Catastrophic Failures and Catastrophic Fools
The current approach to dealing with catastrophes is an after-the-fact response model that is inadequate to protect New Jersey residents from catastrophic loss. New Jersey consumers need a public-private partnership which improves the means to provide financial assistance to families that are victims of catastrophes, enhances prevention and mitigation measures, improves recovery and rebuilding processes and educates homeowners on issues surrounding catastrophe management. […]
The State of New Jersey is commonly viewed as one of the states in the region that is exposed to catastrophic events. Given the scope and magnitude of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and given that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation and because of the size of New Jersey, it is likely that a Category 3 or better storm could devastate the State. Legislative findings, A3236 (2006)
[Update below] –
No doubt, Sandy was a Catastrophic storm.
No doubt, NJ still suffers from “an after-the-fact response model”.
No doubt that all this will be ignored by the press coverage.
It is crucial that we take this moment to reflect NOW, before new expectations are formed and we mindlessly begin repeating the same mistakes that brought us to this crisis.
Some of the most important are:
1) Sandy as a Final Wake up Call – connecting the dots of this storm to global warming induced climate change- (see: “Frankenstorm” Another Example of Global Warming Extreme Weather
Over the last year, the rest of the country has suffered record wildfires, heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and tornadoes – now its the East Coast’s turn to experience extreme weather directly.
2) Sandy as an opportunity to re-imagine a new Jersey Shore and begin the painful process of “strategic retreat” and adaptation (see: A Dirge To McHarg and Mumford
3) Sandy as illustrating the need for planning and public policy leadership
I’ve written briefly about the first two lessons to be learned from “Hurricane” (or “Superstorm”) Sandy, so today I will touch briefly on the planning and public policy issues.
It is no secret that many in leadership positions in Corporate and Republican circles deny the science of global warming, are “market fundamentalists”, and view government as the problem, not the solution.
Those Catastrophic Fools have a lock on government and have used their power to block all forms of government intervention – Republicans even sought to slash FEMA funding, hand it off to the States, and eliminate and privatize FEMA.
But, we read today that the Star Ledger is reporting that the cost of Sandy will exceed $30 billion:
The damage from Hurricane Sandy will likely exceed that from Tropical Storm Irene, but the cost to businesses could be far worse.
Analysts estimate property damage along the Eastern Seaboard could be as much as $20 billion, but say business losses could reach as high as $30 billion.
I found it tragically ironic that the NJ Business and Industry Association was quoted in the story, complaining about the costs to business (a prelude to subsidies?):
“The impact was very broad,” said Christopher Biddle, vice president of the N.J. Business & Industry Association. “It hit every business across the state.”
He said it was too early to put a dollar sign on the damage, but expected the state’s economic recovery would be slowed.
“This has been a difficult and weak economy,” he said, “so it’s been tough to begin with. Now, with Sandy, it’s an extremely tough time for any business that’s already struggling.”
It’s folks like NJ BIA that are blocking the kind of government policy interventions that could mitigate those economic hits to business!
Catastrophic Fools like NJBIA should suffer the fulll consequences of their foolishness and Catastrophic Failures!
So, while the press will certainly report the NJBIA whining and will write even more disgusting lapdog stories about Gov. Christie “rising to the crisis”, here’s something to chew on that you will not read in the paper:
Although the press has amnesia, we recall that not so long ago, during the Corzine Administration, government leaders actually took steps to not only mitigate global warming emissions, but to anticipate, plan for and finance catastrophic storm events (what we now refer to as “extreme weather”).
While Governor Christie prances around and demagogues the emergency response on YouTube and multiple press conferences – even using the storm as cover to weaken Flood Hazard regulations – former Governor Corzine exercised leadership and actually proposed solutions, not empty rhetoric and slogans.
