Quote of the week, bonus edition

There was so much quotable material flying around this week due to Hurricane Sandy, I could probably have a QOTW every day. But I thought this one was particularly well done:

It is true that Sandy was a human-caused disaster. We build cities on the coast. We don’t adequately protect them. We don’t heed evacuation warnings. That is where the blame lies for this one, not climate change.

See Eric Berger’s SciGuy column in the Houston Chronicle:

There will probably be fewer Sandy-like storms in the future

 

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60 thoughts on “Quote of the week, bonus edition

  1. We saw that in the Tohoku quake as well. Footage recorded from smart people who heeded the tsunami warnings shows how cars, in traffic, being hit by the tsunami. People on the coast ignored it too. Many went back to their houses to pick up stuff, then they were hit.

  2. Isnt there a really old book that tells us not to build houses on sand? I doubt these people read that sort of book eh?

  3. It is true that Sandy was a human-caused disaster. We build cities on the coast. We don’t adequately protect them. We don’t heed evacuation warnings. That is where the blame lies for this one, not climate change.

    ========

    That quote cannot be disputed.

  4. Chris Edwards says:
    November 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Isn’t there a really old book that tells us not to build houses on sand?

    Yes there is:

    Matthew 7:25-27

    New International Version (NIV)

    25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

  5. Too true!
    Reminds one of the human habit of building on flood plains then being very annoyed when expected seasonal floods wreck houses, infrastructure and even drown people!

  6. Exactly. And ditto for fire codes which allow structures way to close. Ditto for electrical codes that do not encourage underground emplacement in storm drains. .Gas-lines that are not flexible and have area auto shutoff in the event of earthquakes, floods, fire, or pressure loss.

  7. People actually pay extra for waterfront property.

    And in Italy they apparently still build houses out of rocks that fall asunder during earthquakes.

    I’m glad I live near the top of a hill, far from the local creek and well above it, with plenty of lower places for the water to go before it rises into my basement.

  8. The even dumber habit is the government provides low cost flood insurance which just relieves the owners of responsibility of building in areas which are subject to frequent floods.

  9. Part of the reason that we don’t heed storm warnings is that it is difficult to determine if the pro AGW crowd is hyping the storm warnings or if the warning is for real.
    DaveW

  10. Alexander K said on November 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm:

    Too true!
    Reminds one of the human habit of building on flood plains then being very annoyed when expected seasonal floods wreck houses, infrastructure and even drown people!

    Here in central Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River, including the West Branch, there are lots of towns built on historic flood plains, because the river was used for transportation so those flat spots were where settlements grew. It’s the same in many places in many states and many lands.

    So lots of places have flood walls, surrounded by levees with floodgates that get closed when the river looks really bad, etc.

    Some have something, but not enough. Harrisburg can be vulnerable. At Lewisburg, home of Bucknell University, there are low spots that are often flooded, as is the area directly across the river where there are some homes and a trailer park. Etc. For some it’s acceptable they’ll get flooded at some point, hopefully not too often. For those with mobile homes and RV’s, and some of those are the only homes of some people, moving if needed is just part of life.

    There have lately been proposals floated for building more flood walls, protecting more areas. But they get shot down. The costs have grown considerably in the several decades since the last ones were built. Many areas would technically be classified as wetlands, there would be numerous environmental impact studies and reports demanded with matching lawsuits, etc.

    Plus these days, if a proposal did get nearly ready to start, there would be a sighting of a single rare purple and green speckled salamander, identifying the proposed construction area as the sole habitat within hundreds of miles of this obviously endangered creature, thus the project would be killed off by a judge to avoid harming the unique habitat, even if said salamander matches those of a large non-endangered healthy population a few states over and it smells like some activist brought one in so it could be fortuitously “discovered” in time…

  11. AGW Alarmism also allows the flouting of planning rules to be blamed on Climate Change – If you look at what has happened of late in places like Bangladesh there have been building on areas subject to storm surge and the authorities allow it.

    Then when the obvious happens and the vulnerable buildings get swept away with loss of life and infrastructure, the governments that allowed this to happen by bad planning simply blame Climate Change and BINGO! – they can claim more money to build the same vulnerable places all over again.

    Oh! – and what happens when anyone dares to question this stupidity?

    The AGW Alarmist crowd usually have no answer to the truth of the situation and so as well as using the term Denialist – they tend to sprinkle in terms like “Racist” as well because those people asking the awkward question “just do not care!”

