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Volume 30, Issue 3

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014 06:00

Hold the Weather Jokes - Things are Getting Serious

Written by  Vicki Thomas

Snow

While it’s only November, the impacts of winter are being felt across North America. From record snowfalls in Buffalo, New York to unseasonable lows in other regions to strange shifts in weather from bitterly cold to pleasantly warm - everyone is feeling it.

The question that lingers after reading and listening to news reports over the last week or so about the weather that is hampering day-to-day life and even causing deaths is: doesn’t this happen every year? Yes, in fact we do deal with massive snowfalls, record rainfalls, and heat waves every year.

While some folks chalk this up to the nature of winter or the change in seasons, we’re now learning that in fact these weather fluctuations will soon become the norm rather than early or late season surprises.

A report out of the World Bank Group earlier this week reveal that these weather occurrences will very likely become the new normal. This is a result of global warming. In the report titled, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal, the World Bank Group has tried to explain the real tangible impacts of global warming.

Think of the impacts of record heat waves. Think now of record snowfalls. Think of drought. Think of record rainfalls and flooding. Think of fluctuating weather systems.

Now think beyond the inconvenience to you of getting to work, making it to the grocery store, or having to deal with damage to your home or business. Yes, these are all a big deal and as we have experienced year-after-year can result in the loss of life, tragic accidents, and the loss of livelihoods.

But now think of this on a wider global scale. Think of crop production. Think of transportation issues. Think of already drought-stricken regions. Think of global poverty. Think of food sources. Think of crop prices. Think of food shortages.

Yes, these are all things we need to think about when we talk about the weather. The recent World Bank Group report says that the effects of global warming are and will continue to drive up crop prices and have wider ramifications (Dr. Jim Yong Kim is the president of the World Bank Group):

Dr. Jim Yong Kim pointed to findings that soybean yields in Brazil could fall by up to 70 percent while wheat harvests could fall by as much as 50 percent by 2050 if average global temperatures rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures are already 33 degrees higher than they were in the 1800s. (Financial Times)

So what does this mean for us? Well, it means that the record snowfall in Buffalo, New York will become more normal. It means that people need to become as prepared for the fluctuations in weather systems as they are for holiday shopping sales and invest time in being prepared and ready. For some skeptics this might seem like an overstatement, but think back over recent years and you’ll soon realize that terms like polar vortex are now the norm.

Imagine if you're a business owner living and working in Buffalo: last week you had to deal with over six feet of snow that made it impossible for you to leave your house, to maintain your business, to get to the grocery store, to check on your employees, to fill orders and to respond to customer requests; this week you’re dealing with rising temperatures that are causing the fresh snow to melt, now you’re worried about flooding in your home and your business, not to mention at your children’s school and at your storage facility (don’t forget those boxes of paper files you have stored in the basement…).

Yes, this weather does impact us all. On a local and personal scale we’re dealing with lots of snow, dangerous driving conditions, cold temperatures, and flooding basements. On a global level we’re dealing with much more which will have an even larger and lasting impact. Consider these words from Dr. Kim:

“Dramatic weather extremes are already affecting millions of people,” he said, pointing to soaring temperatures in Australia this month and last week’s record snowfalls in New York State.

“As the planet warms further, heat waves and other weather extremes which today we call once-in-a-century events would become the new climate normal, a frightening world of increased risk and instability,” he said.

“These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people,” he said, and have serious consequences for development budgets, and institutions like the World Bank Group. (Financial Times)

From a BC/DR aspect, this impacts your business and family on every level. The weather is critical in your ability to maintain your business, to manage customer accounts, to ensure your employees have a safe working environment and in making sure that you and your employees are safe at home and on the road. You know the value of a business continuity plan for your business and how vital this is in being able to respond to something like two meters of snow or a flooding storage facility - but what about your preparations at home…

We all like to complain about the weather and even joke about it. But as we’ve learned from the recent World Bank Group report, the experiences of the citizens in Buffalo, the images of drought-stricken areas, and our own inconveniences when we can’t get to the grocery store or into the office - the weather is no longer something we should just be grumbling about. It’s time to think in a broader scope of how the changes in weather systems will impact us five, 10, 20 years from now. Oh, and are you ready if you can’t leave your home for a week?

To read more about the World Bank Group report and the recent weather system that impacted Buffalo, follow these links: