©UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2203/Asselin
Chapter 3.3
Palliative climate
change planning and
its consequences
for youth
THEA DICKINSON AND
IAN BURTON
We live in an atmosphere of
heightened disaster risk. Once
it was acceptable to discount or
discredit small risks in decision
analysis matrices. Now, however,
we have learned that the results of
discounting small risks are cata-
strophic. Unaddressed risks and
vulnerabilities are leading to an
increase in human-made disasters.
There are several reasons why this
occurs. To begin with, rational
decision analysis discounts very
small risks. Using a matrix risk
analysis, the likelihood that a tsu-
nami wave in Japan would breach
the coastal defences and flood
nuclear power stations is very low
and would therefore be discounted.
Decision-makers often have
full knowledge of a potentially
calamitous event and yet move
forward with the construction of
buildings and infrastructure in
hazard-prone areas.
Poverty is another driver of
construction in high-risk locations.
Not only is the infrastructure
located in an exposed area, but it is
also not built to codes and stan-
dards that can withstand frequent
natural hazards such as earth-
quakes and cyclones. In the wake
of a disaster, during the rebuilding
and reconstruction process when
there is an opportunity to put
things right, the results fall short
of being climate resilient. Recovery
after a disaster is frequently
rushed, often intensifying previ-
ously existing vulnerabilities.
Developers often choose
short-term profits that discount
the risks associated with building,
say, an expensive sea-front home
on a hurricane-exposed coast.
Prospective buyers are aware of
the liability, but it is a price they
are prepared to pay for a piece of
paradise – often the most marvel-
lous locations are on vulnerable
mountain tops and coastlines.
Development fixates on short-
term gain and many management
strategies and policies seem to dis-
regard or omit long-term planning
requirements. However, we can no
longer discount long-term risks.
Future climate change must be a
part of the disaster risk reduction
equation and a core element of the
land development discussion.
The final theme common to
heightened disaster risk is the
abdication of responsibility.
Catastrophes are acts of God or
the government’s responsibility.
Individuals and communities
perceive these hazards to be so far
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