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Datum: 21.11.2017

COP23-Event - Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management: What do we miss?

On November 7th 2017, Prof. Lothar Schrott, Acting Director of the Department of Geography and Head of the Master Programme „Disaster Management and Risk Governance“ (KaVoMa), moderated a panel discussion on “Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management”. The panel was hosted by the ICLEI Cities and Regions Pavilion during the COP 23 in Bonn. 


The picture shows the panelists and organizers from left to right:

  • Prof. Dr. Clemens Simmer, University of Bonn, Department of Meteorology, Lecturer in the Master Programme “Disaster Management and Risk Governance” (KaVoMa)
  • Prof. Dr. Mariele Evers, University of Bonn, Department of Geography, Lecturer in the Master Programme
  • Jochen Stein, Chief of fire brigade, City of Bonn
  • Prof. Dr. Jörg Klewer, University of Applied Sciences Zwickau, Health and Nursing Sciences, Lecturer and Alumnus of the Master Programme


  • Prof. Dr. Lothar Schrott, University of Bonn, Acting Director Department of Geography, Head of the Master Programme „Disaster Management and Risk Governance“
  • Dr. Gabriele Hufschmidt, University of Bonn and BBK, scientific coordinator of KaVoMa

image2.jpgIn his introduction, Lothar Schrott pointed out that frequencies and magnitudes of processes, such as floods, heat waves or storms, challenge disaster risk management (DRM) in many ways. Increasing dependency on critical infrastructure, which is already highly interconnected, causes rising levels of vulnerability. It is the quality of disaster prevention and DRM that can make a huge difference in terms of loss and damage. Lothar Schrott emphasized that education is a key for effective DRM; one example is the Master Programme KaVoMa which is successfully offered since 2006 in cooperation with the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, tailored to the needs of professionals in the field of DRM who study part-time. The idea to organize such a session was based on the experience that integrative and interdisciplinary approaches are needed, involving all stakeholders. Lothar Schrott concluded that effective DRM benefits from KaVoMa students and alumni with different background and expertise to fully understand the complexity in DRM, from process understanding to social aspects of risk, from risk analysis to risk communication.

image4.jpgClemens Simmer underlined that with more energy available in the atmosphere due to global warming, hazard frequencies and magnitudes are definitely likely to increase. Hence urgent questions for disaster managers arise: Will areas for settlement, recreation and production remain safe? Jochen Stein gives an example of increasing risk: He observes that festivals, where thousands of people gather, have developed to a prominent security issue due to increasing thunderstorm hazards. Mariele Evers added that more people live in unsafe areas, hence we need to look at changes in earth system processes and processes in societies, at exposures and vulnerabilities. Demographic change, i.e. a gradually higher proportion of the elderly in Germany and other countries, is such a process, Jörg Klewer agreed. Heat waves are particularly dangerous for the elderly – a risk widely underestimated in Germany. He sees a substantial lack of structures and measures aiming to assist elderly people living alone and emphasized the importance of emergency planning not just for heat waves, but for other hazards, on the household level. The need to invest more resources into prevention and preparation in our society at all levels is highlighted by Jochen Stein. However, he continues, while countries such as Germany do have resources, many other countries simply lack sufficient means, posing a barrier to implementation.

The panel discussion explored several other pressing issues, such as the potential and limits of weather forecasts in particular with respect to thunderstorms and flash floods. Questions from the audience hit on topics such as the availability and interpretation of heat wave related data on emergency calls and services, or the question whether financial incentives are an effective means to foster household emergency planning. This led the discussion to another point raised by Mariele Evers: “Yes, incentives can help, however the first step is to raise risk awareness, which is often missing and very difficult to achieve”. She highlighted the potential that lies in community participation and involving not only “expert” knowledge but local knowledge and different stakeholders.

image5.jpgA topic raised by Jörg Klewer is the need to foster more interdisciplinary work and networks – expert knowledge is important, however we need generalists who build bridges between these experts, who put together the pieces of the puzzle, who interpret and translate expert knowledge and language in order to make the knowledge accessible more widely. Inputs by the audience and Lothar Schrott raised the issue of much needed generalists on the one hand side and a labour market often sticking to well defined specialized job offers and in parts highly specialized skills on the other hand side.

Finally, a wish list is put together by the panelists with respect to action and resources needed to strengthen Disaster Risk Management in the context of Climate Change:

  • more interdisciplinary work, such as seamless weather prediction
  • enhancing synergies for Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM)
  • more financial support and resources for education and research
  • increase the capacity in low and less developed countries for CCA and DRM
  • act now!

Lothar Schrott closed the panel by summarizing the key points. He concluded that much of what has been said matches and supports his opinion that interdisciplinary education is the key for interdisciplinary cooperation within DRM, in particular when aiming to interlink CCA and DRM more effectively. From this point of view, the Master programme “Disaster Management and Risk Governance” serves this purpose, but a lot of work still needs to be done in order to tackle the challenges we face in the future.

Fotos: G. Hufschmidt