Disaster Zone

Hurricane Sandy and Climate Adaptation

It is time for FEMA to make climate adaptation part of their emphasis.

by Eric Holdeman / November 1, 2012

First it was Hurricane Irene in 2011 and now it is Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  Irene ended up tearing up New England with record rains and flooding.  Now it is the Mid-Atlantic portion of the East Coast that is in clean-up mode.  The damages from Sandy will far surpass those of Irene due the more densely populated and heavily infrastructured areas where it took its toll.


Climate change with warmer ocean and air temperatures means that the air will hold more moisture.  Severe storms are forecasted to be larger, more violent and longer lasting.  I do not think that Irene and Sandy were freak events that won't be repeated in the future or even the near term. 


It is time that FEMA take the steps to directly address climate adaptation.  Specifically to look at the promotion of mitigation measures that can be taken to either relocate out of harms way, restrict the rebuilding in harms way, or promote the use of protective measures needed for infrastructure that cannot be removed.


My example on this would be New York City and Atlantic City.  It would be great to pick up NYC and move it 100 miles inland.  I recognize that NY is where it is at and where it will stay.  The city, state and federal government need to look at protective measures that can be taken, short term and long term, to protect the heavily infrastructured parts of the city.  For instance, I'm going to be very surprised if the entire subway system is back and running in just a few days.  If the water got into the electrical control systems it will take a long time and great efforts to get them functional again.  


Then there is the Atlantic City Boardwalk or homes perched above sand dunes, be they in the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore.  If people want to rebuild in a high hazard area, it is a free country and they should be able to do what they want with their money.  But, other taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a federally subsidized flood insurance program or the costs to rebuild where nature can again destroy.  


When we talk about the federal deficit and where cuts need to be made or expenditures need to be increased--climate adaptation and mitigation are sure bets for a good return on the investment of our tax dollars.