  12. The hills along the coast of Japan are dotted with old stone slabs saying “Houses below this marker are at risk from tsunamis” and “When an earthquake hits, head for the hills. Don’t go back for your valuables.”

    They are largely ignored.

  13. Not many cities built on mountains. When our hunter-gatherer ancestors took up farming the most productive and easily worked land was on river banks in the flood plain area. Old habits die hard.

  14. Chris Edwards: Isnt there a really old book that tells us not to build houses on sand? I doubt these people read that sort of book eh?

    I prefer “The Three Little Pigs”, there’s better advice in there, what with the tale referring to houses being blown down.

    But reference to fairy tales of any kind adds nothing to a rational debate.

  15. It might seem stupid to build houses on the coast in storm areas. But the likelihood of getting hit by a storm in any year on the North East coast is very remote according to the 2009 report “New York City Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan”. Should we instead abandon the North East Coast for Florida? But Florida and the Gulf of Mexico has greater risk of storm damage. California perhaps? With the strong likelihood of an earthquake I will take my risks elsewhere.
    There are many parts of the world where people are at risk from natural disasters. Many, like Japan and China have huge population densities. It is the sort of high cost, low probability event we take out insurance for. Further, we also take precautions. In the Japanese earthquake of last year, the death toll was remarkably low considering the magnitude and duration of the quake.
    This was because buildings had been constructed to withstand the shaking. Compare the death toll to much smaller earthquakes in less developed countries.
    What is needed in these events is to get a perspective, and looking at both both the magnitude and frequency of events. Furthermore, we need to look at the likelihood that a particular event is attributable to climate change. The principles to do this are laid out here.

  16. On a closer reading … it looks like he is bailing out (due to obvious contrary evidence) of the “CAGW means more stronger hurricanes” belief and replacing it with “CAGW means less stronger hurricanes” belief. The CAGW part of the original belief stays in.
    Not much of a change. :-(
    Or am I missing something here?

  17. To the person who preferred the three little pigs to the Bible: Please check how much of the Bible has been proven accurate by archaeology and parallel historical accounts; check how little has been disproven; then think on the quote, “The fool says in his mind, There is no God.” Think also on why there are computer hackers, burglars, and looters, even though the people who commit these things know they are wrong, and tell us why those people do what they do, and how they know they are wrong. The article is correct: Most of the dangers to humans from natural events come from human choices, not the events.

  18. Not only do people live in flood plains and then are surprised when they get flooding, but their response to a storm is at times less than intelligent. It’s sad that in my area most deaths “due” to Sandy were by CO poisoning from generators. Why are people running these things? To watch TV of course.

  19. Richard111 says:
    November 4, 2012 at 12:34 am
    Not many cities built on mountains. When our hunter-gatherer ancestors took up farming the most productive and easily worked land was on river banks in the flood plain area. Old habits die hard.”

    Before cheap and abundant sources of energy like fossil fuels, humans had to live near waterways for ease of transportation, harnessing the energy of flowing water to grind their grains, and exploit the fertile flood plains. Now that we have fossil fuels to allow easy travel anywhere and fertilization of barren lands, we still have the desire to build homes right at the edge of the mean high tide line. Why?

    When I foolishly lived near a river prone to flooding, it was for the beautiful scenery and the daily ability for fishing. But the yearly hassle of flooding, ruined furniture carpeting and drywall, and the inconvenience of occasional evacuation taught me a lesson. Now I live on the upper leeward side of a hill. Still pretty scenery but no more easy fishing. But no more flooding and even at the peak of Sandy I stood in my yard with a burning candle. The boundary layer was calm even though the tops of the trees were swirling and snapping off.

  20. Doug UK says:
    November 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    AGW Alarmism also allows the flouting of planning rules to be blamed on Climate Change

    ====================================================================

    Bloomburg believes in CAGW. He believes sea level is rising. He endorses Obama because of his alleged belief in CAGW.

    As mayor of New York for 11 years, he has done NOTHING to protect Lower Manhatten from the presumed rising tide. It cannot be rationalized that he blames CAGW and yet did nothing to prepare.

  21. There’s also an old story about building your house out of wood: “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.”

