New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Launched Plan To Strengthen Defenses Against Future Floods, Extreme Weather Whatever your opinion on global warming, right now the issue is to create protection against its impact

By Paolo von Schirach

June 12, 2013

WASHINGTON – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is getting close to the end of his term. Nonetheless, he put forward a complex and ambitious $ 19 bln plan to upgrade New York City’s defenses against hurricanes, high water or other extreme weather occurrences. If we keep in mind the $ 19 bln price tag of the damages (including property and lost economic activities) caused by Hurricane Sandy not too long ago, a robust sea defenses and more upgrade sounds most appropriate. As of now, considering projected rise in sea levels, the estimate is that in just a few years almost 1 million NYC residents will find themselves in areas likely to be flooded.

Pragmatic approach

Assuming that it is well structured, Bloomberg’s plan is timely. Of course, the key challenge is cost. $ 19 bln is a lot of money. Nevertheless, this large investment (some of iot will be paid by the Federal Government) is well worth the cost, as it will provide a significantly higher level of protection to one of the most important cities in America.

That said, it is important to note that Mayor Bloomberg decided to act as a good, pragmatic policy-maker, as opposed  to engaging in populist posturing about who is to blame for extreme weather. Indeed, whatever your opinion on global warming, who caused it, and what not, the issue immediately at hand for any responsible administration is to adjust to its consequences.

Let’s stay focused on new green technologies

Sure enough, on a parallel and equally important track, it is imperative to find ways to power this planet without cooking everything and everybody in it. We have to figure out a way to have truly sustainable economic development and material comforts without causing irreparable damage. But we also know that whatever will be done, it will not be done qaickly. Alas, there are no easy fixes. There is no off the shelf, cost effective renewable technology, electric car and zero emission power plant that can replace –today– all the old emission causing assets.

Of course, we should keep investing aggressively in low or zero emission technologies, be it in industry, housing, power generation, automobiles and what not. This should remain our goal. But in the meantime, let’s deal with the impact of global warming. Let’s build new barriers that will protect coastal areas in NYC and elsewhere. The up front cost is likely to be lower than the cost of damages caused by the next hurricane.

To act now is sound policy

Politically speaking, Mayor Bloomberg, nearing the end of his term, could have have done nothing and then handed this complicated issue over to his successor. But he did not do this. He started the process, stressing the urgency of these investments in new protection systems, while expressing the hope that, whatever will get started under his administration, it will be completed by the next Mayor. This is good policy-making.


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