New York Times: Think beyond homes and roads to better prepare for climate change

October 28, 2015

Vicki Arroyo shares her insights about building resilience in the face of extreme events like Hurricane Sandy in the "Room for Debate" opinion pages of the New York Times. Her brief article responds to these questions: Three years after Sandy, are coastal communities safer? Is the New York area better prepared for flooding and sea-level rise?

The article addresses the importance of preparing for future climate change impacts, including by making new investments in infrastructure, strengthening our social capital, and creating better federal policies. An excerpt of the article follows.

With natural disasters, as with wars, we tend to fight the last one. While preparing for another Katrina or Sandy is important, we also need to be ready for future climate change impacts, such as heat waves and droughts. This means developing climate change scenarios and using a range of planning, design, and economic investment tools to increase the resilience of our homes, businesses and infrastructure.

For instance, in New Orleans, thanks to multibillion dollar investments in levees, sea walls and pumps, the city is now better protected from floods. But it’s still vulnerable to storm surges because of the loss of hundreds of square miles of protective wetlands.

We can work to restore wetlands and use now-vacant lots as “rain gardens” – catching water during intense storms. Such nature-based approaches would both buffer New Orleans from surges and support wildlife habitat, commercial fisheries and recreational opportunities.

Read the full article and other expert views here.