  22. Richard111 says:
    November 4, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Not many cities built on mountains. When our hunter-gatherer ancestors took up farming the most productive and easily worked land was on river banks in the flood plain area. Old habits die hard.
    ________________________________
    Actually the Woodland Indians that occupied the land I now own were not that dumb. My land rises over 100 feet beyond the river’s 100 yr flood plain. That is where I built my house and that is where I have found handfuls of Indian artifacts from various time periods. (Identifed by and donated to N.C. state traveling museum) You farm the flood plain but you live up the hill away from the mosquitoes and water moccasins. Since the women do the farming and water carrying the guys are not ‘inconvenienced’

    ….Archaeologists see Archaic cultures as very successful adaptations to the new forest communities and animal populations of those times. Archaic people made a wide variety of stone, wood, basketry and other tools, that reflect the varied subsistence patterns of generalized fishing, gathering and hunting of the many different species of plants and animals that shared their post-glacial environments. Archaic people possessed great knowledge of their environments and the potential food and raw material sources that surrounded them. Their camps and villages occur as archaeological sites throughout North Carolina, on high mountain ridges, along river banks, and across the Piedmont hills
    Office of State Archaeology
    North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office link

    If you know what you are looking at it is pretty easy to identify a flood plain and make sure you are not making camp on it.

  23. The Jamestown, VA settlers in early 1600s knew very well to stay away from the ocean. They traveled well into the Chesapeake Bay & settled a protected, elevated river peninsula that could also be defended (even from wolves). Settling near the coast would have been insanity to them.

  24. Bertram Felden says:
    “But reference to fairy tales of any kind adds nothing to a rational debate.”

    Yea, valuable lessons could never be communicated via a story. /sarc

  25. There is a theory that the Mound-building Indians built their mounds to have high ground on the flood plains. It didn’t require UFO’s or heavy equipment. If everyone just transported three basketfuls of dirt a day, each person moves a thousand baskets a year. In a decade you had a pretty big pile of dirt, and a dry place in the floods, while harvesting from the richest soil. (Unfortunately some of those various societies apparently grew too dependant on corn and didn’t get enough meat; skeletons got smaller with time, and then the Little Ice Age stressed them out. However some were still around when the Spanish showed up.)

    People have waterfronts because the sea provides both food and easy transport. It is simply too much work to roll your fishing boat down from the hills every morning. However the fishmen up in Maine were pretty smart, when it came to sensing when a big blow was coming, and finding a good hide-out for their boats.

    People are gamblers by nature. Some get bored without a challange, and climb risky mountains and put themselves in danger just for the fun of it. Others gamble on the stock market. Still others live by the sea.

    However there are some reasonable steps that could be taken to lessen the damages of superstorms. The NYC subways should have had floodgates put in years ago.

  26. Gail Combs says:
    November 4, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Of course the other reason to live on a ridge was that it was easier to defend. It was not only floods that could kill you.

  27. Sleepalot says: @ November 4, 2012 at 5:43 am

    @ Gail. That’s a matter of topography: the flood plain may be tens of miles wide.
    ________________________________
    They had that figured out too.

    …The Nipa hut (Bahay Kubo) is the mainstream form of housing. It is characterized by use of simple materials such as bamboo and coconut as the main sources of wood. Cogon grass, Nipa palm leaves and coconut fronds are used as roof thatching. Most primitive homes are built on stilts due to frequent flooding during the rainy season. Regional variations include the use of thicker, and denser roof thatching in mountain areas, or longer stilts on coastal areas particularly if the structure is built over water…. http://pinoycultures.wikispaces.com/VIII+Philippine+Traditions

    What we see in modern times is what I ran into. As a northerner I was denied permission to build on my 100+ acres because it was “All flood plain” I had to get a letter from the USGS stating where the 100 yr flood plain actually was on my survey map and that my proposed site was 100 ft above that elevation.

    A few years later a “good ole’ boy” inherited about 1000 ac (mostly flood plain) and wanted to sell it off as 10+ ac buildable lots thereby skirting the subdivision codes. There are now several houses built in the area where I saw a minimum of three feet of standing water after Hurricane Frances hit the area in 2004. That was just before I bought the land. I hiked down towards the Cape Fear River and found the area flooded a good 1/2 mile from the normal river bank. Great farmland but as my geology prof said, Only a fool builds IN the river and the flood plain IS the river it just doesn’t use it often.

    The person approving the building site has not changed since 2004.

  28. http://blogs.24.com/henryp/2012/10/02/best-sine-wave-fit-for-the-drop-in-global-maximum-temperatures/#comment-190

    I have been able to prove that this current fit is correct by analyzing all data on maxima since 1942 from the Elmendorf Air Force base in Anchorage. It gives me the same (blue) curve going downwards from 1972 to 1942 as well.

