Should the U.S. stop rebuilding disaster prone areas? | The Tylt
Should the U.S. stop rebuilding disaster prone areas?
Scientists say the destruction Texas and Florida saw from Harvey and Irma is the new normal. Climate change is causing heavier rainfalls and rising oceans will exacerbate storm surges. This is scientific fact. Some of the homes destroyed in these hurricanes were actually destroyed in previous storms as well.
Experts say the old way of rebuilding in flood-prone areas cannot go on. Floods will only get worse as the effects of climate change become more apparent over the years. Make no mistake, these homes will be flooded again, and again and again. The only real solution is to retreat from these areas.
It's not possible to build a solution that solves this problem. Allowing flood areas to return to nature creates a buffer zone to mitigate a storm surge's effects. Rain can more effectively drain into the soil instead of being contained by asphalt.
The need to make room for the floodwaters is especially pressing in South Florida, where even stout seawalls and levees cannot prevent seawater from rising up through the porous bedrock.
The answer is not to build everything back the way it was, before Irma struck, nor is it to buy and demolish every flooded home. It will take a combination of infrastructure reinforcements, elevated homes, insurance policies, and relocation to manage flood risk in a changing climate. Moving out of harm’s way can play a key role in this challenge, but we need to think creatively and strategically about the best way to do it.
Many people who live in these areas refuse to move. It's their home. Government programs formed to buyout homes in flood areas are struggling to find takers. On the Eastern seaboard, towns are opting to create seawalls and other delaying measures instead of retreating further inland. Many homeowners are refusing to take the deal offered by the government.
Local officials offer different explanations for resisting. Mancini, whose other job is building houses, says homes in his town are too expensive to justify buyouts. Spodofora says his residents weren’t interested, and even if they were, the loss in property tax would hurt his budget. “Is the government gonna have to buy every piece of property?” asks Thomas Kelaher, mayor of Toms River, the largest city on the bay. “You either fortify yourself and stay or tell people to leave. And telling them to leave, I tell you, will never work."
People live in these coastal areas because they like it there. They've built their lives there. Through no fault of their own, their homes are being threatened by climate change. It is possible to defend against rising seas. The Netherlands built their entire society around the idea of controlling the seas and flooding. Here's some of what the Dutch have been doing to address the rising oceans:
“A smart city has to have a comprehensive, holistic vision beyond levees and gates,” as Arnoud Molenaar, the city’s climate chief, put it. “The challenge of climate adaptation is to include safety, sewers, housing, roads, emergency services. You need public awareness. You also need cyber-resilience, because the next challenge in climate safety is cybersafety. You can’t have vulnerable systems that control your sea gates and bridges and sewers. And you need good policies, big and small.