C.J. Huff and Vicki Arroyo on weather disasters

It's hard for most of us to understand diasaster and resiliency quite the way C.J. Huff (PopTech 2012) does. He is the superintendent of Joplin Schools. He was also on the job on May 22, 2011, when the infamous tornado ripped through his home town. At PopTech 2012 Huff recently discussed the compelling resiliency in Joplin that followed the apocolyptic disaster. Some of those lessons seem particularly relevant in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. "It is about tapping into the time, talent and treasure of our community," he said while describing Joplin's model for rapid, healthy recovery.

Huff was joined on stage by Vicki Arroyo (PopTech 2012), the executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center of Georgetown University Law Center. Arroyo  studies how cities can better design and maintain infrastructure to withstand weather-related catastrophes, another pertinent topic following Sandy.

And in a recent interview with PopTech, Arroyo highlighted a major question lingering in Sandy's wake. Why are there so many more weather-related disasters these days? “Can we please talk about what is happening?” Arroyo asked.

Arroyo told PopTech that she hopes Sandy will finally catalyze honest talk about the real problem. “More scientists are feeling comfortable that we are seeing more super storms that are very consistent with climate change. It is just happening sooner than we expected.”

Photo: NASAThat trend seems to make irrelevant the bickering about whether a single storm is attributable to global warming.  “When you heat something up, you’ve got more energy,” she said about increasing ocean temperatures. “I think we really have a wake up call here,” Arroyo said about Sandy. “We are living in a different world. We have got to get serious about reducing our emissions.”

Maybe that reality is starting to sink in. “There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement; that is a factual statement,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters after Sandy brought New York City to its knees. “Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.”

Reality: Last year the United States suffered through more than a dozen weather disasters like floods, hurricanes and tornadoes that each did over a billion dollars in damage -- more than occurred during the entire 1980s, according to Arroyo.

It’s also getting harder and harder to deny why all this is happening. We had better start dealing with reality, or there will be far too many people who need Huff's advice.

Huff's PopTech's presentation is here:


Arroyo's recent PopTech presentation appears below:

Photo: NASA

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