    This means that we are currently hovering at the bottom of the curve, at a maximum cooling rate for the next 8 years or so. We also have the normal polar-equator differential and autumn differential. It is therefore likely that a few more of these type of storms will happen, and they will happen soon.
    Whilst I agree with the bible quotes here, we also have to think smart, (pray and work) seeing as perhaps we did not build on rock.
    New York, certainly, with so many inhabitants has to do more to protect itself by building floodgates or do something to prevent flooding again.

  29. Chris Edwards says:
    “Isnt there a really old book that tells us not to build houses on sand?”

    Actually, the people already knew that to build on sand was foolish. That knowledge was being used to illustrate the foolishness of not following wise teachings such as the Golden Rule.

  30. Brady says:

    November 4, 2012 at 2:25 am

    On a closer reading … it looks like he is bailing out (due to obvious contrary evidence) of the “CAGW means more stronger hurricanes” belief and replacing it with “CAGW means less stronger hurricanes” belief. The CAGW part of the original belief stays in.
    Not much of a change. :-(
    Or am I missing something here?
    =========

    From a previous article: “The bottom line is that climate change is unquestionably having an effect on the weather around us by raising the average temperature of the planet. This is producing warmer temperatures and very likely increasing the magnitude of droughts. However, it is a big stretch to go from there to blaming Sandy on climate change. It’s a stretch that is just not supported by science at this time.” Extreme weather in Texas caused by global warming. NYC – not so much.

  31. Science Question: (shocking, I know)

    Beach erosion has been a long-cited problem. As we can see in New Jersey footage, about 5 feet of additional sand is now covering seaside property in some spots, some got less while some more.

    Have we seen the natural method of beach replenishment? Was there a long-lasting net gain? Or was this the ocean edge getting pushed farther inland and what we saw was the pile-up, it was a net loss when over?

  32. Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has endorsed Barak Obama as the candidate with the better chance of stopping climate change:

    Our Climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in NYC and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be eough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action. (NYTimes 11/2/12, p. 1)

  33. River front property is the same thing. People buy that kind of land at a premium price (but I sure don’t know why) then continue to struggle with rules and regulations preventing them from doing anything about their constantly wet basement, wet fields, eroding river bank, ice jams and floods. And if they own it long enough they end up having the river go dry from drought, or change course somewhere up stream and then the river is on someone else’s property. Better to buy dry land and sink a well nice and deep. Much cheaper.

  34. Hu McCulloch says:
    November 4, 2012 at 10:07 am
    Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has endorsed Barak Obama as the candidate with the better chance of stopping climate change:

    “Our Climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in NYC and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be eough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action. (NYTimes 11/2/12, p. 1)”
    =========================================================================
    So the way combat CAGW is for the Government to give away free gas? Or is endorsing Obama the way to get free gas just before election day?

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/department_of_defense_setting_up_XK9Cli2PXUEFWZC0d8abMM

    (PS Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve no objection to the people getting help. Just the politics involved.)

  35. Who needs skeptics when we have our alarmist friends?

    The science does not support any of these positions. Science, in fact, indicates there will be considerably fewer Sandy-like storms in a warmer world…………………………….False promises to the contrary will not help climate advocates make their case, it will only undermine their message when there’s a lull in major hurricanes hitting the United States.

    http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2012/11/there-will-be-fewer-sandy-like-storms-in-the-future/

    Just like

    Monday 20 March 2000
    “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past – Environment”
    “According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html

    and back in the real world

    4 November 2011
    “UK Weather: Met Office Issues Warning As Rain And Snow Hits South And Eastern England”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/11/04/uk-weather-met-office-warning_n_2072442.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

  36. There is an interesting quote from Kevin Trenberth in the article.

    It is true that hurricanes normally recurve and head east, especially at this time of year. So we do have a negative NAO and some blocking anticyclone in place, but the null hypothesis has to be that this is just “weather” and natural variability.

    (emphasis mine)

    Now would this be the same Kevin Trenberth who just 12 months ago was advocating that we reverse the null hypothesis?

    “Humans are changing our climate. There is no doubt whatsoever,” said Trenberth. “Questions remain as to the extent of our collective contribution, but it is clear that the effects are not small and have emerged from the noise of natural variability. So why does the science community continue to do attribution studies and assume that humans have no influence as a null hypothesis?”

