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Presidential Town Hall Meeting: Adapting to the New Normal—Building, Sustaining, and Improving our Weather and Climate Hazard Resilience

Monday, 3 February, 7:00–8:30 p.m.; Room C111

Our operating environment has changed. Globalization, technological development, and the changing roles of individuals in society have reshaped the context within which we operate. At the same time, we are seeing more extreme weather, increases in the costs of natural disasters that are among the highest in the world, and greater disruption in disaster patterns. The growing interconnectedness of our world, technological interdependencies, economic and physical vulnerabilities, and changes in the climate underscore the need for improved and more active management of the risk environment nationally. As a Nation we often lack a full understanding of the true risk exposure over time from our decisions, be they land use, development, or engineering in nature – and more importantly, who bears the cost of that exposure. Is climate changing, and if so, in what ways? Is changing climate driving an increase in severe events? What are the implications of changing climate and severe events to our national security? What are our vulnerabilities? How do we prepare for, or avoid, the impacts of climate change?

This important discussion will include Nobel Laureate Donald Wuebbles, Coordinating Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who will present for the first time the principal findings of the recent major international IPCC assessment report. FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate will present FEMA’s strategic vision to build, sustain, and improve America’s weather and climate hazard resilience. Dr. Mel Shapiro, Jule G. Charney Medallion and Department of Commerce Gold Medal awardee from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), will show ultra-fine resolution simulations of the evolution of Hurricane Sandy as it approached and made landfall, and the catastrophic storm surge impacts over the northeastern United States created by a team of researchers from NCAR, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and Cray Inc.

W. Craig Fugate was confirmed by the US Senate and began his service as Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in May 2009. Under Fugate's leadership, emergency management has been promoted as a community and shared responsibility. FEMA has fostered resiliency, a community-oriented approach to emergency management to build sustainable and resilient communities. FEMA has instituted a permanent catastrophic planning effort to build the nation’s capacity to stabilize a catastrophic event within 72 hours. FEMA is implementing a National Preparedness System (PPD-8) to build unity of effort to address the nation's most significant risks. FEMA is supporting state and local governments with efforts to prepare for the impacts of climate change through "adaptation," which is planning for the changes that are occurring and expected to occur.

Prior to coming to FEMA, Fugate served as Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). Fugate served as the Florida State Coordinating Officer for 11 Presidentially-declared disasters including the management of $4.5 billion in federal disaster assistance. In 2004, Fugate managed the largest federal disaster response in Florida history as four major hurricanes impacted the state in quick succession; Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. In 2005, Florida was again impacted by major disasters when three more hurricanes made landfall in the state; Dennis, Katrina and Wilma. The impact from Hurricane Katrina was felt more strongly in the gulf coast states to the west but under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact or EMAC, Florida launched the largest mutual aid response in its history in support of those states.

Fugate began his emergency management career as a volunteer firefighter, paramedic, and a Lieutenant with the Alachua County Fire Rescue. Eventually, he moved from exclusive fire rescue operations to serving as the Emergency Manager for Alachua County in Gainesville, Florida. He spent a decade in that role until May 1997 when he was appointed Bureau Chief for Preparedness and Response for FDEM. Within FDEM, Fugate's role as Chief of the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) kept him busy in 1998, the SERT team was active for more than 200 days as a result of numerous floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and Hurricane Georges. Fugate and his wife Sheree hail from Gainesville, Florida. http://www.fema.gov/leadership/william-craig-fugate

Donald J. Wuebbles is the Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois. He is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences as well as an affiliate professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He was the first Director of the School of Earth, Society, and Environment at Illinois, was the first Director of the Environmental Council at the University, and was Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences for many years.

Professor Wuebbles is a Coordinating Lead Author for the next major international IPCC assessment of climate change that will be published in 2013 and is a leader in the next U.S. National Climate Assessment, being a member of the Executive Secretariat and the Federal Advisory Committee. Dr. Wuebbles is an expert in numerical modeling of atmospheric physics and chemistry. He has authored over 400 scientific articles, relating mostly to atmospheric chemistry and climate issues. He has been a lead author on a number of national and international assessments related to concerns  about climate change. He has also been a lead author on national and international assessments relating to atmospheric chemistry and the effects of human activities on stratospheric and tropospheric ozone. Dr. Wuebbles and colleagues received the 2005 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He has been honored by being selected a Fellow of three major professional science societies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society. He is the Chair of the Global Environmental Change Focus Group for the American Geophysical Union. He shares in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He was a member of a federal advisory committee that assessed and in 2009 published a report on the potential impacts of climate change on the United States. http://www.atmos.illinois.edu/people/wuebbles.html

Dr. Mel Shapiro, an expert on planetary to mesoscale weather systems, will show ultra-fine resolution simulations of the evolution of Hurricane Sandy as it approached and made landfall, and the catastrophic storm surge impacts over the northeastern United States, as created by a team of researchers from NCAR, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and Cray Inc.  A Fellow of the AMS, he is the recipient of the Jule G. Charney Medallion, the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, and is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science.

For additional information, please contact Phil Ardanuy (e-mail: [email protected]).