Lessons from the Pandemic on How to Prepare for Climate Change
Alice C. Hill
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The COVID-19 pandemic has given everyone a front-row seat to catastrophic risk. It has impacted the world on a scale beyond living memory. Like a pandemic, climate change acts as a threat multiplier, undermining economic security, political stability, and social welfare. Both pandemics and climate change carry deep uncertainty as to when and how they will unfold and how much damage they will exact. As communities begin to build resilience to the accelerating threat of climate change, the successes and failures of the world’s response to COVID-19 can help illuminate the way. Just as our society transformed itself to contain the coronavirus, so too will we have to adapt our thinking and approaches in the face of escalating climate risk.
Alice Hill is the David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her work at CFR focuses on the risks, consequences, and responses associated with climate change. Hill previously served as special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for resilience policy on the National Security Council staff where she led the development of national policy to build resilience to catastrophic risks, including climate change and biological threats. Prior to this, Hill served as Senior Counselor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in which she led the formulation of DHS's first-ever climate adaptation plan and the development of strategic plans regarding catastrophic biological and chemical threats, including pandemics. Earlier in her career, she was a supervising judge on both the Los Angeles Municipal and Superior Courts as well as a federal prosecutor at the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles and chief of the white-collar crime unit in the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, California. Oxford University Press published her coauthored book, Building a Resilient Tomorrow, in 2019. She currently serves on the boards of the Environmental Defense Fund and Munich Re Group’s U.S.-based companies. In 2020, Yale University awarded her the Public Voices Fellowship on the Climate Crisis.