    Has Trenberth now reversed his position on reversing the null hypthosis?

  37. Did anyone read the ridiculous post he linked to at the bottom? The one by someone called David Roberts? This guy is decrying when sensible people tell the alarmists not to get their panties in a wad and say that everything is caused by global warming. He calls them “scolds.”

    The scold’s response is that there’s no excuse to say or imply things that aren’t true. If you take murky probabilities and state them as categorical truths, you’re being dishonest. If you claim a hurricane is connected to climate change before there’s solid evidence that it’s outside the range of natural weather variability, you’re being dishonest. Maybe activists are allowed to do that (scolds imply, with proverbial noses in the proverbial air), but journalists and Serious People are not.

    Are not all these things dishonest? So basically he’s saying that you should allow people to spew dishonest alarmism without calling them on it, because there’s a war on, dammit!

  38. I’m from Houston and Eric Berger is a fervent CAGW believer. He’s just a somewhat honest one. You can get that if you read the whole post. At one point he says that strong storms WILL increase, just not till the end of the century. So, basically, global warming isn’t causing stronger storms YET.

    You should see the ridiculousness he posted after climategate….

  39. Almost all of the power outages affecting millions of people most fundamentally came from one simple fact: not burying power lines underground unlike what is already done anyway for pipes. IIRC, there were 100000+ downed power lines reportedly, such as trees falling over and bringing them down. Changing pre-existing infrastructure could be far more expensive than worthwhile, but this kind of power disruption is avoidable in principle if any localities ever really strongly desired to prevent it.

  40. i live very near to the LA River, which is totally canalized, but which could still theoretically flood out.

    fortunately, i live on the uphill side, so all the rest of The Valley would have to flood, like totally, for me to be in it, for sure. %-)

  41. Gamecock says:
    November 4, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Bloomburg believes in CAGW. He believes sea level is rising. He endorses Obama because of his alleged belief in CAGW.

    As mayor of New York for 11 years, he has done NOTHING to protect Lower Manhatten from the presumed rising tide. It cannot be rationalized that he blames CAGW and yet did nothing to prepare.

    Roger Knights: In a bit of pro-active CYA, he or TPTB commissioned the following 2011 study, which frowns on preventative measures, because they provide “a false sense of security” (because they can’t protect against the worstest case) and thus amount to “disaster by design.” Instead, low-lying New York should pick up and move, reverting their spaces back to parkland. Dig it:

    RISK INCREASE TO INFRASTRUCTURE DUE TO SEA LEVEL RISE.
    Klaus H. Jacob, Noah Edelblum and Jonathan Arnold.
    Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
    [A center of warmist alarmism, I believe, and possibly chosen for that reason—Roger Knights]
    ———–
    [pp. 49-51:]

    Generic options for mitigating against the increased coastal storm surge hazards
    and risks to the MEC’s infrastructure (and to other built assets) may include the
    following, regardless of the political or fiscal likelihood to realize them. They fall
    essentially into two categories: protective engineered solutions and those based on landuse changes. In more detail, they include the following.

    (1) Short-term “Protective” Measures Using Local Engineering .

    Individually engineered solutions can be achieved by raising individual structures and systems or critical system components to higher elevations. This may be done without moving them laterally to higher ground. Alternate solutions my include surrounding the exposed structures with local sea-walls and dykes, as for instance has been done by the PANYNJ [Port Authority of NY & NJ] for the La Guardia Airport. The problem with such engineered solutions is that after completion, they often give for some time a potentially false sense of security and encourage new asset concentrations behind the protective defenses. They often simply postpone rather than eliminate renewed flooding. When flooding recurs during the most extreme events, then they tend to be associated with even larger losses when the engineered protections are overwhelmed. This phenomenon, together with some of the earlier flood insurance policies, has led to the newly coined term “Disasters by Design” (Mileti, 1999).

    By that logic, we shouldn’t require cars to have seatbelts, buildings to have fire extinguishers or fire escapes, etc., etc.—Roger Knights

    (2) Regional Mega-Engineering.

