equipment.

With almost 50% of the US population living in coastal counties, McCarthy stressed that changes in policy, infrastructure and response are needed to become more resilient to the continuing extreme weather variabilities.

In response to questions from the audience, McCarthy stated that organizations such as the Red Cross and other response and recovery organization must work together as “resiliency partners” with the communities to raise the level of preparedness. Resilience must be developed on personal, community and national levels.  When asked about population growth McCarthy responded that population is not necessarily the problem, but where they live and the socioeconomic issues surrounding those populations are.  Climate change is a conflict catalyst and resiliency is the key to “weather the storm”.

Citing the recent Oroville Dam scare, McCarthy challenged the audience to think about what our community could absorb from a surge this winter following the massive snow in the Sierras.  Luckily this near catastrophic event was far enough away that the Truckee Meadows was not impacted, but what if the disaster had been closer to home?

In summation, McCarthy again challenged the audience to let innovation and imagination be the drivers in creating our personal and community resiliency plans.  She stressed that response will always be at the community level and we must be prepared, speak out and get involved.

The link to McCarthy’s PowerPoint is below:

MIM NSF Talk Adapting-Extremes 01Mar17 V3