State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

New Trainings Will Lead the Way on Climate Resilience and Equitable Disaster Response

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With the increased impacts of climate change, we can expect to see more extreme disasters due to more extreme hazards as well as growing vulnerability to those hazards. As with other disasters, historically underserved communities are disproportionately at risk.

As part of broader federal efforts to mitigate and adapt to climatological challenges, FEMA has awarded the Columbia Climate School’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness with a $1.5 million three-year training grant to create a national curriculum on climate resilience with a focus on equity for today’s state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency managers.

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness has been developing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants trainings since 2016. These trainings focus on post-disaster economic and housing recovery and pandemic and mass care, emphasizing how communities can more effectively prepare for and bounce back from catastrophic events. The new trainings are part of the first FEMA training grant program related to the climate change and equity themes in the agency’s new strategic plan.

This grant award is part of FEMA’s larger strategic plan to instill equity as a foundation of emergency management and to lead the whole community in climate resilience.

“Our needs analysis showed that emergency managers are managing the ramifications of increasingly unpredictable and severe weather events and the culminating new challenges being imposed on the populations they serve,” said Thomas Chandler, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. “In addition, we have identified the need for increased awareness that disasters disproportionately impact vulnerable populations.”

Research has shown that vulnerable populations are most likely to reside in areas highly exposed to threats caused by heavier hurricane rainfall, more significant storm surges, deadlier heatwaves, more severe droughts, and the extended reach of wildfires. In turn, such disasters are often exacerbating inequality in U.S. communities.

“We must recognize that we are facing a climate crisis and educate ourselves and the nation about the impacts our changing climate pose to the field of emergency management,” said FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell.

The trainings are expected to be available in the fall of 2023. They will support communities’ efforts to address their climate risks, hazards, and vulnerabilities; incorporate strategies into their emergency management programs; strategize more effectively with their community leaders; and lead the way in creating more resilient and equitable community responses.

About NCDP

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), Columbia Climate School, at Columbia University works to understand and improve the nation’s capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. NCDP focuses on the readiness of governmental and non-governmental systems; the complexities of population recovery; the power of community engagement; and the risks of human vulnerability, with a particular focus on children.

About Columbia University’s Climate School

The Columbia Climate School develops and inspires knowledge-based solutions and educates future leaders for just and prosperous societies on a healthy planet. The Climate School marshals Columbia University’s strengths in basic and applied disciplines and expands its resources to understand climate and its impact on society. This unprecedented commitment to tackle humanity’s greatest challenge builds on the unique history of climate change research at Columbia, dating back to the founding of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in 1949 and spanning the many decades since.

The training grant is supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Cooperative Agreement EMW-2022-CA-00037 and administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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