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The Lessons of Katrina, Learned and Unlearned

Douglas Hill
Journal of Coastal Research
Vol. 28, No. 2 (March 2012), pp. 324-331
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41509932
Page Count: 8
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Abstract

Originally planned to evaluate storm surge barriers, the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) instead developed a process for government agencies and private stakeholders to adapt critical infrastructure in New York City to the effects of climate change. In its influential 2010 report, the NPCC ignored the literature documenting the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina striking New Orleans in 2005. A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) sums up these lessons in 10 calls to action. An examination of the NPCC report suggests that half of these lessons have been learned and half have not. Essentially, the ASCE makes public safety, health, and welfare, not adapting critical infrastructure, its top priorities. The NPCC report fails to quantify the risks, does not address the question of an acceptable level of risk, and does not evaluate the consequences of severe coastal flooding. Although storm surge barriers have been found to be hydrologically and technically feasible, they are dismissed as mere contributions to the discussion that are not needed for at least the next several decades, despite the report's own accounting of the extreme uncertainty and possible effects of severe hurricanes and nor'easters. The NPCC report features Flexible Adaptation Pathways to plan and revise adaptation measures over time, which ignore the possibility of hedging strategies and the wellestablished precautionary principle. Without an engineering presence, the NPCC also overlooks consideration of lead times in planning major projects. It is concluded that the NPCC report is delaying regional measures against severe coastal flooding, discouraging hedging and the precautionary principle, and deterring adequate measures to protect public safety, health, and welfare.

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