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The Rising Tide of Climate Change: What America’s Flood Cities Can Teach Us About Green Energy Policy, and Why We Should Be Worried

Joshua P. Fershee

West Virginia University - College of Law

September 8, 2009

Environmental Law, No. 39, No. 4, p. 1109.

To provide a model for assessing the current and likely responses to climate change risks, this Article considers two of worst flood disasters in American history and applies the same rationale to critical climate change issues facing the nation today. After providing a background on climate change and related policy initiatives, this Article first considers the flood of 1997 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which caused more than 50,000 people to abandon their homes. The development of the flood preparations, the failures of the early warning systems, and the relief and mitigation efforts once the disaster struck played a significant role in the losses suffered. The Article then discusses Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans, reviews the safety plan in place before the Hurricane, and considers the failures in the responses following the breach of the levees. The Article then outlines the lessons (hopefully) learned following the Grand Forks flood of 1997 and in post-Katrina New Orleans and explains how the lessons apply to the present climate change discussions. The experiences of these disasters highlight the risks of failing to mitigate and (at least attempt to) reverse the effects of a looming natural disaster. Finally, the Article concludes that (1) the overall costs of acting are far less than the costs that are likely to follow under a business-as-usual approach and (2) policies to address climate change issues are well worth the effort because of the potential gains in terms of national security and job creation, even if the predicted losses attributed primarily to climate-change are “wrong.”

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

Keywords: Climate Change, Environment, Flood, Insurance, Loss, Risk, Regulation

JEL Classification: K32, Q28 Q42, Q48

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Date posted: September 22, 2009 ; Last revised: May 29, 2013

Suggested Citation

Fershee, Joshua P., The Rising Tide of Climate Change: What America’s Flood Cities Can Teach Us About Green Energy Policy, and Why We Should Be Worried (September 8, 2009). Environmental Law, No. 39, No. 4, p. 1109.. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1470424

Contact Information

Joshua Paul Fershee (Contact Author)
West Virginia University - College of Law ( email )
Box 6130
Morgantown, WV West Virginia 26506
United States
304-293-2868 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://law.wvu.edu/faculty/full_time_faculty/joshua-p-fershee

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