THE BLOG

Oh, Snap!

03/18/2015 09:32 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015

If you know what to expect it is easier to plan or agree on actions. That was the message I got from an interactive exercise during the USAID-led Advancing Climate-Resilient Development Symposium yesterday. Participants were asked to get into pairs and pretend to pull a card with a number from 1 to 10 and say the number out loud simultaneously. If both said the same number, whoever said "snap!" first would earn a point. Lots of people snap'ed and got lots of points. Then, the same exercise was done but this time saying names of animals. Well, not only did everyone take a much longer time to think of an animal, but there was much less snap shouting in the room.

I am sure each person there got a different take-home point from that exercise. Mine was this: if you have a known deck of outcomes, it is easier to figure things out and agree on a course of action. If the deck of outcomes is wide open, it is much harder to plan.

How does that relate to climate change? It shows how planning can come about in the case of extreme events and other climate-related disasters. If you know A, B, or C can happen at some point, you can have your plan for when the event is expected and act before it hits. The "uncertainty" factor is much reduced since you will have plans for each of the known possibilities, whenever it is expected. In the exercise, we were focusing on development, but this applies to pretty much every effort that can be affected by events such as droughts, floods, etc. If you plan ahead the steps for when each event is forecast, you have a much better chance of safeguarding property and life. Risk managers have known that for a long time, and now this type of planning needs to be better and more regularly incorporated into climate risk planning. That's why many business are now disclosing their climate risks, and governments at various levels are also starting to require disclosure of climate risks to regular operations. It just makes sense to plan ahead.

A short post, but a far-reaching message.