Would we leave disaster-prone cities in the absence of FEMA?

Damage in the wake of superstorm Sandy in the central Jersey Shore area of New Jersey Damage in the wake of superstorm Sandy in the central Jersey Shore area of New Jersey Mike Groll/AP

Hurricane Sandy highlighted a number of problems that U.S. cities face in the era of climate change. Development has pushed up to the coastline in a way that strikes some as "foolish."Plans for sea walls and storm protections have been met with a lack of urgency. A push for urban resilience, in general, can't afford to wait any longer.

U.C.L.A. economist Matthew Kahn, author of Climatopolis, wonders if these failures have something to do with the comforting presence of federal disaster relief. While it's great that FEMA has helped so many people in New York and New Jersey, perhaps an unintended consequence of this support is that communities haven't adequately prepared for such disasters themselves — either by moving to higher ground, or by investing their own local money in sufficient flood barriers.

In other words, might the absence of federal bailouts actually improve the way cities adapt to rising sea levels?

"We've learned the hard way that the probability of terrible storms has increased, perhaps because of climate change, and that this should trigger investment in self-protection that reduces the impact of these storms," says Kahn. "But if you expect these bailouts, that chips away at investing in resilience. It's a disincentive."

Over at his blog, Environmental and Urban Economics, Kahn recently posted a "tough love" thought experiment: How would New Jersey rebuild the coastline if the state knew that FEMA aid wasn't available in the future? He predicts a combined response from both government and citizens alike. State and local leaders would change zoning laws to discourage risky coastal construction, and coastal residents would take precautions like moving inland to get out of harm's way.

Read more at The Atlantic Cities.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.