Disasters & Climate Change

February 6, 2017

Green Chalice is spearheading an effort to bring a resolution to the General Assembly this summer “Concerning Carbon Neutrality.” Disciples Volunteering supports this resolution because climate change directly impacts the ministry of disaster response. In just the last 12 years of responding to disasters, the frequency of response requests has risen and continues to rise. The chart below gives a longer view, highlighting the increase of federally declared disasters in the United States since 1973. Climate change is not the only factor driving this trend, but it is an important part of the equation. And this chart doesn’t capture drought, a slow-moving disaster that is a critical factor in fueling a vicious cycle of disasters in many parts of the United States. Wildfires increase where droughts occur. Storms that would not have been dangerous under normal conditions create mudslides and increased run-off due to prolonged drought and more prevalent wildfires. These same storms, then, often result in flooding in places that had never flooded before. The increased run-off and flooding, especially in populated areas, means less of the rainfall is absorbed or captured where it is needed, limiting the potential drought relief such rain could bring.

Disasters will continue to occur, globally and within the United States. Having the resources for responding to human needs and suffering after disaster therefore remains important as our witness to and mission for wholeness. At the same time, there is a growing need for preparedness and mitigation – and for addressing any circumstances we can which would otherwise contribute to an increase in the frequency or severity of future disasters and concomitant suffering.

USdisasters73-16 *The straight purple line is the trend line for major disaster declarations and emergency declarations; the orange line is the trend line for this data plus fire management assistance declarations.