As hurricane season begins, new report demonstrates nature is best defense against natural disasters

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US should preserve and rebuild floodplains, wetlands, forests to provide protection from floods, droughts and wildfires

WASHINGTON (June 1, 2012)— Preserving and rebuilding natural defenses is one of the most cost-effective, practical and sustainable ways to protect American communities and natural resources from natural disasters, according to a report released today by Defenders of Wildlife. The new report demonstrates that by strengthening natural defenses like floodplains, wetlands, and forests — which help with erosion protection, flood control and water filtration, we can “harness nature” to help protect us from extreme events.

The report comes on the tail of a year of record-breaking natural disasters. No fewer than 14 weather disasters caused damages exceeding one billion dollars each in the United States in 2011, breaking the previous record of nine in 2008. Already, 2012 has seen unusually frequent and fierce weather patterns, such as the “weekend of 100 tornadoes.” With the recent announcement that the past 12 months were the warmest on record, more years like 2011 are undoubtedly to come.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife:

“The weather changes occurring across the country are not like a bad storm that will eventually blow over. As climate change continues unabated, these events will intensify in years to come. Tornados, floods and wildfires can destroy entire communities and will continue to do so unless we take steps to prepare ourselves and protect our communities in a changing world. Fortunately, one of our best allies against increasingly devastating natural disasters is nature itself.

“Already, communities across the country are taking advantages of the defenses nature provides. In New York, they are protecting the watershed to maintain a safe drinking water supply. In Missouri, they are restoring wetlands to protect farms and communities from flooding. And these are just a few examples. Our report shows that viable and cost-effective solutions to climate-change risks can help America better prepare for the challenges ahead.”

Links: http://www.defenders.org/publications/harnessing-nature.pdf

Read more about Defenders’ work to help the country prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Background:

  • With nearly $60 billion in total losses and damages recorded, the year 2011 will rank among the most costly. Only a handful of times in recent decades have we seen more weather-related damages (in 2011 dollars): 2005, when hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma ravaged the Gulf Coast; the drought-stricken years of 1980 and 1988; and 2008, when we endured nine extreme, billion-dollar weather events.
  • While many scientists were once leery of connecting climate change to extreme weather events, many are now convinced that the recent trends in heat waves, heavy rain events and droughts are consistent with climate change.
  • One of the most pronounced impacts of climate change is intensification in the water cycle: warmer air speeds up evaporation and also holds more moisture, so the dry areas get drier, and the storms get bigger and more intense. The root causes of the disasters of 2011 were mainly either not enough water or too much falling at once (or tornadoes associated with excessively powerful thunderstorms).

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

Contact: Wil Lutz, (202) 772-0269, wlutz@defenders.org

             

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