Mitigating Climate Change–$1 Million Relocation Per Family

From The New York Times: “ANCHORAGE — One of the most eroded Native Alaskan villages on the state’s coast is being considered as a possible national model for moving entire communities whose futures are threatened by natural disasters escalated by climate change.

“The state is hoping to kick-start an exodus from the village of Newtok, about 500 miles west of Anchorage, through a national competition for states and local governments vying for a slice of nearly $1 billion in grants to be awarded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

I don’t want to debate (today) what percentage of their problems actually are exacerbated by human contributions to climate change. If it was zero, if their problems were completely natural, these people would still probably have to move.

…”Alaska officials are proposing that $62.6 million of the money be used for relocation costs, including money for infrastructure and to allow 62 families from Newtok to establish new homes at a site on higher ground nine miles away.”

That’s $1 million per family. The average listing price on Trulia for Bethel County in Alaska, home to both Newtok and the proposed relocation site is $236,000, so the ancillary costs of relocation are notable. I’m sure they’re real–they may have to build homes, streets, schools, etc.–but it’s nice to see they are not being ignored.

So we have a stake in the ground. We have a proposed price of $1 million per family in the U.S.

I think that there is scope for considerable savings. I think the price will vary dramatically depending on the wealth of the country involved.

But I consider it important and valuable information that we now have a hard number for worst case mitigation of problems to which climate change may contribute.

This is probably how the issue will play out in many parts of the world. Towns like Newtok are precariously located. It’s a very legitimate exercise to try and determine how much of their problems are caused by recent climate change. That will happen again and again. People living in marginal situations may try and game the system by blaming climate change (can you blame them?), but the truth is, people living in marginal situations need help.

We don’t have to start from scratch, thankfully. As Tol writes, “The Thames Barrier in London is an example of making infrastructure more robust. It includes a 1-m/century allowance based on the observed rise in high water levels in the Thames before the barrier being built (GILBERT and HORNER, 1984; KELLY, 1991) This translates into a 0.5-m highwater-level rise allowance from 1980 to 2030. Consideration of secular SLR and water level change has been a part of engineering design in the United Kingdom for decades, preceding concerns about human-induced climate change.” There are other examples ranging as far as Malaysia and Egypt.

We are starting to get a picture of how much land may realistically be affected by storm surge and sea level rise–Tol and Yohe estimated 0.23% would be threatened by 50 cm of sea level rise a few years ago–and we can figure out how many people live in that area and even nearby.

Finally, we can generate estimated costs instead of using fuzzy percentages of GDP using horribly inaccurate assumptions.

And number crunching is something we can all do for fun and profit. Although I note that the traditional green eye shades favored by accountants seem to have been upgraded, stylistically speaking.

green eye shades

5 responses to “Mitigating Climate Change–$1 Million Relocation Per Family

  1. I own an old house 2 meters above sea level and I’m willing to demolish it, turn the grounds into park land, and give title to the city for $1 million USD. Where do I sign up?

  2. (Sigh), here we go again. The very name of the town reeks of government boondoggle. Tok is the Yupik name for place, thus NewTok is a “new” place.

    In 1959, the government decided that the Yupik, who were nomadic, needed a permanent place to live. The town site was then selected, not by the Yupik people but by bureaucrats who needed barge access on Ninglick River to haul in westernized building materials. At the time, the English speaking southerners failed to understand that heated structures quickly fail by melting into the permafrost (which is why the pipeline and all buildings in the arctic are elevated). They also had little experience in building roads, landing strips and garbage pits in the delicate arctic environment. The people of Newtok are now paying the wages of all of these sins.

    If it is climate change….. it is only ten acres of warming.

    The Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska and Bureau of Indian Affairs has all written extensively on what caused the problems at Newtok and all have concluded it was poor siting and inappropriate construction techniques. The New York Times knows this, The Atlantic knows this. The Guardian know this but they all continue to flog the climate change angle despite the facts.

  3. The quality of reporting on climate by most media is on the level of Medieval reports on alleged miracles: A light was seen in the sky, and the cow was dead in the morning. The light killed the cow and was was caused by the spell cast by the witch across from the field. We know she is a witch because there was a light in the sky and the cow was dead by morning. Therefor, burn the witch.

  4. Tom,
    The town is not being destroyed by CO2. It is in trouble because of irresponsible government policies about the construction and location of the town in the first place. “Climate change” is simply a convenient excuse to deflect accountability.
    A $million per family is outrageous and not justified in a rational world.

  5. Pingback: And so it begins… – Stoat

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