For example, in an April 12, 2006 memo, Corzine DEP Commissioner Jackson and Banking and Insurance Commissioner Goldman warned Governor Corzine that:
“Global climate change is predicted to have a pronounced impact on New Jersey. Changes are already occurring. Rising ambient temperatures are expected to effect the health of our citizens. …Sea level rise is expected to accelerate and threaten New Jersey’s coastline. Higher sea levels will increase the severity of storm-related flooding is coastal and bay areas. In addition to significant property losses, sea level rise will adversely affect coastal ecosystems and may threaten fresh water supplies through salt water intrusion. With climate change, storm frequency and intensity is predicted to increase.”…
These are but a few of the results we can anticipate from climate change and we can also expect the changes to have serious consequences for New Jersey’s economy. In March, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners voted unanimously to establish as task force on climate change to examine the issues bearing on the insurance industry’s long term solvency. Late last year, New York State’s largest provider of homeowners insurance, Allstate, announced that it would no longer sell new homeowners insurance in NY City, Long Island and Westchester County. According to a company spokesperson, Allstate is studying whether to stop writing new policies in other parts of the country, particularly for properties in vulnerable shorefront areas.
In response, to address those serious threats, Corzine held a “Climate Change Summit”.
The Summit was called: “Confronting Climate Change in New Jersey”. It was held on September 25, 2006. The Governor directed Summit participants to focus on, among other things:
- What policy changes should the State make in response to the focus issues of floods and storms (including sea level rise)?
- Are there current State policies and practices regarding the regulation of …land use and construction that serve as disincentives to sound practices in light of climate change?
- What …[policies] could we modify to encourage consideration of floods and storms in development and land use practices?
As part of that effort, Assemblyman Panter (since un-elected), proposed legislation, A3236, called: “New Jersey Consumer Catastrophe Preparedness and Protection Act“,.
We testified and suggested amendments to strengthen that bill – which found:
2. The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. The exposure in New Jersey to major catastrophes is greater than commonly understood, particularly catastrophes involving hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
b. All New Jersey residents, regardless of location, are susceptible to the devastating and unpredictable consequences of catastrophes, thereby necessitating a Statewide preparedness and proactive program of catastrophe management.
c. There is a compelling State interest in maintaining a viable and orderly private sector market for property insurance in this State. To the extent that the private sector is unable to maintain a viable and orderly market for property insurance in this State, encouraging and assisting such a viable and orderly market are valid and necessary exercises of the police power.
d. The failure of the State to properly prepare for a potential catastrophe could result in a devastating impact on New Jersey families, as well as the entire State’s economy.
e. The current approach to dealing with catastrophes is an after-the-fact response model that is inadequate to protect New Jersey residents from catastrophic loss. New Jersey consumers need a public-private partnership which improves the means to provide financial assistance to families that are victims of catastrophes, enhances prevention and mitigation measures, improves recovery and rebuilding processes and educates homeowners on issues surrounding catastrophe management.
f. The result of unprecedented levels of insured losses from natural catastrophes in recent years, as evidenced by Hurricane Andrew, the 2004 four-storm hurricane season in Florida, tsunamis in Asia, the Northridge Earthquake in California, Hurricane Wilma in Florida and the most recent devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, have resulted in numerous insurers determining that in order to protect their solvency, it is necessary for them to reduce their exposure to catastrophic losses. The instability of the global reinsurance market which leads to increased reinsurance costs, also caused in part by these events, has also increased the pressure on insurers to reduce their exposure to catastrophic loss. This pressure will result in an increase in reinsurance costs and could force an increase in homeowners insurance premiums.
g. The State of New Jersey is commonly viewed as one of the states in the region that is exposed to catastrophic events. Given the scope and magnitude of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and given that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation and because of the size of New Jersey, it is likely that a Category 3 or better storm could devastate the State.
So here we are –
Will will continue along the same failed path?
[Update: 11/5/12 – To their credit, DEP’s Office of Coastal Zone Management has done some good work on vulnerability assessment and adaptation, but I don’t think it has been implemented, or funded, and relies on voluntary local initiative and planning. There are no funds, no state support, and no state regulatory sticks that I am aware of.
This is another example of Christie delegating DEP responsibilities to the local level and dodging DEP regulation.
Also, that Office previously had greater resources, staffing, and influence because it used to report directly to the Commissioner. But it was dismantled and transferred when Martin abolished the Office of Policy and Planning and buried Global Warming initiatives in air quality.
That bureaucratic move by Marin is another subtle but significant way to dismantle environmental initiatives without fingerprints or accountability for having done so.
In contrast, illustrating his priorities, DEP Commissioner Martin created several new deregulatory and economic programs in the Commissioner’s Office.