Obstacles to Effective Decision Making in Reducing Weather and Climate-Related Vulnerabilities in Small and Medium-Sized Communities in the United States
The costs associated with managing and adapting natural hazards and disasters continue to rise in the US and elsewhere as many climate change impacts are manifested in stronger or more frequent natural hazards such as floods, wildfire, hurricanes and typhoons, droughts, and heat waves. These costs are frequently borne by local governments because it is at the local level that specific impacts from extreme weather events are felt.
Despite this increasingly-common problem, most small and medium-sized communities in the US lack the data, information, and integrated tools to make effective decisions to reduce weather and climate-related vulnerabilities.
Reasons why small and medium-sized communities are unable to access and utilize data and information and to develop and utilize integrated tools to reduce vulnerability include:
• Community capacity to analyze data and effectively develop alternative courses of action.
• The failure of local climate change adaptation and hazards management staffs to work cooperatively due to different concerns about the purpose of decision making and different priorities about the use of data and information. • Problems associated with the availability of data at a relevant scale and the ability to integrate properly-scaled data so that it offers decision makers a range of alternatives that takes into account a variety of possible impacts.
• An inability to understand the need to treat investments intended to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience as part of an integrated risk management strategy.
• An overreliance on the effectiveness of private actions and state and federal responses to address the impacts of extreme weather events.
• The degree to which climate change adaptation and hazard mitigation strategies may conflict with other value drivers when building resiliency. • The use of common data is often discouraged. For example, FEMA's local risk management plans force development of local vulnerability assessments by the local community, ignoring possible opportunities to utilize state and federal level repositories that collect, analyze, display and archive hazards and disaster information.
This presentation will highlight these needs and problems in an effort to frame the issue associated with the Identifying the Needs and Opportunities of Small and Medium-sized Communities for Data, Information, and Integrated Tools for Enhanced Decision Making themed session.