Extreme Event Preparedness Extraordinary Session

Extreme event preparedness: What lessons can we take from the global pandemic for global climate change?

In the wake of the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2015, Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, said “We were not prepared for the next epidemic… we need a response system with an ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands of health workers. If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war – not missiles, but microbes… Part of the reason is we have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents, but we have actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic.… We’re not ready for the next epidemic”*. Indeed, about 52% of the 2019 US Federal Budget was assigned to defense, while only 2% was devoted to science. In Germany, 12% of the federal budget went to military, and less than half of that to education and research across fields. This trend is international with world military expenditure approaching $2.0 trillion per year. But these investments are not protecting us against non-traditional enemies like viruses, extreme weather events, or climate change.

Along with this disproportionate spending, the pandemic has highlighted the intense impact that we have on our ecosystem. Studies in the aftermath of the first COVID-19-related lockdown showed dramatic drops in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, as mobility was limited and manufacture slowed. How to manage this ecological impact without stymying economic growth is a challenge relevant not only to disease outbreak but also to sustainability and the climate crisis. In this session, we will discuss the applicability of expertise in the ECONOS community to atmospheric science problems and take advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of the conference to brainstorm how this expertise can be applied to mitigate the socioeconomic damage of coming changes to our climate.

* Source video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Af6b_wyiwI&feature=youtu.be