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.