    The model for the mega-engineering approach is provided by the Netherlands where a large portion of the land, population and infrastructure is “protected” [note the sneer-quotes—Roger Knights] from the North Sea by major regional dam, dyke and levee systems, rather than by individually built local systems. In the US the Mississippi River dyke and levee system built largely by the US Army Corps of Engineers protecting New Orleans and many other cities (for the time being) [another sneer—Roger Knights] is the nearest example. If applied to the MEC region it would mean the future gating of the entrances to the New York harbor estuary, while somehow providing passage of ship traffic and outflow of freshwater and sediments from the Hudson, Passaic, Raritan and lesser river systems. Such mega-solutions have occasionally and half seriously been suggested [The endnotes contain no references to them—Roger Knights] , but have been rejected as far-fetched, utopian [Not as compared to “moving laterally to higher ground” (see below).—Roger Knights] , and in the long run environmentally unsustainable [that term pushes “environmentalists” hot buttons—Roger Knights] for many reasons, silting of the New York Harbor being only one such cause for concern. Also such a “solution” could lead to the ultimate disaster by design if the protective system were to fail by an extraordinarily extreme event. [So the Thames barrier should be dismantled, and the one protecting Leningrad, etc.?—Roger Knights]

    (3) Long-term Remedy – Changed Landuse.

    Perhaps the sole effective solution is a fundamental change in landuse. It implies to move, when and wherever possible, the infrastructures and other assets to higher ground. They would be moved not only vertically, but also laterally. If space does not exist or cannot be made available, in some instances it may be possible to put the infrastructure systems underground and have only their entrances located at sufficiently safe high ground. The freed water front spaces can then be turned into parks and recreational areas with low asset density where flooding losses can be kept minimal. Obviously such measures require large fiscal resources, a long-term planning, tenacious political will and foresight – all generally in short supply in a political landscape that is dominated by short-term economic gain and fierce competition.

    In reality it is likely that combinations of solutions 1 and 3 (but probably not 2) will be applied in time as sea level keeps rising with continued global warming, on a generational time scale. The challenge will be to accelerate mitigation before the losses start to drastically increase in frequency and magnitude.

    There are other options. One is to do nothing and pay when disaster strikes. Given the magnitude of the outlined risks this does not seem a realistic option that a developed society could afford. It would seem an unlikely option for the very metropolis that is keen to retain a position as a global leader in world financial markets. Risk management is a core concern of financial institutions and markets that dislike uncertainty. Whether the region is prepared to exercise forward looking risk management is a topic we defer to the sector report on “Institutional Decision Making (Zimmerman and Cusker, this study).

    The problem outlined earlier, that losses do not tend to occur in annualized steady small doses, but instead in rare, large, sudden and extreme events, may point to a solution rather than a problem. That solution may build on the seemingly reverse modus operandi: i.e. mitigation measures, especially those associated with changes in landuse and rezoning, may be more readily implemented in small incremental steps rather than in single large-scale political actions. True, post disaster conditions often provide windows of opportunity. But typically they do so only, if sound plans are ready and widely known before the disaster strikes. Therefore one should not wait to begin planning until after the disaster strikes. Assessment and planning time is now. Implementation will come later, often by surprise opportunities. The technical vision needs to be grand and all encompassing and requires a master plan of extraordinary complexity and longevity. It also must ensure that the solutions and actions for the future link with actions for solving today’s problems. Once the planning is in place, the administrative implementation could be incremental and hence affordable if correctly prioritized. This would require concentrating first on the most exposed and most essential assets, and then steadily move on to the less exposed and less important or less valuable assets and systems. Largely lacking at this time are the technical and scientific assessments that provide sufficient detail, spatial resolution, and hence technical credibility. This credibility is needed to form a vision that can get the process started based on technical merit. The solutions (or lack thereof) will always be part of the political and socioeconomic processes. The technical findings must be widely accessible to ensure a reasonably equitable discourse and input towards a public consensus before it comes to hammering out the actual policies and solutions under conditions of political realities and fiscal constraints.
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    [pp. 52-53]
    Conclusions and Recommendations.

    The Metropolitan east coast region with New York City at its center has nearly 20 million people, a 1-Trillion dollar economy, and 2-Trillion dollars worth of built assets, nearly half of which are invested in a complex infrastructure.

    Many elements of the transportation and other essential infrastructure systems in the MEC region, and even some of its regular building stock, are located at elevations from 6 to 20 feet above current sealevel. This is well within the range of expected coastal storm surge elevations of 8 to more than 20 feet for eastern tropical and extratropical storms. Depending on which climate models will apply, the sealevel rise over the next 100 years will accelerate and amount to at most 3 feet by the year 2100. This seemingly modest increase in sealevel has the astonishing effect to raise the frequency of coastal surging and related flooding by factors of 2 to 10, with an average of about 3.

