Climate change is a now a major threat even to the least expected areas with flooding sweeping off households globally. Whether in America, Bahamas, Indonesia, Mozambique, Northern Kenya, as well as West and Central Africa especially Nigeria, etc. global warming and other environmental threats to people and property are real and scary.
As Hurricane Dorian unleashed nature’s fury on the Bahamas up to East Coast of America, and now that about nine (9) states in Nigeria have been told to brace up for impending mother of all floods, I still have not seen any plans on what next to do from our governments at all levels. Are there immediate steps for businesses and governments to take in addressing climate change? My opinion is that we should go beyond observing wreckages and plans to reduce carbon footprints. Much as that is important, let us as businesses, property owners, Local, State and Federal Governments begin to focus on what can be done today to address these direct threats to our existence.
We need to attempt improving anticipation and response mechanisms through these three basic approaches: Probability, Selection, and Migration. Even though we can’t know what will happen, we have a good sense of what might or could happen. Acting on the odds presented in the information available today on sea rise curves and flood maps will go a long way to help humanity. It may interest you to know that sea rise probabilities up to 2050 can be gotten from now. Flood insurance risk maps are also available for any probability projections. Bodies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) comes handy.
Having done with probabilities, we may need to step back and consider investing in less expensive interventions that may help us live with water in the event of an occurrence. Such low-cost interventions may include cleaning floods that do not cause a terminal change from time to time, moving mechanical systems and electrical switch gears to high floors and evacuate residences temporarily.
For low-value property assets in high-risk areas as found in Nigeria and other poor nations that are affected by surge flood, it will not, in the long run, make economic sense to the society to keep rebuilding homes that have been destroyed multiple times or subsistence commercial ventures that are barely economically viable even before occurrence.
This is, of course, a problem that hits hard on the very poor in our midst and it’s a real social justice concern in the case of possible sea-level rise. Migration, on the other hand, can take the forms of either relocating for economic opportunity or other lifestyle choices. It is worthy of note that exposure to storm surge flooding is a bad omen to property values. Migrations to large coastal cities like Lagos due to jobs seeking and even security is exposing our people to weather-related risks. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) latest survey report predicted that Lagos City, Nigeria may be swept away by ocean surge in the next 33yrs. Seems far and so we do nothing?
Indonesia just announced plans of moving its capital from Jakarta to Borneo due to threats of advanced sea rise and concurrent ground movements. Whether this strategy will succeed or not, the positioning is clear.
My conclusion is that instead of endlessly debating how much to spend on carbon emission strategies, it will also help if we should start thinking of what should happen if that mitigation flounders or not even attempted. So, businesses, property owners and governments need not relax, watch the news, and randomly empathize with victims until we are all swept away. We need to start thinking of which assets to protect and which people to relocate. In business, one’s areas of dislocation can be an opportunity for another. City planners and facilities managers need to start thinking about this conundrum. What are the implications for the most vulnerable populations that can’t or don’t want to move to less flood-prone areas?
Harnessing opportunities in building resilience is not a bad idea for emerging facilities management practice. These for me, are the next steps in climate action and therein lays our sustainability.
(Managing Partner, OE&A)