My post about how climate change may be impacting hurricane season sparked an interesting discussion that kept coming back to one theme: there is uncertainty in our understanding of how climate change influences storms, but certainty that sea level is rising and coastal development continuing. That creates an inevitable conflict with costs that can be measured in both dollars and human lives. The question is: what to do about it?
With regards to uncertainties in climate science, commenter Bob Barker invoked the precautionary principle:
The fact of the matter is that the various influences that go into creating what we experience as weather are still a bit more complicated than we can accurately model. That, combined with the fact that we’re on somewhat new ground as a race, leads me to the conclusion that no one can perfectly predict what future hurricane seasons are going to be like. Best to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best, though, no?
Kandkesqs called for better public policy to address the increasing vulnerability of coastal development:
Whether you find the climate theories suspect or credible, the important issue concerns how public policy makers are to mitigate the risks associated with specific types of land use development, specifically the use and development of land within or contiguous to likely coastal and inland flood zones, where people are most at risk of injury and death during rain and wind storms above a certain magnitude. People gain clear benefits from their use of these areas. The challenge for public policy makers is to create a regulated environment where benefits are greatest and risks minimized.
Free2slide put more of the onus on individuals than our government:
Humans are programed to “brace for impact”. We predict and pro-act based on what we believe may be coming trouble. It’s just a little silly to argue about the “cause”. If we know facts like property along the coast will continue to cost enormous amounts of money to build and rebuild over and again than we can stop subsidizing those costs with federal funds and let people build where they want just so long as they can afford the insurance. If they can not get insurance than their losses are completely out of pocket and the Fed will NOT cover their loss. People should be able to live and build anywhere they want but when natural disasters befall them we shouldn’t all have to pay for it.
That sounds a lot like what the EPA called the “laissez-faire” option in a recently-released guide to organized retreat from rising seas. It’s not the option they endorsed, by any means. But it’s an option.