    The rate of incurring losses from these coastal floods will increase accordingly. Expected annualized losses from coastal storms, in the order of about $ 1 Billion per year, would be small enough to be absorbed by the 1-Trillion dollar economy of the region. However it is an unpleasant fact that the actual losses do not occur neatly in regular annualized doses. Rather they occur during infrequent extreme events that can amount to hundreds of billions of dollars for the largest events, albeit with low probability. Such large losses would deprive the economy of tens of percent of the gross regional product (GRP), a forfeiture that will be hard to bear. Insurers, policyholders and non-insured will be stretched to the brink. If the frequency of these and lesser events increases by factors of 2 to 10 due to accelerating sea level rise, mitigating actions will become urgent. The region will be in a race between increasing losses and needing to afford, at the same time, the costs of mitigation and remediation.

    The region is already in the process to revamp its basic infrastructure at costs approaching a good fraction of 100 Billion dollars per decade. Therefore, the most cost- effective way to harden the infrastructure against future coastal storm surge losses would be to account for the increased flood potentials. A coherent policy is needed which should be based on technical input. Some uncertainties exist and will persist even after future detailed technical and scientific studies are performed which are needed to avoid unnecessary excessive remedies. However, these uncertainties must not be used to justify inaction since it is inevitable that the losses will accelerate just from the sheer growth of built and newly exposed assets alone.

    The best mitigation is to avoid placing new or refurbished assets at low elevations. This requires an innovative landuse plan, tough zoning enforcement, and would be best combined with new engineering codes that place all critical components at sufficiently high elevations. [“Refurbished” could be interpreted, by a zealous enforcement agency, as covering preventative maintenance, and even mere maintenance.—Roger Knights] This objective could be well achieved by a Voluntary National Model or Reference Code. The usual local privileges to adopt the recommended standard into local law should be preserved. The National Flood Insurance Program’s Q3 mapping effort administered by FEMA may have a new and innovative role to play in this respect. Congress may need to put the necessary resources in place for NFIP to move from the past haphazard process of updating the flood zone maps to one that uses already proposed modern technologies to produce improved accurate digital maps on an accelerated pace. An infusion of resources will be needed to catch up with the rising tide – not an inexpensive undertaking, but one with a likely high benefit to cost ratio.

    The problem of sea level rise that New York City and the MEC are about to face will be faced by coastal megacities and shore-bound populations all around the US coasts, in fact around the globe, in rich and poor countries alike. [Presuming global warming is accelerating—Roger Knights] New York City and the surrounding MEC region could be in the unique position to muster the financial and intellectual resources, perhaps even the communal political wit and will (sic!) to set a world-class example for how to deal with such a fundamental societal / environmental issue. NYC and the surrounding MEC could do so in par with its often self-declared status as the ‘financial capital’ of the world. The City that never sleeps? True or not, ‘mother nature’ will see to it that wake-up calls will abound.

    ”Abound” is a giveaway that the authors’ hearts are imbued with warmist alrmism. This report’s recommendations (mostly “move”) are largely based on accepting warmist projections of a 1-meter sea level rise by 2100. Further, based on nature of the the paragraph that sneeringly rejected “Regional Mega-Engineering,” I suspect that this report’s recommendations reflect current environmentalism’s knee-jerk rejection of man’s large-scale defiance of nature in the form of levees, surge barriers, etc.—i.e., a belief that such a stance is never justified and amounts to an affront to Gaia. The Dutch have told “mother nature” where to get off, and we should too, in this instance. (“This I know—Mother Nature is a maniac.”—Laurence Janifer, epigraph to You Sane Men.)—Roger Knights

  42. Isn’t it backwards to say “climate change causes a change in the weather”? Surely it’s a consistent, systematic change in one’s weather that shows your climate is changing. It’s like claiming a full glass of water caused your faucet to turn on.

    If one’s climate already includes things like nor’easters and hurricanes, does a change in frequency or intensity really qualify as climate change? I’d think we’d reserve that nomenclature for say, if the Northeast US went from four seasons to a seasonal monsoon, or to a desert arid climate. Is a bit more rain and wind really “climate change”?

  43. @Bertram Felden says: November 4, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Be careful with rationality or hyper-rationality, after all cAGW is perfectly rational but it’s not proven by science. The theory of relativity was very irrational when it was postulated yet it was true. Only a closed mind judges the unknown as irrational.

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