How To Do Disaster Planning When Ignoring Climate Change?

From the NY Times: Trump Ignores Climate Change. That’s Very Bad for Disaster Planners.

In Washington, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is leading recovery efforts that could cost taxpayers more than $50 billion after devastating storms hit Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. At the same time, the agency is wrestling with an even harder problem: how to help communities prepare for future flooding disasters that could be far more severe than anything seen this year.

Complicating that task is the fact that the Trump administration has largely been hostile to discussions of global warming.

As a taxpayer, I hate to see $50B dollars of federal money spent while ignoring a major factor in the recovery planning. Climate change is the elephant in the room…..

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2 Responses to How To Do Disaster Planning When Ignoring Climate Change?

  1. recoverydiva says:

    Actually, I would prefer that the government spent money on climate change plans and programs, because even if the experts are not entirely correct I think the investment is worthwhile.
    I am not able to do the quantitative analysis needed, but I am willing to rely on qualified scientists in government and academic positions.

  2. plodinec says:

    I share your pain, Claire, but stop and think for a second. Do you really want the government to spend our money based on the output of suspect computer models? And those same models really are not intended to represent local effects, nor do they do so very reliably.

    Better to look at the data. Sea levels are rising on average ~3 mm/yr (about 12 inches /century) based on our satellite data. Since 1900 they’ve risen on average 8 inches, but with higher uncertainty prior to the advent of satellites in the ’80s. If I’m worried about flooding, I don’t have to try to outguess Mother Nature, I just do what any engineer would do – I look at my local data. If my sea level is changing the same way as the average, I figure I have to raise my roads – or sea walls – a foot for each century of expected life plus whatever safety margin I want or can afford (say 2X).

    If I live in Anchorage Alaska, I don’t have to do anything because my ground is rising relative to sea level. If I live in South Florida, or the Norfolk, VA, area, or NOLA, I have to build much higher – not because of sea level rise but because of poor land use and excessive water withdrawal. But if I am living there I sure hope that my highway engineers are looking at the data and not some model.

    “Climate change” is inevitable, but there are many things we still don’t understand yet, e.g., the role of clouds. The models are all over the map on that one yet everyone agrees they’re important. For me, I want my engineers spending my money on their best projections of my community’s future using the information at hand, not some unvalidated computer model.

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