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

Joshua P. Fershee, University of North Dakota

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First published by Environmental Law, Volume 39, Issue 4.

Abstract

To provide a model for assessing the current and likely responses to climate change risks, this Article considers two of America’s worst flood disasters—in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and New Orleans, Louisiana— and applies the same rationale to critical climate change issues facing the nation today. This Article, written by a current resident of Grand Forks and a former New Orleans resident, begins with a background on climate change and related policy initiatives. Next, it considers the flood of 1997 in Grand Forks, 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 next 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. 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.”

Suggested Citation

Joshua P. Fershee. "The Rising Tide of Climate Change: What America’s Flood Cities Can Teach Us About Energy Policy and Why We Should Be Worried" Environmental Law 39.4 (2009): 1109-1141.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/joshua_fershee/5