A celebration of the jovial snowman was the 2011 creation of Cornelius Gratz, a German collector. Gratz, who has a self-professed “passion for snowmen,” believes that the figure of a snowman embodies joy and evokes childhood memories of fun in the snow. Gratz created (what else) a facebook page to bring together folks from across the globe to celebrate the happy, gentle snowman motif.
And if you have enough snow outside to make a snowman, you might consider yourself lucky. What we all sense from personal experience has been confirmed yet again: each year is getting warmer and warmer. Last week, the National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration (NOAA) announced that 2015 was the second warmest year on record (only 2012 was warmer). Average temperatures in 2015 were 2.4°F above 20th century averages. More disturbing is the continual warming trend: average temperatures every single year since 1996 have exceeded the 20th century average temperature.
What does this mean for snowmen, and for us? Snowmen, who sadly have no ability to adapt to continuous warming, might be in danger of extinction in some parts of the planet where they used to pop up like weeds after many a new snowfall. We, on the other hand, will still be here to face an increasing likelihood of devastating impacts of the warming climate. Many of the specific impacts vary by location, but scientists say that impacts are likely to affect most of us in some way.
For example, in 2015, according to NOAA, the U.S. experienced ten major weather-related disasters: two floods, five severe storms, a wildfire, a drought, and a severe winter storm. These extremes resulted in more than $1 billion in damage. Yes, it’s nearly impossible to connect specific storm events to the changing climate, but scientists do agree that these kinds of extreme events are becoming more and more likely all the time.
And no one is exempt from the risk. Climate change impacts are already affecting communities, businesses, and natural resources, and by extension, economies, across the globe. The risks are ignored at our environmental, social, and economic peril.
While we can’t entirely prevent climate change impacts, we can begin to take steps to address the risks, by building “climate resilience.” In this case, “resilience” refers to our capacity to withstand, respond to, and recover from these impacts. Having a good understanding of exactly what the most likely impacts and risks are in your location, and then using that information to develop plans for responding to and recovering quickly from a disaster is a “climate smart” approach. Being climate smart means investing in activities that build resilience and capacity while reducing risk.
Fortunately, the government has been doing some great work helping the nation face and prepare for these impacts and risks. After the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order, a group of federal agencies, led by NOAA, formed an inter-agency group to create resources to help build climate resilience. Over the past year, they have been continually adding to what is now a large and very robust collection of information, tools, and resources called the Climate Resilience Toolkit.
The Toolkit is full of great information to help you understand what impacts and risks are likely to affect your community or business. It contains easily-understood explanations of the most critical risks we face from climate change, including coastal flooding, energy supply disruptions, lack of food resilience, human health impacts, and transportation and supply chain disruptions. Beyond the educational material, it has many valuable resources available (for free), including:
- Climate Explorer: a visualization tool that maps climate impacts, risks, stressors, and vulnerability by geographic location;
- Interactive Assessment and Visualization Tools: dozens of useful tools to help you identify, understand, and manage your climate risks;
- Steps to Resilience: a five-step workflow process that helps you to plan for and implement resilience-building projects;
- Taking Action stories: a group of hundreds of case studies that explore a wide variety of climate impacts and risks faced by businesses and communities, and show how they have been able to reduce those risks.
The agencies contributing to the Toolkit are always adding new data, maps, tools, resources and stories. It just keeps growing! And, if you want a condensed resource for businesses, check out Sustrana’s free whitepaper on climate action for businesses.
So if you have snow outside your window today (like you Lake Effect-ers), maybe head outside and celebrate by building a jolly snowman. Celebrate the fact that this year, you can still build one. For the rest of us, it’s time to become more educated about the likely impacts and risks, and start taking action to improve the climate resilience of our homes, businesses, and communities.
*And why is World Snowman Day celebrated on January 18? The date was chosen because of its close resemblance to the image of a snowman holding a broom!