NY State Passes Community Risk and Resiliency Act

NY State passes new law:  GOVERNOR CUOMO SIGNS COMMUNITY RISK AND RESILIENCY ACT

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law the Community Risk and Resiliency Act to strengthen New York State’s preparedness for the effects of climate change and help protect communities against severe weather and sea level rise. The Community Risk and Resiliency Act advances a number of important recommendations of the NYS 2100 Commission, which the Governor convened after Superstorm Sandy to develop more resilient infrastructure systems across the state.

Thanks to Franklin McDonald for the citation.

For full text of the law, go to this site.  I do not know how significant this legislation is likely to be. Nor do I know if any other states have similar laws.  Be glad to hear from readers on these matters.

Disaster Threats and Risks on the Rise

From the Miami Herald: As natural disaster threats around the world increase, so do risks to businesses’ customers, supplies

 Richard S. Olson, director of the Extreme Events Institute at Florida International University, said companies have a growing incentive to reduce the risk of disaster damage to suppliers and customers because the insurance and reinsurance industries increasingly account for such risk in pricing their coverage.

Natural disaster risk is starting to command more attention because it is increasing worldwide. “The private sector’s awareness has spiked because of the vulnerabilities they’ve seen in their supply and production chains, and because the insurance and reinsurance industries are paying more attention to track recurrences of hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons,” Olson said. “There’s much more attention being paid by risk modelers to natural disasters.”

Building in Risky Areas

Time and time again we see risky areas that have buildings on them that are later deemed questionable. Why does that happen?  See this article in the NYT: No Easy Way to Restrict Construction in Risky Areas. From the intro:

After disasters like the Oso landslide in Washington State, a common question is why people are allowed to live in such dangerous places. On the website of Scientific American, for example, the blogger Dana Hunter wrote, “It infuriates me when officials know an area is unsafe, and allow people to build there anyway.”

But things are rarely simple when government power meets property rights. The government has broad authority to regulate safety in decisions about where and how to build, but it can count on trouble when it tries to restrict the right to build. “Often, it ends up in court,” said Lynn Highland, a geographer with the United States Geological Survey’s landslide program in Golden, Colo.

I got this citation from a posting on the topic by Phil Palin in the blog Homeland Security Watch.

Global Warming and Civil Strife

From the AP, this article about a new UN report: UN Report: Global Warming Worsens Security Woes

In an authoritative report due out Monday a United Nations climate panel for the first time is connecting hotter global temperatures to hotter global tempers. Top scientists are saying that climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, strife between nations and refugees.

They’re not saying it will cause violence, but will be an added factor making things even more dangerous. Fights over resources, like water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will all go into the mix to destabilize the world a bit more, says the report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The main UN site for press info and the full report on Monday the 31st is here.  Regarding the scientific base of the report, note this quote:

The report is based on more than 12,000 peer reviewed scientific studies. Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, a co-sponsor of the climate panel, said this report was “the most solid evidence you can get in any scientific discipline.”

Article from the Wash. Post on March 31; U.N. climate panel: Governments, businesses need to take action now against growing risks

Global warming is hurting the poor and may lead to more civil wars and amplified economic shocks as its effects grow more severe, a U.N. group says.

10 Riskiest Cities in the World -updated

From Business Insider,  an article titled : The 10 Cities Most At Risk Of Being Hit By Natural Disasters . I cannot vouch for their selection methodology, but the results are interesting to consider.  Only one U.S. city is on this list and that is Los Angeles.

Update: An eeire coincidence that on March 29, LA experiences a 5.1 magnitude earthquake and more than 100 aftershocks. Damaged to small number of residential structures have been documented. See this account from the LA Times.

On April 2, see this account from another LA periodical re the relative risk their metro area faces.

New World Bank Report on Integrating Climate and Disaster Risk into Development

The World Bank has issued a two volume report on Building Resilience:  Integrating Climate and Disaster Risk into Development. Main report is 58 pp. and Exec. Summary is 9 pp.

I especially like the graphic shown as Fig. B on page 10 of the report.  This is a high quality publication, as is generally true of the World Bank.

New “Risky Business” Endeavor

In the NYTimes this morning, I read this op ed piece: We need climate-change risk assessment; Americans need to know how to assess the risk posed by global warming.

The direct URL for the new non-prifit organization is here: www.riskybusiness.org

I have been wondering what Mayor Bloomberg planned to do when he stepped down from his 3rd stint as mayor of NY.  Now we know.

Excellent New Article – in Environment Magazine

Since Michelin ranks restaurants with stars, the Diva has decided to award stars to documents re recovery. Here is the first one I would give 4 stars to:

Making America More Resilience toward Natural Disasters: A Call For Action, by Howard Kunreuther, Erwann Michel-Kerjan and Mark Pauly. From Environment Magazine, July/August 2013.  The title does not really do justice to the wide array of useful content here, so I suggest you download the full article and decide for yourself how you would categorize it.

Some excerpts:

Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $65 billion in economic losses to residences, business owners, and infrastructure owners. It is the second most costly natural disaster in recent years in the United States, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but it is not an outlier; economic and insured losses from devastating natural catastrophes in the United States and worldwide are climbing.

According to Munich Re,2 real-dollar economic losses from natural catastrophes alone have increased from $528 billion (1981–1990), to $1,197 billion (1991–2000), to $1,23 billion (2001–2010). During the past 10 years, the losses were principally due to hurricanes and resulting storm surge occurring in 2004, 2005, and 2008. Figure 1 depicts the evolution of the direct economic losses and the insured portion from great natural disasters over the period 1980–2012.2

There is a wealth of useful information in this article, which makes it hard to summarize. It is thoughtful and clearly writtten. I consider this an essential document, one that I think will be a classic in time.

Living in Harm’s Way – updates

Another addition to the collection of articles about why people make risky decisions. See:
Putting the Disaster in Natural Disasters: Why Many Choose to Live in Harm’s Way

It is human nature to sometimes resist and resent government regulations. Yet, if the appropriate flood mapping and floodplain management is not done by government, homeowners are left trying to make expensive plans and decisions in a void. At times citizens need public officials to determine risks and they want to be informed about them. Government is sometimes the right actor.

Some dramatic details in the aftermath of the major flood in Calgary, Alberta. Thanks to Pierre Picard for the citations.

  • An article about the realities that 5,000 homeowners in the High Water community face when they live in a risky area – the floodplain in Calgary. See this story in the Calgary Herald. 
  • Here is another article that provides additional details. I cannot even imagine what a home would look like after being underwater for weeks. Small wonder the owners would like a buyout option.

Alberta Canada also is having a problem with a lack of current flood maps.  See this article from the Edmonton Journal.   Thanks to Franklin MacDonald for sending me these articles. The article quotes the late Gilbert White, who said,”Floods are an act of God, but flood losses are largely an act of man.”

As it true in both the U.S. and Canada, homeowners get very frustrated when they cannot determine where to rebuild, owing to old or no flood maps. One more article re this topic in Alberta.

Some people are calling for a provincial flood insurance program. To date, private insurers are having a hard time, with their public image suffering signficant damage.

NOTE:  I have pointed out this problem to the Association of State Floodplain Managers, an organization that I think can be helpful to the Calgary folks as well as officials at the provincial and national level.