As cleanup and repair work begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the link between climate change and extreme weather events is back in the spotlight. Sandy makes a mockery of Washington’s inaction on climate change, but the different toll of the hurricane on New York and Haiti also highlights a central truth of disaster economics: The best strategy for resilience against violent acts of nature is to be rich.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested on Tuesday that we are having 100-year flooding events every two years nowadays. That’s because even small rises in sea levels create the potential for far more frequent extreme weather events—something we’ve long understood. A Pacific Institute study published 22 years ago looked at flooding in the San Francisco Bay area. It noted that, due to climate change, the absolute sea level has risen 4 inches to 6 inches in the past century and a further sea-level rise of 6 inches will change the frequency of the 1 in 100-year storm events into a 1 in 10-year storm at the entrance to the Bay.