Article | October 18, 2019

Managing Disaster In An Age Of Climate Change

Andries Fourie Senior Technologist Disaster  Risk Management SRK Con.
Andries Fourie, SRK Consulting

South Africa’s towns and cities could be rendered more resilient to natural disasters if municipalities understand the likely impacts of climate change and build these impacts into their disaster management strategies for the future.

“Among the risks presented to local government by climate change are shifting rainfall patterns and temperatures,” said Andries Fourie, senior technologist in disaster and risk management at SRK Consulting. “With more variable and severe weather conditions, there is likely to be increased flooding, drought and accompanying human and infrastructure risk.”

Fourie was speaking after the Disaster Risk Reduction conference in September, on the theme of ‘Adapting to extremes and limiting disaster loss’. The event was hosted by the Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DMISA). A highlight, he noted, was the unveiling to delegates of the newly released ‘Green Book’ online tool by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“In the pressing context of climate change and other factors like urbanisation, the Green Book promises to significantly enhance the way disaster management is conducted in South Africa,” he said. “With climate change now front-of-mind for all professionals in built environment disciplines and beyond, it is vital for us to leverage the kind of scientific data packaged in this tool.”

The Green Book draws together a wealth of related statistical data on temperatures, rainfall, water resources, population growth, urbanisation, and economic indicators. This information allows users to drill down to municipality level, providing a multidimensional vulnerability assessment for each — and even comparing it to other municipalities.

In an effort to help create more climate-resilient communities, the tool outlines the current hydro-meteorological hazards facing each municipality — alongside its key resources and potential adaptation actions.

Working on a number of disaster management planning projects with local government around South Africa, SRK Consulting is well experienced in the required technical studies and compliance issues, said Fourie. He emphasised the value of the Green Book’s projection of data to the year 2050, giving insight into future population growth in main settlements — as well as climate-related changes over the next 30 years.

“The implications of climate change for our communities are severe,” he said. “As a country, we are already struggling to plan and implement infrastructure developments. Now we also have to address issues like design standards relating to municipal infrastructure and housing — to ensure we respond adequately to the disaster risks posed by climate change.”